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Hossein Valamanesh discussing his gate sculpture

The Graveyard Gate, produced by Robin Ravelich. ABC Radio. The Listening Room. August 1994

It must have been about two years ago when I was approached to think about doing a piece for this new gateway here in Rookwood Cemetery. And my first reaction was I wasn’t sure whether I would like to work in such a situation. One of the immediate concerns I had to how to make the work to become part of the landscaping and then, the idea of the nature of this place, being a cemetery. And the second from that was the variety of religions and people who were buried there and the kind of traditions they came from and the imagery that they introduced to the place. As you have walked around you can see the magnificent examples of different craftsmanship and different attitudes towards burial, and so on. And all these was quite overwhelming.'

...'In that sense I went against that idea of taking examples from the existing place but go to something very simple that did not try to compete with this existing examples of fine art and craft within the graveyard. ... And that’s why the image you see it’s fairly simple. At the same time the challenge was to try to make an image that somehow was not so concrete in what it [was] trying to convey, but maybe will be like a question mark, or a quotation, that could be interpreted in different ways by different people. That means that people who pass through here are from many different cultures, many different religions, and to be able to offer something that can be read in such a short time that they will be driving by, to have some image or some sort of understanding of the sort of image I was trying to show here.'

...'Using the fence I decided to have the structure of the steps – that is the main element in the work – passing through the fence to go to the inside of the graveyard. In that sense maybe it’s metaphorically I am talking about the Journey that happens from this side to that side. But again, when you look at the work, there is no beginning to the steps, or I pretend not to be a beginning to the step or an end – this is just a hovering set of steps, that come from a lower situation to a higher situation, that is hovering between this fence, that is the, maybe, the transition between life and death.'

'And in the fence I have used the curved concentric circles, maybe, for me they were looking back at return to the earth, and where one may think the life began. But talking to the people while I was working; the workers, and people passing through, they all reading it in a different way. And they at times were happy that there was nothing, they could not see a definite finish to where the step it is going. And at times they were disappointed because they thought it should be going to heaven. But again that emptiness could be heaven, if you want to see it that way. And some other people said these steps should be going right down into the earth, as it were going down into a lower level, because they thought some people don’t deserve to be going up all the time. And this kind of different readings like that. But overall they have understood the idea of the Journey.'

Reproduced by kind permission of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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