Rana Begum’s latest solo exhibition at Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai presented the London-based artist’s exploration of colour, light, and surfaces. The gallery, which has wall-sized windows overlooking the Gateway of India, sunlight filtering through each one of them, further illuminated Begum’s already ethereal works, creating the perfect natural-architectural-artistic concoction.
The show featured works in marble, concrete, plaster foil, fishing net and spray paint, the interplay between them creating a sense of weightlessness, albeit an incandescent one in neon.
While Begum has been fascinated with form for years, there is a formlessness in some of the works in her show. The works in foil, their creases almost seem to mimic the motion of the waves that flow just outside of the gallery space, transporting the viewer into a realm beyond the senses.
Here, in conversation with STIR, the Bangladesh-born artist talks about her third show in India - the recently concluded exhibition in Mumbai - where she created environments that released materials from behaving the way we expect them to.
Sukanya Garg (SG): While light is essential to viewing a work of art, when did you seriously start contemplating the interaction between light, colour and perception?
Rana Begum (RB): This didn’t happen until 2008-9. My initial focus or research was on specific elements like light and form and then colour. It was only later I felt confident enough to bring those things together. It was a natural progression in the work.
SG: What kind of discoveries about light and colour have you made in the process of making work?
RB: The biggest surprise was how much light affects colour or how light allows colour to spread beyond its boundaries and that’s when the colour mixing is happening.
SG: How has it changed your work or how did you incorporate the same in your latest exhibition at Jhaveri Contemporary?
RB: The interest in those elements is ingrained but what drew me in, in the show at Jhaveri Contemporary, is focusing on how light affects the different surfaces. That’s when I realised that even though I am using different materials, light and colour connected these pieces together.
SG: Your works seem to evoke a direct link between light and light-weightedness? How do you achieve this result/aesthetic?
RB: I have found my work works for me when there are dual experiences, where the work looks light but is actually incredibly heavy and completely opposite to what they represent like the float series. I think this need to experience the work is what makes me look at material and think about space.
SG: The material you use to make the marble sculptures lies in sharp contrast to the final rendition of the work. Could you talk about your technique and process?
RB: The marble pieces started off as plaster during my residency at Tate St Ives and the focus was then on light and form. It was later that I wanted to introduce colour into the work, was thinking about material and how there could be subtle colour. I usually like to take my time to develop a body of work and it usually starts with a focus on a particular element more than on others.