15th MAY - 30 JULY 2021


Curated by Helia Hamedani

Open Day Saturday 15th May 2021 | h 12 am – 6 pm

Via di San Pantaleo, 66 – 00186

In search of lost spaces *
“For as long as I can remember I have lived in detached spaces, spaces in which it was impossible that form and content became a single entity.  Nothing was in its place.  Spaces from different epochs had been placed one right next to the other, like poorly made tesserae put together by chance.  To the point that I always thought I was living in an arid world.  Only the magic panorama of the mountains and the attraction of relations with other humans kept me in the real world.”
Dariush Shayegan (Dāryush Shāyegān, 1935-2018) Iranian philosopher and writer


Neda Shafiee Moghaddam was born in Iran, and has lived in Italy for many years.  She has studied sculpture in both countries but practices other forms of expression as well.  Often she has meditated on the poetry of the metamorphosis of form.  Her works project the transformation of the body and living experience into everyday objects and  all of her creations contain an autobiographical element.

The title of this exhibition has been taken from a similarly entitled text by Shayegan found in a book relative to the visual arts and his peculiar position between the East and the West.

At the entrance a damp reflection on undulating paper, a dark blue, 

occasionally a lighter hued patch of colour, 

then a yellow or violet spot that deepens.  

Now, we are inside the room,

we hear the gurgling of water,

we note a blue wall and a drawing above an armchair,

human figures are floating behind a layer of plastic,

water is flowing below a dim azure light,

our view of our surroundings is subtly inverted.

Neda loves drawing and to delicately challenge the 2-dimensionality of the pictorial medium, adding invisible volumes; here she has added the immaterial sound and the transparent plastic.  These watercolours entitled “Rinascita (Rebirth)”, are among the works she created during the Covid-19 emergency lockdown.  It was during this period that the artist felt the need to add colours to her work, often in the past, black and ochre.  These watercolours transport us into a dream of limpid blue waters on which thin bodies float.

“I put the colour and observe how the spots expand, though I don’t control the shapes.  Then I start to position human figures freely,” says the artist.  The lively movements are in part random, but vacuum sealed in transparent plastic, as if one could stop the passage of time.  The contrast between the gurgling sound of the water and the material immobilised within the bags, creates a dichotomy between the temporal flow and the fixed material, as often occurs in dreams.  The series “Rebirth” tells of a time included in and suspended by the moments of uncertainty of the pandemic, in a chaotic-random form, tinted with optimism.

The vacuum sealed bags, also found in the artist’s previous works, symbolise space-time.  In another exhibition, similar plastic bags contained symbolic objects of her life, the archives of her life in the past.  She included personal images and documents, her memories, within these bags, which are usually used to reduce the volume of things, but also to conserve them from damage by exposure.  In reducing physical space, the artist has underlined psychic space.  A space where memories are condensed in fragments.  Psychic space is the domain of memory where the present merges with the past and the unknown future.

Each of the containers in this exhibition portray an experience of our body, they might be represented in a cubic shape with conceptual messages, or they be organic or experimental in shape. 

In a second space there are two types of containers; ochre-coloured paper bags from the series “Autoritratti (Self-Portraits)” (ongoing since 2019) and “Cubi di Cemento (Cement Cubes)” (ongoing since 2020).  Here the contrast is between the lightness and precariousness of the paper and the weight and staticity of the cement.
On each of the bags the artist has created a self-portrait of her face and part of her body.  On many of the bags we also find drawings of everyday objects.  Images that Neda has saved over the years and has placed on the bags randomly.  These images evoke in the spectator the desire to decipher them each time he/she views them.  The artist invites us to discover a story line and create an imaginary tale.
To read the bags we must relate with another language, the gestuality of the hands, the personal stories and the images of everyday objects are the indices.  Three bags at the entrance are open and so light they seem ready to be blown away.  Others, scattered around, appear heavy and full of invisible contents.  Externally and from the images/words that are placed on the sides of the bags, we can fantasize on their contents and the story they tell us.  Behind the bags, projected on the wall, is a panorama of an Iranian desert viewed through a train window.
This type of paper bag is used to remove rubble from houses under reconstruction.  And the hollow cement blocks are prefabricated modules normally used for the outflow of water when constructing houses.  Here they become the stages of the stories the artist wishes to tell us.
As Shayegan says, the inevitable similitudes between the constructed space of our dwellings and the space of our mind and our heart are such that to modify one, we must also change the other.
The cement containers represent an existential cube.  They invite us to contain our life within their space, open, but confined.  In the first work, the cube is seen by the artist as a symbol of perfection and is lovingly placed on a cushion, also made of cement.  Its angles and defects are embellished/valourised with gold as in Japanese kintsugi.  In the other, a tree without roots has become iron to be able to grow up from the cement.  It touches nothing within the cube, but on the points of the branches one notes a very few small fruits each the colour of the reddish earth within the cube.

These containers do not only occupy a space, but above all reflect time.  In Proust’s masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, time passes in the telling of every detail of the places and “the spaces” that the author remembers and tries to bring to the here and now.  In the same way, in this exhibition, Neda Shafiee Moghaddam is In search of lost spaces as she reinvents provisional spaces to recount to us the shape of the epoch of nomadism.  With everyday objects, she creates visual poetry and using the instability of shapes she recounts the transitory state of contemporaneity.  As does the train that passes, in a loop on the background, in a never ending voyage.

Helia Hamedani, Rome, March 2021

*The title of the exhibition was inspired by an article with the same title by Shayegan, first published in French in the magazine Lumiere de la ville, n. 2, June 1990 and later translated into Farsi in 2013.