HOSSEI - master craftsman and worldbuilder, manipulator of sensory devices to evoke alternate dreamscapes. After a 5-year hiatus, HOSSEI is sharing his practice with us again, more colourful and emotive than ever.

HOSSEI doesn’t always want to know what his work is about, “For me, it’s more about a feeling, and I want you to feel something when you witness my work. I want you to be moved by the shapes and the colours, movement and sound.”

HOSSEI’s practice is guided by a knot in his belly, or a clenching of his heart. His intuition is his primary medium forged by his particular method of regulating emotions and responses to whatever life gives and takes. It’s a tool that will continue to evolve.

He says “Intuitiveness is like a sense that I feel gets regularly associated with being unintelligent or something. I disagree, I’ve found my intuition to be an integral part of how I choose to live my life. Sometimes I really struggle with tapping into it; you almost have to lower yourself in. You know, sometimes it comes naturally and sometimes it doesn’t.”

HOSSEI is an honors graduate of Sydney College of the Arts. This time led to him developing a strong connect with Mikala Dwyer, who he always warmly refers to as his “Art Mum.” His art mum’s influence within his practice is evident along with musical theatre, sci-fi and horror films, psychedelic Persian musing and dream pop.

This year HOSSEI has two solo exhibitions and is releasing a fashion accessories collection. “I feel like everything that I’ve been doing since I’ve entered the art world, which was like, fifteen years ago, has kind of come to this point. I’ve been gathering all this information and all these things that I’ve learned along the way, and now I’m displaying it.”

O, a fully immersive installation using colour, bodies and costume created with the support and participation of HOSSEI’s community, will run at UTS Gallery until late May. O has been inspired by visual motifs and actions that relate to weightlessness and grounding. Air and feet become symbols for healing. Throughout the performances, plumes of vapour — exhalations — are seen trailing out of models. A giant silver donut-shaped UFO flying through the skies, drawing attention to the idea of suspension and elevation, promotes the exhibition; the show launches a collection of fashion accessories.

Giant cartoonish feet are used by models playfully to champion the notion of grounding oneself to surfaces that the soles of one’s feet encounter. His friends, parents and mentors modelled for the catalogue or walked the square runway, adorned in sheer and matte block colours that produce silhouettes as complex squiggles and blotches. After they had been inhabited by bodies and moved through the space on the opening night runway presentation, the costumes were suspended within the gallery space.

HOSSEI’s practice seems to manifest into two branches, one focused on his relationships with his mother, and the other on ensemble performance. Both explore intimacy.

THUNDERBLOOM will be presented at Melbourne’s West Space Gallery and extend into Collingwood Yards as a public installation. The show will be a visual album created in collaboration with his mother. Each song will have a music video sung and performed by the two of them. HOSSEI and his mum, Nahid, have been writing songs about, “Iranian mother-power, angry heavy metal songs, songs about healing and being in denial about healing, passion for Persian food, a song about going to the Grocery shop etc,.” The poster for the exhibition, of Nahid in front of a backdrop of electric blue with white lighting shattering a dark sky, suggests a cosmic rebirth is taking place.

He explains that he and his mother are going deeper into the work than ever before: “I’m already so close with her, there’s this obvious and undeniable link between us, but this experience is like we’re going deeper together. It feels like we’re submerging into our brains that are compounding into one another and we’re swimming through it. It’s really crazy! And it’s really a lot of trust . . . I’m out of my comfort zone too. Yeah, like, it’s not just her, it’s me too . . . I’m pushing myself to do these things as well and we know these are things I’m kind of learning about myself.”

During what he calls his five-year hiatus from artmaking, he’d do occasional large-scale ensemble performances. HOSSEI has focused on the concept of healing to cradle this era of his practice. “I think the older you get, you realise that you need self-soothing, sensory, go-to things. I very much need certain tools in my life now, like meditation music, and, you know, that weird neck thing that I have, that I rest on. It helps me centre myself. Doing face masks, facials, and LED masks. Taking a moment out of your time. It’s become more apparent to me how important that is. Coming from a Persian family, you’re always kind of told to suck it up if you have any issues, and I think you can maybe relate to this as well. As time has gone on, I’ve grown up, and I’ve built this really strong exterior. But I’ve completely neglected what’s happening inside. It’s been catching up on me. This is one of the reasons why healing is so important for me now, to use it as a tool in my practice. It’s been about ten years now that I’ve been my mum’s carer . . . having that title has shaped me in a different way. I’m constantly trying to do things to relieve her from pain and help her feel better. She will always be a part of my work. So, it’s all synced up in this way.”

He’s in his Renaissance era, just like Beyoncé. To signify the shift from Hossein Ghaemi, he’s now practising as HOSSEI, a lifelong nickname that has been used in a classic Australian fashion of shortening things to avoid pronouncing ethnic names, Now in capitals, his name is a statement. Accompanying his “new” name are four core elements that his practice has grown to encompass; healing through practice, feeling through practice, playfulness through practice, and grounding through practice.

This new practice suggests a celestial entity, He plays with senses, perceptions and assumptions, picks out singularities, and reorganises our environments to catch us off-guard. He realises a fantasy and gives us an opportunity to detach from the mundane and submerge into feeling, “The biggest healing thing for me is creating joy, and creating a really safe environment for people to let all their inhibitions go. So that it’s not just the performers, but the audience watching as well can feel transported and lost, and want to get in touch with this childhood thing that you have, that feels really free with no fear of judgement.”

Images courtesy of the artist, UTS Gallery & Collection, Sydney and West Space, Melbourne, and Artspace, Sydney 
This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 63

2 September – 14 October, 2023 
West Space, Melbourne 

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