It is an intriguing new approach to geometry; Rana Begum’s visually meditative sculptural works meld art and design seamlessly. The London-based artist grew up in Bangladesh. Recalling her childhood days, Rana says, “A landscape of rice fields and coconut trees bordering idyllic bathing pools had a very powerful and calming presence.”
Rana draws her inspiration from Islamic art and architecture. “One day while reading the Quran at the local mosque, in a tiny room dappled with morning light. The light, the sound of the water fountain and the repetition of recitation, all familiar elements, suddenly came together into a strong feeling of calm and exhilaration.” This moment left an indelible impression on Rana. Later, these very ideas would go on to inform her work.
Rana is admired so much that the Forbes writer Valerie Denny declared Rana Begum as one of the 6 London artists to watch, in a piece titled ‘Who Will Be The Next Banksy?’ Rana is currently collaborating with musician Hyetal to produce a new body of work.
In this exclusive interview with bazaar, acclaimed contemporary artist, Rana Begum discusses her art, her creative process and many things in-between. Born in 1977, Rana Begum earned her Fine Arts Degree in painting at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and her MFA in painting from the Slade School of Fine Art, London.
Rana has exhibited her work in many international solo and group exhibitions as well as many prominent art fairs. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as Bangkok University Gallery, Art Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke, Red Bull Music Academy in London, and Delfina Foundation in London.
Q and Art
You have successfully created patterns using the plain triangle as the primary figure, and have used steel and aluminium as your materials. What appeals to you about working in this medium?
I have always been attracted to working with industrial materials. Living in London, a matrix of built space which is constantly changing and growing, I am surrounded by the detritus of construction.
Steel and aluminium provide great potential for visual effect. The juxtaposition of weighty unyielding steel with lighter, more malleable aluminium is deeply satisfying. I find it exhilarating to use these robust materials to create something which is simultaneously powerful and calming.
How do you use color in your work?
I am very interested in the way that color exposes light and makes it visible through reflection, mixing to create a third layer of geometry. Although the colors I use are quite instinctive, there is a method involved. For my box work, in order to create this third layer of geometry, I use fluorescent and pastel colors which interact with each other. These block colors blend through reflection to create unexpected and surprising combinations. For my folded works, color is juxtaposed with white and black to accentuate the geometry within the form. I also use fluorescent on the reverse of the folds which create reflections giving the work a visual lightness.
How do you conceptualize the final piece and do you have a specific perspective you are trying to express, or does it happen organically?
For me, rather than a specific perspective, it’s more that logical processes and personal expression work in tandem to produce a multi-faceted experience. Living in London, my urban environment serves as a great visual stimulus. If I am excited by a visual effect or particular material I start by considering how I might incorporate this into my work and what the visual experience is that I would like to recreate. I see my work as research so one work informs the next. It is in a constant state of evolution with three-dimensional work giving rise to drawings and vice-versa.
You have a very strong visual language, what artists have inspired you?
An artist who I am greatly inspired by is Agnes Martin. Although she adopts a very rational and logical process, I do not find her work to be limited in terms of expression – quite the opposite. There is personal expression in the sense of calm and serenity her work instills upon the viewer. Similarly with Donald Judd and Fred Sandback, their works succeed in surpassing materiality to communicate directly with the viewer. I find the works of these artists simultaneously inspiring and reassuring – it makes sense of what I am searching for in my own work. I am currently collaborating with musician Hyetal to produce a new body of work. I find inspiration in the layers and repetitions of his music and find exciting parallels between the disparate mediums of sculpture and electronic music.
Can you please tell us about your recently-held solo show titled Towards an Infinite Geometry, at Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai, India?
For this show I combined older triangular works with more recent mesh works. The mesh pieces brought new lease of life to the triangles while these older works added a certain weight and gravity to the exhibition. I find that juxtaposing new with old works in this way can create a fresh dialogue within the body of work as a whole. It is nice to see threads of continuity which run through the work but also how it has transformed and evolved into something very different. I was exploring how there is a direct correlation between what I am doing now and what I have none in the past – nothing is random; it is all part of a continuum. I see a close link between the geometry of these new pieces with those dating three years prior. I am very pleased with the positive response this exhibition has received.
What is next for you?
I will be part of a group show in Tensta Konsthall, Sweden in January 2016. I am currently working toward a solo show in Parasol Unit, London which will open in April 2016. It is a foundation which is an educational charity and a not-for-profit contemporary art gallery. It is a beautiful space and a chance for me to really push my work and experiment with new forms and mediums. The show will be a retrospective – alongside these new works, works spanning the last 15 years will be shown. It will also be my first solo show in a public space in London which is very exciting. The following solo show will be at Galerie Christian Lethert in Cologne later in 2016. I am also working on some interesting public and private commissions for the New Year. This has been a very fulfilling year and I am looking forward to what 2016 has in store.
Images courtesy of the artist Rana Begum. Rana lives and works in London, UK. For more information on the artist, please visit www.ranabegum.com.