Our romantic feeling towards travel is stimulated by sights arousing the senses: undulating hills, aromatic flora; engrossing oneself in exotic new landscapes.
The palm tree epitomises this romance, symbolising paradise in the wilderness and bearing the fruit of erotic union. In this body of work made at the hinterlands of North Africa, Mahboubian explores the visual language of the palm tree that so allures us.
The distinctive plant has famously been muse for modern masters like Ed Ruscha and David Hockney, as well as contemporary photographers such as Bruno V. Roels. In each case, palm trees are depicted in relation to history, freedom and oasis – connotations oft-made with travel. Mahboubian first photographed palms during trips to Los Angeles in 2014 and 2015 – works that would form his first solo exhibition in Paris, Mulholland, in 2015. Through those images we traversed the city, encountering draping phone lines, silhouetted nudes and processions of luscious Palmae.
The title Nomad can of course be interpreted in terms of travel, but also has a deeper meaning pertaining to the state of contemporary life, where nomadism is defined by a perpetually moving and changing existence. This restless condition forces the artist to find a balance between the demands of modern society and working in a way that necessitates a much slower approach.
At the core of this work lies the significance of Mahboubian’s medium: a now-defunct type of instant analogue film invented by Polaroid Corporation in the 1960s. Unlike the digital images ever-proliferating today, these works are tangible and come into existence through the physical process of light entering the lens of the camera and touching the paper, and slowly manifest via a chemical process.
While this type of film has allowed Mahboubian to hone his artistic voice over the years, the scarcity of his remaining supply impels him to an extreme where each click of the shutter requires scrutiny, making more apparent the finite nature of his treasured art practice.
– Sai Villafuerte