Hossein Maher has showed his penchant for travel in many of his collections. His is an inquisitive drive that manifested itself in the abstract while being closely personal. In Monuments, however, the much traveled artist is standing at a distance, beholding the struggles of a people to find scattered pieces of memory among historic remains. Those who hop on their saddle first chance they get to seek refuge outside the chaotic graze land of the city find, among these remains, vectors that point to a time when each building block, be it a fort, a house, or a caravansary, foretold the roughshod form of governance in their respective city-states. Dejected citizens of our modern cities journey to see fortresses that have withstood the scourges of time but within whose walls a stratified social structure was closely carved to distinguish soldier from priest, farmer from craftsman. These were fortresses, however, that did not reproduce themselves. People moved away to live in places where they could have some control over their lives and relations. Now, our modern fortresses with their discordant planning are as structurally stratified as their antecedents and force their citizens to give up many of their original attractions and set out to reclaim bygone monuments as tourists who can ultimately only feel a vague sense of being bereft of something. This is the feeling of exile.
As such, the artist is preoccupied with the question of exile. He may not count himself as an exilic soul but he has stood witness as friends and relations left. This is a familiar experience that connects many of us: The experience of detachment, the warmth of reunion that can match in intensity the coldness of disunion. The artist is standing at a distance and looking at the game of hide-n-seek tourists play in their journey of discovery. They may eventually share their stories in virtual space with those who have left their land altogether to live in another modern fortress somewhere around the globe. Human bodies in Monuments of Hossein Maher are dreaming of becoming something else, of leaving, of being suspended between growing deep roots in soil, fugacious ones in water, or yearning for a lost utopia in the wind. Those who have had the experience of exile have become strangers to a land that offers no shards of memory for decorating so much as a room.
Hossein Maher captures all this in silence from a distance, with crumbs of longing, concern, and bitterness. For him, the land is still sacred, as is the boundaries that give it an independent meaning. He tries to look at all this without judging (if, that is, his dejected spirit doesn’t interfere) those who let the wind take them where it may.