Each time I send an e-mail without entering a subject, I get RE as a reply: Reaction, Return, Respond.

I am looking at a piece by Navid Nuur (Tehran, 1976; living in The Hague, NL), entitled RE. On a sheet of watercolour paper the word RE is written twice with a black marker. To the upper right it is written mirrorwise; to the lower left in ordinary writing. The ends of the letters have been connected with lines. Reaction follows Reaction.

For Navid it is important to show that the black of the marker is variable. Black is composed of several colours. Navid has frequently sprayed the letters with water. The ink has been washed away to the upper side, and has sedimented and fallen apart into the original colours. The whole looks like the depiction of a strip of matches lighted all at once. 

‘Re’ stands for ‘reaction’, but also for ‘re’ in the sense of ‘back’. From your current situation you can move forward tot the next, but you can also go back to the previous one.  

Navid Nuur, Re, ILLUMInations, Biennale Venice, Venezia, Royal Award for Painting 2011`Re`

Through association I find a variety of words, and I try to make these words refer to Navid’s work. Reconstruction: Broken Concepts: a construction of strips of polystyrene foam is built up until it breaks. Next, construction is continued in a different way. Deconstruction becomes reconstruction.

Reflection: In a work such as Try to realize the inception of tomorrow’s new and mint condition Navid hangs the piece with the painted side facing the wall, rendering the colour, the form, the message invisible… There is only the reflection of a pink glow at the edges.

Rearrangement: in Only if you let it subflooring tiles are used to rearrange the room. The acoustics of the room change and footsteps leave traces in the somewhat porous material. The entering sunlight is absorbed, making the tiles turn brown.  

Navid Nuur, Re, Broken Concept, ILLUMInations, Biennale Venice, Venezia, Royal Award for Painting 2011'Broken Concept'

The room is experienced anew through the changes that occur. Ultimately, the room is exhibited itself as you move through it.

Nuur continuously makes visible processes of change. The energy released by or required for the changing of basic elements such as water, air and light is made visible using small objects from the living environment. Depending on their situation the objects’ condition is solid, fluid or gaseous.

Dry letters are moistened. As light you walk through a sheet of paper from THERE to HERE, like Orpheus walking through a mirror in Cocteau’s film of the same name.  

Navid Nuur, Re, Vein of Venus,  ILLUMInations, Biennale Venice, Venezia, Royal Award for Painting 2011' Vein of Venus; de ijscomachine'

An ice cream – fluid material that becomes solid at temperatures below zero – melts and flows in a situation above zero, Vein of Venus. Through the working of moist or the grinding of teeth, a ball gum deforms into an amorphous shape or is blown into a balloon with air from the lungs.

Through the centuries there have always been artists who wanted to indicate movement. With regard to Western art the Baroque comes to mind. The use of diagonal lines lends a dynamic aura to static representations.

New efforts are seen in the Impressionist era: artists try to depict changes of light and vibrations of air. In Cubism several positions are brought together within one image. Futurism tries to depict the movement of machines.  

The concept of a ‘process’ has developed more or less in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore, it can only be depicted by artists from that period onward.

Art historians place Nuur’s work within the movement of conceptual art, seeing Nuur’s personal ‘Arabian touch’ from that perspective. Navid himself is primarily inspired by scientists, expressly not by fellow artists.

Artists such as Nauman and Abramovic use video and film to visualize processes of movement. On Nuur’s website are film clippings that make processes visible. But to present processes of movement he mainly uses static visual means. To me this represents Nuur’s romantic side. Still, it is the discrepancy between the static nature of the material and the dynamic nature of the image that creates the convincing effect. The material gets dynamic.

Nuur’s work is as rich and broad as life itself. The comprehensiveness an meanings of it cannot be described in just one essay. ‘Pleas enjoy… slowly’, Navid writes at the end of his introduction to his book ETIOLATION 1. I will certainly take this advice to heart each time I look at his work or documentation.


Vincent van Oss



Recently i discovered 'Re' also stands for the Egyptian Sungod 'Ra' !