‘Peering into darkness, sooner or later perception will morph into imagination. The Passage, a photograph of a cave printed on a gold foil emergency blanket, may be a nod to the dark hole that Alice fell down to get to Wonderland.’
D. van den Boogerd, ‘Navid Nuur: Sandman’s Sand,’ in ArtReview, Summer 2017
‘Nuur’s work evidences a fascination with process, dissemination, dissipation and ephemeral components – light (the artist’s name translates as “light” in Arabic), projections, ash and water. These are the Days (2004–ongoing), for example, is a series of miniature models of spaces made from leftover studio materials, with spyglasses fitted into them so that viewers can ponder their inner workings. His work questions the fixed or static art object, exploring how it might extend beyond the physical and temporal conventions of an exhibition, and into the minds of viewers.’
D. Eichler, ‘Navid Nuur’, frieze, June – August 2010, p. 159
‘I call my works “interimodules”. This term is made up of the words interim and module. The “m” in interim is actually transposed over the “m” in module – similar to how my works always slightly overlap each other. An interim is someone who temporarily joins an organisation to support some change process – someone who temporarily sets something into motion. A module is a form that can be adapted or linked to some other form. By definition, it is a unified whole, but it can easily be connected to a different module, or linked together. In addition, its characteristics are partly determined by its environs: the dimensions of the space, the intensity of the local light, local air quality, etc. Its meaning as a word can easily be expanded, and as a form, it can absorb any imaginable material or technique – as long as they are deployed within the aforementioned definition. “Interimodule” is a clear definition – albeit a steadily expanding one. Like time, mass and space, it can be stretched.’
N. Nuur, Mining Memory, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler / Galeria Plan B, p. 10
We the Park, 2015–2019 is a series of ceramic vases which incorporates materials found in public parks. Beautifully irregular, these organic objects may be read from all angles with their display of varying textures and colours. Mostly glazed, their surfaces range from smooth to granulated, glossy to matte. Murky earth tones, moss greens and subdued greys are enhanced by attractive veins and sparks of deep blue, orange and light green. Forming cosmic patterns across the surfaces, they endow the ceramics with an otherworldly quality. Found elements such as shells and pieces of rock occasionally make an appearance.
Working in stoneware clay, Nuur fires his ceramics at high temperature while most parts of the found materials melt. This process forces him to relinquish control, to both the temperature and gravity’s law, in a short conception time. Nuur refers to the intense focus he needs to maintain in order to catch this momentum for the forms, as overworking them would cause their structures to collapse.
Nuur likens the experience of parks to that of museums, and sees both as places where people leave things: traces. The sensuous, poetic forms of We the Park are to him only complete when the viewer’s eyes can wander on the vessels as in the nature of a park.
‘The fascination with the thin dividing line between visibility and invisibility is a constant in Nuur’s painterly exercises. The artist has been attempting, since childhood, to capture on canvas what he sees with his eyes closed. Personally, with my eyes closed, I see little more than darkness and a few hazy spots, which are, I assume, after images on the retina. Navid Nuur, an expert at looking into nothingness, deciphers endless shadowy fields of countless dots and lines, a sort of grid of static. These grids, reconstructed and processed with a computer, are the subject of his largest group of paintings to date, with the title of Eye-Codex of the Monochrome.’
D. van den Boogerd
With the series Rituals of the Rational, Navid Nuur is in search of non-functional objects, without any cultural attachments. These a-temporal works result from a long creation process. After gathering unusual materials such as coprolite (fossilised dinosaur faeces) and palm tree ashes, the ceramics are fired with wood for several days. The seashell imprints on the lower part of the stoneware clay were made after a technique similar to the Japanese tradition of firing potteries on shells. The artist seeks to restrict his impact on the shapes of the works. The only intentional artistic decision being the strict selection of the works occurring at the end of the process and Nuur lastly keeping just a few works. One does not sense the long hours of making and the sensitive stages the works had to undergo when faced with the fragile and humble appearance of the ceramics.
‘The actual physical interaction between the work and the viewer is an integral component of Untitled (Let us meet inside you). During the period of the exhibition, the soft drink bottles in the crates are filled with water coming out of a tap that has been moved from Nuur's studio to the exhibition space and consequently symbolises the artist himself. The bottles of water can subsequently be taken away and consumed by the visitor, resulting in a symbolic encounter. In this work, the artist plays with the concept of a performative presence/absence in his relationship with the viewer, who as a recipient takes on an active, theatrical role.’
X. Karskens, ‘Magic Water – On the instinctive logic of Navid Nuur’, in Navid Nuur: The Value of Void, Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2010, p. 17
Navid Nuur's work Untitled, 2014, a painting made from crushed vitamin D used as pigment, illustrates his deep interest in properties and potentials of different materials. Since a while Nuur experiments with vitamin D which is produced when skin comes into contact with ultraviolet light from the sun and thus forms an essential nutrient. The substance, usually an invisible compound, suddenly becomes visible on the white coloured surface of the canvas, transforming it into a pastel-hued monochrome.
‘When we have an idea and want to record it on a piece of paper, a large part of it gets lost as we need first to be able to draw and to know how to use our body in order to reach this goal. An idea or a concept that we have in mind vanishes easily when it leaves our mind/body. What I do is to hold a black marker above a pile of small pieces of paper while I concentrate on this very precise idea that I wish to visualise. I don’t draw, I just let the idea shape in my mind and simultaneously the ink will spill through the pile of paper. After a while the ink stiffens and I can’t any longer keep the idea. I get tired of so much concentration (…) Then, using styrofoam, I cut enlarged shapes after the ones left on each paper (…) Once all the shapes are assembled on top of each others, appears a 3D structure which has its own identity, loaded with inner energy. A concept that we could touch, which is pure, while its content and meaning remains enigmatic.’
