Ara Dolatian, March 2016

Ara Dolatian, Terrains

Seventh Gallery; 31 March – 15 April

Exhibition Essay


There are reasons for why we like to say that an idea is planted like a seed, or that concepts germinate in our mind, or that an ideology takes root in a society. The fields of our cultural endeavours are the fertile grounds of natural inclinations. While we extract rocks, liquids and gases from deep within the earth and synthesis these into plastic, chemically-bonded artificial substances, we are also repeating patterns born into our own human dna through millions of years of cyclical realities and complex patterns of growth and decay. We are but monkeys tinkering with the soil and propelling ourselves through time and space to the rhythmic beat of the seasons, the solar orbit and the collective breath of the planetary atmosphere.

Ara Dolatian is a conjurer of systemic overlay – a pattern player and network knitter. Drawing from a deep knowledge of social configuration and finding his expressive outlet in material propositions, Dolatian cleverly communicates forms of information transfer as both self-sustained enclosed system and as self-generating expansive network. Employing a system aesthetic he makes art that uses the system as a type of medium. Something connects to something else, information or data is transferred via that connection, more connections and relationships are articulated, directing more information and data across the system. Feedback loops are built in to allow information to ‘feed back’ on itself and close in certain flows through the system.

Look closely at the choice of materials and you will notice specificities of indigenous flora, of architectural and domestic products and waste. What you might recognise at first as metaphor, as an ecosystem of natural and artificial components, you’ll come to see as scalable expressive reality in and of itself. After all, you are the one bringing life to the plants with your breath and your heat and your quantumated attention on the experimental subject. You are now networked into this system and sustaining it with your physical being. So too the gallery lights, the gallery ventilation system, the finances Dolatian had to raise to pay the exhibition fee, the photos shared out on the internet, and a plethora of invisible pumps and pipes that hold this artwork together and extend its life beyond the room of its display.

Think of the force of gravity working with the electrical currents in the generation of the water cycle in Dolatian’s Terrains. Then think about where the electricity comes from, down the wires in the street that come from the substation in the next suburb that is fed by coal fired in concrete towers in a provincial valley. Think of evaporation, of carbon dioxide and oxygen transfers between plant and animal. Think of domestic ponds and industrial engineering. This is Dolatian’s gift – a molecular structure carefully composed and delicately balanced on an equilibrium of artistic concern and philosophical contemplation.

We are designed to design. We are designed to care and to nurture. We recognise an affinity for life and we want to try to build and grow. Dolatian’s Terrain provides us with contemplative moments that illuminate the factual presence of life before us and the broader expanse of our own networked realities.

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