If there’s one thing that harbours the power to make you feel something without effort, it’s art. Often an extension of a person’s thoughts and emotions, its beauty lies in the fact that it is open to different interpretations. While some rely on paints as a medium, others lend atypical elements their magic. For London-based Rana Begum, light is fundamental in her creative process. She is best known for her refined language of minimal abstraction, which is evident in her art. The Bangladesh-born creator has perfected the mastery in blurring boundaries between sculpture, painting and architecture, which fits seamlessly in her signature repetitive art.
The visual artist talks to ELLE about her inspiration behind her signature art form, a new show at Kate MacGarry in London, her creative processes, struggles and more.
ELLE: What does art mean to you?
Rana Begum (RB): Art is fundamental to my life and inseparable from it. It definitely does feel cathartic and gives me an essential release. It offers me a means of communication and expression when words fall short.
ELLE: What pushed you towards using repetitive geometric patterns as your signature art form?
RB: I have always found the use of geometry and repetition incredibly calming. The clean lines and minimalism allow me to distil my ideas and focus on how light, colour, and form operate and interact. I have always felt creatively stimulated by the feeling of constraint and by working within certain geometric parameters. These limitations encourage me to push my work and develop it in new ways.
ELLE: Tell us about the process of using light as a medium in your artwork.
RB: Light is such an essential element of my work. I usually do not encounter a lot of issues when working with it. I rarely attempt to control or adjust the lighting because, through its natural variation and flux, the work gains a sense of transience and movement. The absence of light or limited light can affect the work in fascinating and unexpected ways. The most difficult thing for me is when the light is static, it does not change, and the feeling of movement is lost. That’s why I love the UK weather—the light is never the same within a day. It could go from sunny, grey, rainy to thundery in an instant.
ELLE: What can the art enthusiasts expect from your showcase at Kate MacGarry?
RB: All the work exhibited is an ongoing exploration that is still developing and evolving in new directions. Even after the show is installed, I am still absorbed in the different series, excited about the possibilities they offer and how they can progress. The central preoccupations at the heart of the show, into light, form, and colour, will be familiar to many who know my work. However, I think this show signals a new trajectory, and some people may be surprised by the direction the work has gone in.
The three series in the show explore how colour, light and form interact and manifest in both three dimensional and two-dimensional space. The blurred relationship between 2D and 3D, between painting and sculpture, has always been hugely important. I am fascinated by how work can change and develop into different spatial planes.
A new series of paintings line the wall as you enter the gallery. These paintings stem from a series of bar works that I have been exploring for over 15 years. I am still creating and developing these bar works and continue to feel excited and surprised by how the colours merge and transform. I wanted to focus on this colour interaction in these paintings and simplify the work into 2D form. The work becomes a sort of distillation, a pure meditation on colour and how it interacts.
Alongside this, there is a sprawling mesh installation that stems from a series of spot spray paintings I have been developing over the last few years. As the spray paint is built up, layering colour and form, the paintings acquire a sense of depth that feels almost sculptural. It felt to me like the work needed to be drawn out into three-dimensional space. I am so intrigued by how the light filtered through work and how the colours interact.
To me, these forms appeared like a microcosm of Istanbul’s vibrant city, resembling the distinct profile of the architecture. I wanted to recreate the contour of the cityscape and how the sunlight dances across the surface of the buildings. In contrast to the mesh series, each form is distinct and contained, allowing you to really appreciate its formal beauty and simplicity. It was important to me that the first view of the work is from the side, allowing you to take in the profile of the work before moving around to see it in its entirety.
ELLE: This is your first solo show with Kate MacGarry. What are you looking forward to the most?
RB: I am excited to see the work outside of the studio and in a new space. Kate’s gallery is such a beautiful space for it to be in! When developing the show, I wanted to respond to the architecture and the amount of natural light that floods through the space. It was important to me that the show created a specific, sensory experience for the viewer, and it had a feeling of cohesion, a feeling that it all makes sense.
Rana’s latest work is on display at Kate MacGarry, London. Here’s your virtual sneak peek to some of the installations from her exhibition.
Photographs: Courtesy of Rana Begum, Instagram (@ranabegumstudio)