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Artist/Naturalist Pages

Ahmad Nadalian


Carved Stones
Fish Ritually Set Free
Ephemeral Prints in Sand
Sand paintings with Earth Pigments
In His Own Words
  Explore Nadalian Further


Iranian artist Ahmad Nadalian is a worldwide emissary of Mother Earth. For many years he has performed his carvings of fish and goddesses in such diverse countries as France, Germany, Italy, the US, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and his storied Persian homeland.

Nadalian is deeply connected to water--streams and tides--and uses them to enact rituals of rebirth. The streams of his childhood homeplace have been destroyed. In a kind of compensatory healing, the artist carves water beings on rocks within streams and on their banks. On stones rolled smooth by water he incices fish, then cermonially frees them by returning them to water. This is a kind of installation art for future generations. Similarly, he buries other carvings on land in many hidden locations.

A recurring subject of Nadalian's art is Anahita, ancient goddess of the waters and fertility.He has carved her image into many rocks in places united by flowing waters that surround her image.

He has painted her on sands using pigments from overlooking cliffs.

Nadalian is an Earth advocate, a true eco-artist. For several years he has hosted Environmental Art Festivals on the island of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and at his home place. See Links, to his several websites, below, for more.


Nadalian's range and versatility are only suggested by the galleries below.

Nadalian's Carved Stones
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A suggestive trio of snake, apple, fish
Anahita graces a river stone in Italy.
Mithras in womb, New Mexico, US
Hands and pool, Tadjikistan
feet in river in France
feet and bowl in Mallorca
fish on rock in river, Iran
Anahita, Goddess of Fertility
Serpent in Garden in Darabad, Tehran, Iran
Dove in Darabad, Tehran, Iran

Goddess or Eve in Darabad, Tehran, Iran

red people, buried in Kansas City, US
pierced stone carving
crab carving Germany
In his travels, Nadalian collaborates with children, witness this proud fern set free

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Nadalian's Fish Ritually Set Free
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Nadalian ritually carves fish and other water beings on water-smoothed stones, then sets them free in water for future generations to find or not find. This ritual suggests a kind of atonement the artist performs for humanity, in hope.The photos of the moment of return are the very essence of ephemeral art. The ancient and the high tech happily coincide.
Nadalian performs the ritual of new life
sandstone fish set free in new life
limestone fish set free in new life
fish set free into new life
red fish set free
frog set free amid fall leaves
Fish set free through ice, Russia
This map shows the locations of Nadalian's Works around the globe. The green points show the place where he has carved on rocks and the red points show where his carvings have been buried, often by travelers who carried and buried his carvings.

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Nadalian's Ephemeral Prints in Sand
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Nadalian brilliantly re-invents the cylinder seal of the ancient Near East, once used to print scenes,often of religious significance, on moist clay. Nadalian honors the living spirits of mouse and hedgehog, fish and serpent and crab, scorpion and desert tree, by sealing their images into sand that will soon blur into desert winds or vanish into tide-wash, as must all life.
A fine evocation of spiky desert foliage
The undulating curve captures the leap of mouse
fish about to be swallowed by tide
An intensity of hedgehogs in the desert
Sand Serpents explore the Maranjab sands
crab seal being rolled along an ocean beach
desert foliage cylinder seal in situ
fish seal being printed in beach sand
artist at work on the ocean beach
artist printing on the Maranjab desert sands
Dream of Peace, No War bicycle tires carved as cylinder seals with a web address

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Nadalian's Sand Paintings with Earth Pigments
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Archetypal Story 1
Archetypal Story 2
Archetypal Story 3
The painter has painted himself with Earth
at one of his environmental art workshops
Earth mineral pigments in decomposed rock near Hormuz
In HIs Own Words

I consider my strongest influences to be on the one hand the nomad lifestyle of my ancestors, their life close to nature, and on the other the bas-reliefs dating back to the earliest Iranian civilizations.  Buried deep in the heart of the Iranian hillsides, these carvings use nature as a setting for art.  My aim is not to reconstruct a representation of kingly glories and triumphs as depicted in the hillside carvings; I wish to return to the nature I call my own, to be a part of it.  My life surrounded by nature, and the harmony I have found there have led to the formation of a language in which both the material and the content are derived from nature.

