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Kamran Samimi photo by Brandon Ng

Feb 24, 2019

Movement In Stone

Photos by Brandon Ng

Take a walk on a rocky beach, look down and notice just how many rocks are strewn about your feet. Each one has a story, a life cycle, and a connection to its environment. Most of the time, however, our gaze is focused on the horizon and we rarely notice the small things idly standing beneath us. Artist Kamran Samimi notices these perfect natural treasures. He notices the way the clouds swirl through the sky and the way the light reflects off the ocean in the afternoon. From print making to sculpture, Kamran use patterns found in nature and the rhythm of repetition to shine a spotlight on the beautiful natural world that we so often take for granted. A slice and a twist of a rock, the underbelly of a mountain, the swirls of wind around an island chain, Samimi uses natural materials and various techniques to create works of art that are a tribute and response to the rich landscapes found throughout Hawai’i. As both POW! WOW! and The Honolulu Biennial sweep through the city, filling our streets, museums, and galleries with an elaborate collection of contemporary art, we caught up with Samimi as he was preparing for his own upcoming installation, “Unearthed,” at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea.  

How did growing up on the Big Island with its natural environment and expansive landscapes, influence your perspective and the art you create today? 

I grew up out in the country, in a small town called Laupāhoehoe, about a half-hour outside of Hilo. The Big Island has so much open space, and it had an effect on me. I saw the unlimited potential of nature and developed an appreciation for it. I also grew up on the foothills of Mauna Kea. You’re always aware of the mountain. It’s an anchor point. I had this ahupua‘a awareness and access, which made its way into my artwork and my appreciation of nature—wanting to interact with all these materials we have in Hawai‘i, like wood, water, and stone—looking at different ways to interpret these things. 

How do you use repetition and patterns derived from nature to create art and tell stories? 

For me, patterns and repetition are things that are basic fundamentals of art and we respond to them whether we know it or not. But things slowly change over time and are morphing. We are slowly going through life evolving into something else. A lot of my work is about marking time, transitioning from one place to another. Its a geographic abstraction of a natural thing, like a mountain. The mountain can be seen as static, but it is very alive and full of energy. With my stonework, by slicing and twisting or augmenting the pieces of a stone, it gives a sense of growth. That rhythmic approach—slicing, dividing, and moving—adds a sense of transformation to whatever the material is. 

What are some of the themes that you explore through your geometric art? 

There is a subtle environmental message behind my work, but I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m lecturing. I don’t think of my work as didactic. The stone was beautiful when I found it. I didn’t make it better. I just reframed it so you noticed it. The Earth is full of these beautiful things that we take for granted. I hope that by using these materials in my artwork, I will get people in touch with a feeling of connectedness so that they can appreciate nature in a way that is inherent in every person—respect the Earth, take care of it, don’t take it for granted. All of my work is an abstraction of nature or a reinterpretation of it.    

Tell us about your “Currents” installation at Ae‘o at Ward Village. 

I originally created a mural for the exterior of the construction barricades when they were building the tower. It was an abstraction based on the wind current patterns with a sculptural element—the wind currents around the Hawaiian Islands. I love the idea of taking the wind, something ephemeral and invisible, and giving it a physical and tangible form, distilling it into our physical space. Then, I was contacted to reinterpret the concept for a couple interior spaces for permanent installation. The wind currents pattern moving around the Hawaiian Islands appears in the fitness room with a monochromatic take to feel less intense, less bright. The wind patterns are also reinterpreted in the top floor of the stairwell to the roof deck. It’s as if the winds have ascended through the building and are moving upward through the stairwell, pulling the residents up to the roof deck. These currents ascend with you, rising and climaxing at the top, and then go back down with you, mirroring a person’s movement. 

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