Rana Begum Review, London

Rana Begum’s current solo show at Bischoff/Weiss consists of a selection of the artist’s recent wall-mounted metal works interspersed across the gallery’s two small rooms. The works can be split into two distinct series, both produced in 2012, and which see each work entitled with an individual three-digit number. The series’ are influenced by the geometry, symmetry, and repetition of Minimalist sculpture and the Islamic art and architecture that surrounded the artist during her childhood in Bangladesh.

The first set of work the viewer encounters consists of various irregular polygonal shapes constructed by folding the corners of sheets of 1.2 millimetre thick steel and are reminiscent of the initial folds of an origami creation. The second series consists of hollow bars of aluminium of various lengths arranged vertically with equal spacing between each of them. The thinness of the metal used in the first series has a deliberate delicacy that contrasts with the more architectural feel of the parallel bars of the second series. Despite this structural difference both groups of work share bright colours and a sleek construction, and facilitate similar optical effects.

The entire surface area of each of the exhibited artworks has been coated in colour, spanning from austere blacks and whites to bright, and almost garish, pinks, yellows and reds. Each piece contains at least two colours, strategically positioned to contrast or compliment with those on the conjoining sides of the metal bar or folded shape. As a result, different colours and colour combinations become visible depending on the angle at which the viewer approaches the work. These combinations then shift as he or she navigates the space.

Through encouraging the viewer to move around it and view it at varying angles, the work heightens the audience’s awareness of their own physical movement, something that reflects the influence of Minimalist sculpture on Begum’s practice. The viewer is further enticed to move around the work by the soft, neon-like glow that radiates onto the gallery’s white walls as the stark artificial light bounces off the work’s vivid colours, these hazy, luminous shadows becoming part of the interplay of shifting colour juxtapositions.

While the exhibition’s well written accompanying text explores the Islamic and Minimalist influences on Begrum’s practice, neither of these influences have a tangible resonance within the artworks themselves. Instead, they align more with Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky’s formalistic preoccupation with the interaction of line, shape, and colour without any political or theoretical weight. The result is two series of work that are unchallenging but strikingly beautiful.

Rana Begum, until 19 January, Bischoff/Weiss 14a Hay Hill, London W1J 8NZ

Neil Jefferies

All images courtesy of BISCHOFF/WEISS.
1. Rana Begum, Installation view at BISCHOFF/WEISS, 2012
2. Rana Begum, No. 327 – Fold, 2012, Paint on mild steel, 98 x 120 x 39 cm
3. Rana Begum, No. 335 – Fold, 2012, Paint on mirror-finish stainless steel, 73 x 55 x 20 cm
4. Rana Begum, Installation view at BISCHOFF/WEISS, 2012
5. Rana Begum, No. 348 – Bench, 2012, Birch plywood and acrylic paint, 45 x 202 x 50cm