The village of Poloor is my ancient homeland, the summer camp of my ancestors.  I lived in the city during my years as a student, and I spent seven years out of the country.  I returned to Iran after finishing my studies.  I was trying to escape an environment that was polluted in every way: environmentally, politically, and morally.  I wanted to return to good health, to a paradise.  In this polluted world, untouched nature can be a paradise. 
But it turned out that the paradise of my childhood was, and still is, rapidly disappearing. 
There were no more rushing rivers.  The dwindling streams were full of plastic bags and trash, which had replaced the fish.  No one prayed for rain anymore.  The sky had turned away from us.  People no longer believed in the divinity of water, of the elements.  I wanted to visualize that lost paradise for myself.  The fish that I carve are alive for me.  But technology doesn’t even allow imaginary fish a space to live.  The story continues.  I carve fish, and then the bulldozers move in to make way for new villas and highways, and my fish die.  We now have a cemetery with fish carved on all the headstones.  But I haven’t lost hope.  I believe in standing strong until the end.

Without the motion and sound of the rushing water, my work has little meaning.  The river has been transformed into art. The rising of the water level in spring and the lowered level in autumn gain significance from the life-affirming rituals that are part of the philosophy of ancient Iranian mysticism.

I didn’t choose to work with nature; it chose me, it mesmerized me and taught me how to re-present what seemed irretriev-ably lost.  The choices may have been instinctual; maybe I was seeking my lost paradise, the paradise of my childhood memories, a longing for the ways of my ancestors.  But my allegiance is not restricted to the past.  I don’t wish to defy present realities, I don’t deny the beauty of the present. I have a very positive relationship with new technology, especially informational technologies, and I feel that new media complements and completes my work.  My voice may have gone unheard without new media. I would like to preserve and retain the beauty of the past for the present and the future.

I think about the future.  I have deliberately buried many of my carvings in their natural settings.  These burials are secrets I share with the earth, an exhibition for later generations.  These pieces highlight the value of the earth, the cradle of humanity and its civilizations.

It’s no longer a question of whether we live in a small village or the global village.  We live in the age of new technologies and capabilities. These resources have created new difficulties and crises.  History has never before witnessed such destruction brought upon nature.  Environmental crises and the need to resurrect a pure environment call for a new art form.  Environmental art can play an important role.  Art is capable of illustrating the crisis, critiquing its conditions, and describing a utopian world.

In the past, rituals and beliefs stipulated that elements such as water and earth remain pure; to pollute them was a sin.  Today the descendants of those ancient societies have neither retained their divine beliefs nor gained the necessary know-ledge to combat the ecological crisis.

Polluted environments are the result of polluted emotions, thoughts and attitudes; a pure world belongs to a pure being.  The pollution of nature comes from the pollution of the human soul.  We may be wrong in thinking we can work to save the environment; we have to realize that we too are part of the environment. All we need to learn is to stop polluting it any further.  This awareness will help us humans more than anything else.

On His Repeated Images:

The female form I use is the goddess of water and fertility.  I have a specific interest in ancient Iranian mythology, in which Anahita was worshipped as the goddess of water and fertility; She purified the waters and the milk of nursing mothers.

Many of my carvings show the female figure combined with a fish or moon symbol.  Female figures were water goddesses and fertility symbols in ancient cultures, and the fish and moon also represented rain and fertility.  In an age of increasing water pollution, the water goddess is a conscious reference to that concept of holiness.

I see the fish as a metaphor for a human being, and the river, the sea or the ocean are the world that surrounds us.  We need a clean environment to stay alive.  Perhaps one reason for selecting these symbols is my need to deliberately return to nature.  When a human being lives surrounded by nature, natural symbols will appear in his or her work. 

The handprint is one of the earliest forms testifying to the presence of humans in prehistoric times and primitive societies.  We can use our hands to create beauty in harmony with nature, or to leave the mark of ugliness upon our surroundings. The handprint, combined with a simple image of an eye, describes a sort of prayer, a holy communion. 

Ahmad Nadalian and Andy Goldsworthy
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Explore Nadalian Further

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