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American Society of Landscape Architects


June 2008 Issue

Marked in Stone and Sand
An Iranian sculptor brings his art to the river, beaches—and parks.

By Robert C. Morgan

Marked in Stone and Sand

Ahmad Nadalian’s work is like a synaptic charge between Paleolithic cave art and ancient Persia. He works directly with the earth, primarily sand and stones on the shores or in the shallow pools of rivers, ponds, and streams. He can often be seen near the Haraz River in the village of Poloor, approximately 65 kilometers north of Tehran, wearing his wide-brimmed straw hat and carving fish, human hands and feet, river goddesses, and animals into rocks beneath the surface of the water. In his Haraz River Project (2000–2001), numerous animals, fish, and human signs appeared along the course of the river, suggesting a timeless allegory that could have been created thousands of years ago but was in fact carved in postmodern times.

In addition to receiving a degree from the University of Tehran in the 1980s, Nadalian earned a doctorate from the University of Central England. He is well versed in computer technology and believes the most viable and effective way of transmitting his message as an artist is through digital displays, the Internet, and his own extensively designed web sites, and French artist Yves Klein felt that art was somewhere between the ancient world and the future. A similar statement could be made about Nadalian, except that his forms appear as simulacra of a prelinguistic culture, in fact, as true signs reiterating something about our present moment. One of his titles, The River Still Has Fish, alludes to the fact that pollution and climate change are changing the rivers of the world in ways that threaten all species on Earth.

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