Each culture, each passing epoch creates its own specific form of ornamentation.

Whether decorative or generating an order, whether as a support for metaphysical 

notions or pure decoration, ornamentation makes permeable the lines among

cultures, between art and everyday life, between applied and free art. Ornaments

are patterns that structure spaces, binding the individual in an order, assembling

building blocks into masses and fixing them in a framework. The effect is usually

fascinating, because something individual is integrated into an overarching whole,

protected, neutralized, which can be interpreted as openness. If a mere detail of

symmetry comes apart, the entire order collapses. Ornamentation fascinates quite

directly, possessing a faith in an overarching oneness. It is a cultural universal and

Orient and Occident meet in the symmetry of shapes.

Timo Nasseri, who first worked as a classical photographer, was born in 1972 in

Berlin as the son of a German mother and a Persian father. From his experience

with photography, destined for short-term use, he developed an artistic oeuvre that

builds up slowly and with endless precision on the foundations of mathematics and

suspends the separation between abstraction and ornamentation.

The drawings, white ink on black paper, are reduced in their spectrum of colours

and shapes. Squares and rectangles form grids, networks, and circles, or octagons.

What emerges on paper are strict spaces that can be continued endlessly and make

do without any external reference. The beholder finds himself placeless before a 

possible firmament. One and One (2008–2012) and Everything Is Everything (2008–

2012) refer already in their titles to the notion of infinity that Arab scholars sought to

illustrate with the help of arithmetic, thus exploring the foundations of mathematics.

In Sufism, the rhombus stands for the sky, the square for the earth. By composing the

drawing using these two simple elements, he places the symbols for the world on

top of one another, as it were. The ornamental structure of the works on paper does

not necessarily lead to a thematic interpretation, but alludes to the debate that has

flared up once more in the twenty-first century on overcoming the stigmatization of


But leaving this aside entirely, the works touch us deeply, because in their shapes

individual memory comes to bear just as do religious references and universal

principles. Reduction is taken to the highest level and pursues a strategy of seducing the

beholders to gain their attention. Each line pushes the beholder further, and makes him

or her search for wholeness. Each bend in the line pulls the entire pattern with it. The

beholder roams about the system in search of the symmetry that the system promises.

Timo Nasseri uses the fascination that results from the symmetry and the order to

create a disturbance with his works from the series of Arabic Calligraphies.

Calligraphy is a form of ornament and is considered in Islamic culture the most

“esteemed” kind of ornamentation. The art of beautiful writing is one of the primary

forms of expression and is closely linked to religion. Unlike in the West, there is no

separation between the text and the image. Calligraphy combines the written word

with the image or allows it to become an image. The writing itself gains a three-

dimensionality. A feeling of disorientation takes hold, accompanied by an aware-

ness of a hidden, ungraspable content.

Nasseri’s relief objects, executed in wood, 22 centimetres thick and covered in shiny

chrome, are Persian words inscribed in beautiful calligraphy on the wall: words

such as shafagh (dawn, early period), fadjir (first light of day) or noor (light, the

divine light). They are not words with a mystical background. All these words refer

to times of the holy prayer, that are only truly decoded when we know their real

meaning, for they refer to weapons systems in Iran. By removing the religious con-

text, they are recoded entirely. Nasseri refers here very elegantly to the fundamentally

puzzling character of each form of language, which is especially revealed in

its military use and which strangely can be found in all the languages of the world,

regardless of which religion is dominant in the culture. With this work as well, Timo

Nasseri refers to a key bridge between the cultures.

Another work series are the muqarnas that emerged in 2008: like his drawings, these

are also made of simple mathematical elements, triangles. Their structure and form

are borrowed from mosque architecture. In these works, Nasseri explores the endless

possibilities of an order of a stylistic element of Islamic architecture. Since his journey

along the Silk Road, Nasseri has been fascinated by muqarnas, the entrance

domes to mosques that consist of a large number of pointed niches stacked in tiers.

The virtually endless repetition and rhythmic composition of the motifs emblematizes

the act of creation and reveal notions of infinity as well as concepts of eternity.

Timo Nasseri takes his muqarnas down from the ceiling and transfers them to the

wall. This isolation opposite the beholder gives the form a completely different angle

and divorces it from the architectural context, making it into a sculptural element

with which volume and space are explored. His muqarnas have an open form: neither

circles nor squares, they thus leave behind the original dome. As in a kaleidoscope,

patterns are dissected and created anew over and over by way of reflection.


Made of reflecting steel, cut into triangles and placed slightly apart from one another

in the wall, they refract the light thousand-fold. With depth reflection, refraction,

and diffraction Nasseri creates a sculptural space from the surface that is based on

a highly reduced formal vocabulary. Using triangles and mirrored surfaces, spaces

of reflection are crafted that challenge us with tautologies and at the same time

abduct us to magical visual worlds. Here, he takes up the mirror mosaic of Shah

Cheraq in Shiraz and transfers it to acontemporary material, referring to the trade in

mirrors, from Bohemia and Venicemaintained in Persia since the sixteenth century: the

close link between Orient and Occident.

With Parsecs (2010), Nasseri develops his previous work in a new direction by creating a fully sculptural work. If his previous pieces were shaped by an ornamental

approach, he now develops a universal large-scale sculpture.

It is placed directly in the space without a plinth. As the beholder wanders around

the sculpture, its appearance changes immediately, and in particular the phenomena

of the triangles, so familiar to us, begin to enchant our senses. The web of the

mathematical structure reveals ever-new aspects.

These sculptures formulate a universal visual language. Here, they lose almost

entirely the original content of the appropriated signs. They are banned to the title.

The sculptures themselves remove the muqarnas from their original context. Timo

Nasseri recodes the form and through the manipulation of dimension and through

fusion creates something new.

Britta Schmitz. 2012