This Our Machine

18 March 2022 - 31 July 2022

K Holmes - artist in residence

Arash Chehelnabi
Photo: Kate Holmes

In 2021 Sydney-based artist Arash Chehelnabi undertook a residency in the Gallery’s Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence Studio to develop new work for his solo exhibition This Our Machine.

The exhibition explores the relationship between image, imagination and interpretation in painting. As artists we claim to distort or abstract images when we paint. Yet this is not entirely correct. The object is already abstracted through the cognitive process of perception and imagination.

The title of the exhibition, This Our Machine, is a quote from an essay by the Symbolist poet Paul Valéry. The title is in reference to the human imagination and the mind which encompasses it – ‘our machine’. This ‘machine’ correlates, codifies, constructs and stitches together information to arrive at meaning. We frame our world in order to understand it, and to feel as though we can control it to some extent.

I am always trying to create art that is open to interpretive potential. The images used in my paintings are familiar to the viewer, yet the relationship between these images creates a sense of ambiguity or indeterminacy in the work. I see my paintings as a form of visual poetry, where images point to more than what they appear to be. The point of this is to remind the viewer that painting is a fiction – a construction that highlights the constructed nature of what we call ‘reality’, and that reality itself is contingent upon the imagination.

Arash Chehelnabi, 2021

This exhibition is an outcome of the Tweed Regional Gallery – National Art School Masters of Fine Art Residency Award. The partnership between the Gallery and NAS aims to showcase emerging artists in celebration of Margaret Olley’s legacy as a NAS alumna and a supporter of emerging artists.