N. Nuur, 2014
‘One day, I had to go to the dentist to get my teeth checked. Anyway, while I was there, the dentist told me that you can feel a hundred times more detail with your mouth than with your hands.
While I went back to my studio, I kept thinking about it. OK: the last thing you want to do is put a piece of clay in your mouth when you decide to make some art. [...] No, what I needed to do was get back to the stuff that’s really meant for putting in your mouth, which is GUM. Because your mouth knows exactly what to do with gum, and so do you.
So I put a piece of gum in my mouth and started chewing it really consciously. In my mind, I tried to picture the inside of my mouth. And each time round, really fresh abstract art popped out of my mouth. All of a sudden, I knew what I had to do next. I needed to learn how to chew the alphabet. Because when you talk, words leave your mouth – so it made sense to make them entirely in your mouth with gum. Because them, you’re not only thinking about what you want to say, but also what you want to say will look like.’
N. Nuur, 2013
‘The way in which Navid Nuur relates to material, the space around him and his observations therein can almost be regarded as devout. The attention for detail and the careful fine-tuning of the various elements of the work make the audience part of an “inner” world. In Nuur’s work – although conceptual at first sight – a very personal visual problem becomes the central question. What Nuur has in common with the conceptual artists of the 1960s is the relation between concept and form. For him, however, form is not necessarily the result of the idea, but materialises through a subjective programme of requirements or rules in which intuition has the upper hand. He applies concepts that often relate to a temporary in-between state that places his work between the audience and an often-abstract phenomenon, such as light, energy, air or “rest space”. Nuur’s form – language and meaning are therefore principally purely process-orientated.’
A. Gordts and L. Van Tuyckom, Works from the Van Tuyckom-Taets Collection, Brussels: Leo Van Tuyckom, 2018, p. 329
‘The green floral foam block is just a medium between two timelines: on the one hand, “the personal now/as physicality”, on the other – “the public past/as aesthetics”. What I mean is this: the floral foam block remembers your first touch. As soon as you touch the block, your hand is imprinted on it; there is no residue, no second chance. There is a very intimate relation of concomitance between me and the material preserving the emotion in the block. The brick-like shape of blocks suggests that wall-like objects would be the most natural outcome to work with and around. A wall is both a relation and a division between two or more spaces, so when I think of the final space, it is site-specific and custom-made for the chosen location. The object/wall is created live.’
N. Nuur, ‘When touch can recall itself’, in Navid Nuur: The Value of Void, Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2010, p. 146
‘The unfortunate thing about a painting is that the route towards the end result can be so meandering, and that sometimes it is impossible to discern those old hidden traces and emotions, due to the new layers that have been applied on top of them. (…) I discoverd that paint is really thin and weak, without any zest of its own whatsoever – as if you're applying to the canvas a diluted extract of an original source. That didn't suit me at all; I had to feel the paint. So I started to make the volume thicker and thicker and thicker, untill I finally arrived at Fimo and Play-Doh. This was the perfect material: it had the right physical density, I really connected to it and it had strong colour. It could also carry itself materially as a final form, so that I no longer needed to use a canvas. I took two pieces of Fimo – red and blue – and started kneading them together while uttering the names of the colours and physical actions involved, until I arrived at a result that felt right. After which I put the recording of the moment in question in this end result. This allows the viewer to hear the entire process, and releases a wide range of extra emotions – personal emotions – in the work. Up till now, I have only red and blue, as these two colours and their hues offer an intense experience and speak strongest to me emotionally.’
N. Nuur, ‘When red and blue start to rumble’, in Navid Nuur: The Value of Void, Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2010, p. 210
‘I knew that when I exhibited somewhere where the fluorescent tubes would not have to serve as a source of light, I could transfrom them into luminescent bodies and arrange them in formation. Formations that would be created via a site-specific process and that would have to conceive on the fly, so that I would never know exactly what they would look like in reality. Later, I wanted to “mobilise” these light formations outside their site-specific locations.’
N. Nuur, ‘When wires start to wander’, in Navid Nuur: The Value of Void, Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2010, p. 72
‘Economists like to say that you should torture statistics in a basement for as long as it takes them to tell the truth, and Nuur can be said to do something similar with the materials he uses. Telling examples of this inquisitive attitude, in which the artist attempts to penetrate the very physical essence of the material, can be found in text works like Untitled (ENCOUNTER), TREASURED TENSION, ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE IS NOT EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE (all from 2007). In these works, Nuur exposes and applies the simple principle that the specific colour of a felt-tip pen is built up out of a wide range of other colours. The hidden colours in the black felt-tip letters on the stretched linen are made visible by diluting them with water, or – to put it in Nuur's words – are “unchained”. This way, the letters show their true, polychromatic nature, and are threatening and dramatic in their condition. It's in Nuur's nature to activate material objects (natural and synthetic) – to bring them to life, as it were – and he subsequently allows the traces of that process to become part of his artistic gesture.’
X. Karskens, ‘Magic Water – On the instinctive logic of Navid Nuur’, in Navid Nuur: The Value of Void, Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2010, p. 16