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Sandman's Sand - Navid Nuur

Galleries Martin van Zomeren

Hazenstraat 20
1016 SP Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 4208129

Open Wed - Sat / 13-18 hrs

Exhibition 15 Apr — 20 May

Opening 15 Apr, 17-19 hrs


Dear Martin,
As I told you recently when we spoke on the phone, ‘The Eyecodex of the Monochrome’
comprises a series of works that deal with how we see monochromes with our eyes. The
largest monochrome in the world is the one you see when you close your eyes. It surpasses
the work of Anish Kapoor, James Turrell, Mark Rothko or Robert Ryman. It’s a
work of art that everyone carries around with them. For years, I’ve tried to see how my
eyes see; to view what my eyes see when I shut them: the ultra-monochrome. This form
of viewing – in which you need to keep your thoughts under control, but not entirely – is
where the real shimmering takes place. Or the darkness that resonates when you peer
into a cave. You can feel and visualise the dimensions of the black volume in the depths.
This tipping point, between viewing and imagining, is where form takes shape. We all see
it – specifically when we aren’t looking. I also think painting what you can’t see is far
more important than what we already know and see. A kind of static yet organic white
noise that can engender images. It’s where the real process of viewing takes place – before
the image makes way for imagination or, conversely, abstraction.
For this exhibition, I have selected a number of works and studies made in recent years
that came out of the aforementioned considerations. Oh, another important thing: I use
non-existent colours. Colours that people have developed for functional rather than emotional
purposes – like primer, chroma key and aluminium paint. I want to lend my paintings
a certain ‘neutrality’, since our viewing of colours is culturally determined – while
seeing with your eyes shut is not.

‘I’ as in: ‘we’

I have a very clear memory of hiding under the covers when I was four years old, with everything
around me becoming very dark. Then something strange happened: I saw exactly
the same thing I would see when I closed my eyes! I didn’t understand what was going
on. How was it possible that when you opened your eyes under your blanket, in the dark,
you saw exactly the same thing you saw with your eyes shut? When I tried to explain it
to my parents, they didn’t get it at all. They put a nightlight in my bedroom – that would
help, supposedly. What the hell did that have to do with anything? I couldn’t explain to
them what I was on to, and I felt lonely and misunderstood in my quest.
For me, this was a very big, important question. At a certain point, I came up with an
idea: I would keep my eyes shut and imagine something. Something simple – an apple, for
example. I closed my eyes and pictured the apple. As soon as I had a clear image of the
apple, I opened my eyes under the covers and… the apple was still there! This experience
made a big impression on me as a four-year-old.
How can you keep picturing something in your mind’s eye when you open your eyes in
the dark? I started testing this phenomenon on a larger scale. The problem was that with
a blanket, I could only make one small space at a time pitch-black. But I wanted more.
The only place that had potential was our bathroom. It didn’t have any windows and the
door closed real tight. So that’s where I… I told my mother that I needed to poo – as an
alibi, I was sure my parents would understand my experiment otherwise. After all, they
had bought me that fricking nightlight. Okay, so I went inside, but then I discovered
everything smelled of shampoo and detergent, that the floor tiles felt cold and that on
top of everything, the washing machine had this very annoying little light that was always
on. This dark space was contaminated by too many sources of distraction, in other
words. I needed to come up with something else. So I pulled on my shoes, pulled the
washing machine’s power plug out of its socket and wrapped a scarf around my face to
keep out the smell, after which I was good to go. Let’s do this. I ventured in.
And it worked. All I had to do was block out the sounds coming in from beyond the bathroom
and the acoustics of the room itself. Here we go: I shut my eyes and then opened
them again to calibrate the darkness of the surrounding space with the darkness behind
my closed eyes. Yes, they were the same, so I could start. I began to slowly picture the
apple. I waited for a bit, because I wanted to the image to be a bit clearer still…
At which point my mother decided to call: ‘Navidjoen, where are you?’
I immediately answered: ‘I’m almost finished!’
The bathroom’s acoustics exploded inside my head due to my yelling. And the apple had
Did this mean I had to start all over again? Pfff…!? After a while, I was back where I had
left off: picturing the apple with my eyes tight shut. I opened them… and I could see the
apple floating in the bathroom’s space. It was incredible: I could spin it round; move it
backward and forward again. It was amazing: the surrounding black space had become a
part of me.
Then I hear ‘Navidjoen, is everything alright?’
The door opened. My apple vanished into thin air.
My mother saw me standing there in the bathroom, in the dark, wearing shoes and a
scarf, and obviously not taking a poo. She was taken aback for a moment, after which
she immediately started scolding me for wearing my outdoor shoes in the bathroom.
What had got into me!? I had to take my shoes off straight away. And I was told off a
second time an hour later, when my mother wanted to do laundry and found out I had
disconnected the washing machine. This was definitely not okay! You’re never allowed to
play with electricity, etc.
What a bummer… The bathroom was the only room where I could train this new dimension.
From then on, my mother kept an eye on me. She thought I was bored and planned
all sorts of things that we could do together. She meant well, but I actually didn’t have
time for this. I was busy exploring new dimensions, and I still am…-

Abstract from an email sent by the artist.

About the artist:

Navid Nuur (1976, Iran/Netherlands) lives and works in the Hague. In 2011 Navid has won the
‘Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst’ (Royal Price of Painting) with his monochrome paintings.
The paintings have also been exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
His past exhibitions include major institutions such as Trafó - House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest
(2014); Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee (2014); Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht (2014-2013);
Centre Pompidou, Paris (2013); Parasol unit, London (2013), Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen (2011), Venice
Biennale (2011), Museion, Bolzano (2011); Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2009


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