x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rana Begum's exhibition at The Third Line reflects on space

Rana Begum's solo show at The Third Line plays with colour, form and perspective.

The work titled No. 431 from Rana Begum's exhibition No.10, a solo show at The Third Line that plays on colour, shadow and perspective. Courtesy The Third Line
The work titled No. 431 from Rana Begum's exhibition No.10, a solo show at The Third Line that plays on colour, shadow and perspective. Courtesy The Third Line

If you don't take the time to view Rana Begum's work with your own eyes then it is very likely you will miss the point. Her latest body of work, which is on show at The Third Line, is essentially a collection of rectangular sheets of different metals painted and folded at varying angles.

But the joy of the pieces comes in the act of viewing them.

The nuances of the colours change depending on where the viewer is standing, the shadows, too, dance with different perspectives and so these sharp, solid objects somehow gain fluidity.

Their reflective surfaces also offer a conceptual element, bringing to mind the well-coined phrase that there are two sides to every story or that a situation changes depending on how you look at it.

But, as I am busy philosophising on this matter, Begum is quick to bring me back to reality.

"I like the meditative quality that the work sometimes has, but at the same time it is not about disappearing into that," she says. "Their reflective nature is also supposed to remind you of the physical space you are in."

Begum is a petite, delicate woman who was born in Bangladesh but has lived in London since she was a child. Thoughtful and with an evident eye for detail, she explains that her influences came from all around her.

"I am fascinated by Islamic art and architecture and I love the boldness and the use of contrasting colours, but you get that similar feel in the city. It might look chaotic but if you take the time to really look, you will see form in all the madness."

Photographs on her iPhone of road markings, alleyways and even a pink and purple public waste bin show how she incorporates elements of the urban world into her clearly mathematical work and when looked at from all sides, these simple rectangles take on new life.

"I have been interested in surfaces for as long as I can remember and I explore colour, form and natural light," she explains. "I think in this body of work I have been able to bring together all the elements in one show."

No. 10, so named because it is her 10th solo show, is Begum's third exhibition at The Third Line and it feels as if it were tailor-made for the space. The pieces use bold, fluorescent colours that reflect from the white walls and in the daylight, the airy gallery acts as the perfect host to the lines and shadows the artworks create.

"I've been working with Third Line since 2006, so we have really built up a relationship," explains Begum. "I don't just jump in and work with a gallery; it takes time."

In the centre of the space and the ideal complement to the wall pieces are two wooden benches, which mark a foray into design for the multidisciplinary artist.

The benches are made from interlocking triangular panels of wood and painted on the inside with Begum's trademark bright colours.

Sitting on her creations, she laughs as she explains their process. "They use an incredibly complicated geometric design. I produced it myself in the studio first so I knew it could be done, but it took five of us to put it together. When I took it to the designer to have them produced, he said they were too difficult."

Eventually, obviously, the benches were successfully constructed and made their way to Dubai, marking Begum's first functional design product.

"The work on the walls is between painting and sculpture, but I don't really see myself as a painter or a sculptor or even a furniture designer. The boundaries are blurred and that is what I am interested in."

Begum has made several pieces of public art in London and is currently working on one in Taiwan and one in India. She feels it is a particularly exciting time in her career.

"I feel like I am at a stage in the work when I am confident and the years of research I have been doing have come together. But this doesn't feel like the end," she clarifies. "This is actually the beginning. I'm excited about getting back to the studio. One work leads to another and I always find energy to keep going."

 

No. 10 runs at The Third Line until July 30

 

aseaman@thenational.ae

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