The bare minimum

Updated: Sep 07, 2019, 10:49 IST | Dalreen Ramos

Touted as one of Britain's most exciting artists and known for her geometric minimalism, Rana Begum readies for her third solo in India which opens this month at a Colaba gallery

The bare minimum
Rana Begum. Pic/ Maisha Hossain

In the words of French mathematician Blaise Pascal, "Symmetry is what we see at a glance." Although the importance of symmetry can be measured in aesthetic Instagram posts today, the tendency to draw inspiration from its presence in our environment is perhaps something only artists can do. And British artist Rana Begum has embraced it.

With a body of work ensconced in minimalist abstraction, Begum has been regarded as one of the most exciting artists in Britain. In London, where she's based, her work is housed in the Government Art Collection, Arts Council Collection and the British Council. This month, the 42-year-old is readying for her third solo exhibition in India — at Colaba's Jhaveri Contemporary. On a three-day trip in the city, she's as excited as ever.

Rana-BegumFloats, 2019, Marble Pic courtesy/ Rana Negum and Jhaveri Contemporary

"I'm going to be sharing works I've done in the last few years during my residency at Tate St Ives. My work was usually more hard-edged and has now moved towards organic geometry. But it was a natural progression," she maintains. This is the first time Begum is displaying three different series in one exhibition. Inspired by workshops she attended during a residency in Italy in 2017, the marble floats echo the form of the late artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, whose work Begum grew up with and whose studio she worked in.

Rana BegumPainting, 2019, Spray paint on paper Pic courtesy/ Rana Negum and Jhaveri Contemporary

Another interesting piece in the solo that will open on September 19 is a painting with spray colour on paper. "What I like about it is the undulated surface and how it picks up light and colour," she tells us. Begum has also played with foil and jesmonite (a gypsum-based material used for fine art, crafts and construction), and she maintains that the show is reflective of where she stands as an artist today. Admitting her nervousness, she adds, "It's stressful since I don't know how these pieces will work with each other. But it's also interesting to see how I'm pushing my work and as artists, we need to keep pushing ourselves."

Rana Begum
Casts, 2019, Jesmonite

Begum simply wants her work to raise questions. She also wishes she could spend more time in India and Mumbai. And as she grows as an artist, she's looking for more freedom to explore her work. One can become quite constrained in a studio and residencies have allowed her to have a fresher approach. Elaborating on their importance for young entrants, she shares, "Sometimes, you can get quite bogged down with work for commercial galleries and museum shows. I know I've benefited from being out of the studio."

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