Through photography and video art, Zamir Suleymanov uses his lens to interrogate urban landscapes as a reflection and performance of social and cultural values. Educated at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics, he has a skilled eye for examining people and their relationship to their environment and circumstances. Zamir began exhibiting his artwork in 2009 in Baku, and in 2010 he participated in the show ‘Art Bazar’ curated by Sitara Ibrahimova. However, in 2013, Zamir’s work was exhibited as part of the ‘Introspection’ exhibition curated by Suad Garayeva at Yay Gallery and ‘Zavod’ curated by Faig Ahmed in Baku, which marks the genesis of his professional career as an artist.
Since then, Zamir has exhibited widely both locally and on the international scene. He participated in the Islamic Arts Festival (UAE) in 2014 and 2015, and has shown work across Europe. In 2014, he exhibited in the GRID Photobiennale in Amsterdam, the Moscow Young Art Biennale, and Tbilisi Photofest, and in 2015 he continued to exhibit his work in Baku as well as Romania and Russia. In 2015-2017, as part of a residency in Gibellina, Italy, he created the Identity Flows project which was then shown in Spain, Greece and elsewhere. In He also participated in a Yarat Studios residency in 2016, which led to his participation in the exhibitions ‘300 Words of Resistance’ at Yarat Contemporary Art Space curated by Bjorn Geldhof and Suad Garayeva-Maleki and the 2017 exhibition ‘2017 – Between the Sea and Mountains’ at Yay Gallery, curated by Farah Alakbarli. In 2018, Zamir began a 2-year residency at the prestigious Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during which he is developing new projects and expanding his practice as a visual artist. As part of the residency, he will participate in various exhibitions and programs, bringing his unique perspective to a new environment.
Zamir’s photography employs documentary-style aesthetics, but through his use of framing, subject and color, he layers in textured narratives that hint at the hidden stories that exist just beyond the edge of his photographs and videos. His use of a saturated palette and flat perspective in his color photography suggests timelessness and stasis as embodied by the subjects of his work, exemplified in his 2014 photo-series ‘1996’ in which he employed a filter that date-stamped the photos as 1996 despite being taken in 2014; his perspective shows how time is not equivalent to progress, with his subjects’ static situation evident in the unchanging landscape in which they are seemingly trapped. In his black and white work such as the photo series ‘Real Market’ (2017), nostalgia is used as a tool with which to consider the present; his photographs document the many local markets around Baku that carry the name ‘Real Market,’ questioning the nature of truth and human subjectivity.
While his work is deeply ruminative, it also highlights parallels between the past and present, and wryly critiques contemporary culture and social patterns, such as his use of local slang and cultural meaning in his work ‘Heavy Words’ (2017), in which socially-loaded words were created from stone blocks stacked in the back of construction trucks, and driven through he different urban spaces of Baku, emphasizing the dynamics of context in creating meaning through language. The work was exhibited as part of Zamir’s 2017 solo exhibition of photography, installation and video art at Yay Gallery, entitled ‘ALL_AND,’ which continued his exploration of the urban language of Baku’s people and spaces. The exhibition showed the breadth of his artistic storytelling and the humanistic nuance of his work, which will only deepen as he explores new social and cultural realities during his residency in Amsterdam.