Rana Begum, No. 695 (2016), Abraaj 2016-17, colored glass, di-bond, steel and aluminium, 9 x 10.4 m. Photo taken from Art Dubai.
Rana Begum is a London-based artist whose work mainly involves the synergy of light, lines, and colors. Bearing minimalist aesthetic, most of her sculptural works manifest from industrial materials and artificial colours, which result in abstract and geometric compositions. Her work consists of bold lines and solid shapes, embodying a minimalist take on the environment.
Truth, order, simplicity and harmony are key elements in the artist's pieces. She also cites teaching from the Quran concerning honesty when talking about her artistic decisions to let the materials stand on their own. Her intention is that our experience with her pieces changes with movement, creating a serene atmosphere around the object. When natural light hits the surface of Begum’s sculptures, and the viewer moves through the space, new colors begin to materialize as light and form intermingle with each other. The experience calibrates our sense of order and correctness. Passing in front of the work, viewers see her pieces in their rawest form, simple and pure.
Begum completed her BFA from Chelsea College of Art and her MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art. She had her first museum show at Norwich’s Sainsbury Centre and curated the Art Council Collection at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. She has public commissions coming up in the UK and Sweden and another residency in Italy.
LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR
During her stay in Bataan, Begum drew inspiration from her surroundings. First, she experimented with bricks and roof tiles in the brick workshop in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. She was interested in using functional materials or objects from daily life and transforming them into something else. She explored materials that contained overlooked geometric patterns. For example, she arranged and stacked bricks upwards to see if unexpected lines would emerge. This is especially the case with the pyramid-like project titled No. 815 made up of roof tiles piled on top of each other. Her work imposes order and system, focusing on shifting patterns of form that break and re-form.
Rana Begum, No. 815 (2018), terracotta tiles; installation at Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar.
The tables she experimented with resulted in No. 821. She had stumbled upon tables piled upon each other and refined it as a "sculpture". She was inspired by how the lines of the piece intersect with each other. Begum claims Donald Judd as among her influences. Judd was chiefly interested in the kind of wholeness that can be achieved through the repetition of identical units - the order at work in his pieces, as he once remarked of that in Frank Stella’s stripe paintings, “is simply order, like that of continuity, one thing after another.” This resonates with these two works produced at Bellas Artes Projects headquarters.
Rana Begum, No. 821 (2018), steel; installation at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Next, the tile workshop proved to be inspiring to the artist. Deviating from the traditional floral and intricate patterns that the craftsmen would normally carry out, Begum worked together with the craftsmen to create a two-toned tile, diagonally divided across each piece. This was a deliberate play on the tile works, an opportunity to experiment with color. This resulted in three pieces, No. 818, No. 819, and No. 820. The interplay of form, angle, and color allows the viewer to reconsider viewpoints. While working in the large warehouses at Las Casas workshops, she considered how each work is made and how each interacts within the space in which it exists.
Rana Begum, No. 817 (2018), wood and glass; installation at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Rana Begum, No. 818 and 819 (2018), concrete; installation at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
No. 817 is a sculpture made from a repurposed window frame. Natural light activates the work by producing an experience that is both temporal and sensorial, prompting its audience to contemplate within the space. Curator Ziba Ardalan once referenced the poetic dichotomy found in Begum’s work, how they are influenced by the urban environment, yet are imbued with the vibrancy of light in the natural environment. Visual cacophony such as warning code- like patterns that reflect the urban landscape has given way to more tranquil projects that allow viewers to step back to contemplate the whole composition. The polarity arises because they are visually simple yet have a complex layer of experience within them.
When producing No. 817, Begum was transfixed by the sight of her work becoming something new with every shift of sunlight. The piece heightens the senses with every encounter. Viewers notice the subtle shifts of light, color and form and are invited to interact with the piece. As one shifts, shadows and dimensions emerge. Inspired by Donald Judd, she emphasizes a literalist sensibility: the work is more concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work. One is more aware than before, that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions of light and spatial context.
Another work titled No. 816 consists of standing roof tiles emulate a geometric pattern similar to a previous work, No. 695 (2016), which won the annual Abraaj Group Art Prize in March 2017. The inner sides maintain their terracotta red, while the outer sides are painted in bright hues of yellow and turquoise green. Here, color serves as a tool to highlight the geometry of the form and emphasizes its physical presence. Simultaneously, the contrast of colors lends the work a visual lightness. These works produced during her residency disentangle our experience of color from that of form, making it a quality that is perceptual rather than material.
Rana Begum, No. 816 (2018), terracotta tiles and paint; installation at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
The abstract and geometric compositions constructed from her residency at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar demonstrate Begum's ability to make her pieces go beyond a visual impact. Viewers interact with her work, as light and form collide creating a transformative experience. No. 815 and No. 821 experimented with form and order through the repetition of identical units. Her use of color and light in her pieces emphasized the geometry of the form of materials and accentuated its material presence. Rana Begum consistently prompts her audience to contemplate within the space. See these works displayed later year in our next exhibition at the Outpost with works by Ayesha Sultana and Nabil Rahman, who also explored with abstraction during their residency last year!