dappled light
Image: Beatrix Stark

Rana Begum’s ‘Dappled Light’ brings a flash of colour to the new Mead Gallery

The newly refurbished Mead Gallery in Warwick Arts Centre is marking its re-opening with the exhibition Dappled Light dedicated to the work of renowned contemporary artist Rana Begum. 

Bangladeshi born Begum is a London-based artist who has gained worldwide recognition. Begum’s work communicates through the visual medium of minimalist abstraction, drawing inspiration from urban landscapes, childhood memories and the Islamic world.  Begum’s fascinating ability to create forms which cross the boundaries between sculpture and painting is on full display in the latest exhibition Dappled Light.

Dappled Light combines Begum’s geometric paintings with recent sculptural creations specially commissioned for the Mead Gallery. The work focuses on the transient quality of light exploring its ephemerality and dynamism through a range of mediums, from installations to paintings.  

The painting references the natural world by mimicking the dappled light which shifts and seeps through the leaves of a tree’s canopy.

On entering Dappled Light you are immediately confronted by ‘No.1079’ (2021) an enormous wall covering canvas composed of layer upon layer of multi coloured acrylic and spray paint dots. All the work in the exhibition is numbered to reflect the minimalist vein in which Begum works, suggesting that it is up to the viewer to interpret the piece. The painting references the natural world by mimicking the dappled light which shifts and seeps through the leaves of a tree’s canopy. The interplay between light and the natural world is similarly referenced in Begum’s first piece of video work which is also on display. The time lapse footage, taken during lockdown documents the shifting colours and restless play of light which transformed the woodland outside Begum’s house. 

The interaction between light and form is a thread which runs throughout the exhibition and is something the viewer is actively encouraged to engage with. This is particularly true of the reflector tower sculptures, a range of three dimensional shapes made of reflectors conjuring images of a city skyscape. The reflectors refract light so that when the viewer moves around the artwork, the surface shimmers into a restless mirage of rainbows and glimmering patterns. 

The flat, two-dimensional paintings make for an interesting contrast with the soft, fluid, tactile nature of the reflectors and communicate how Begum’s work literally reflects upon itself. 

Opposite the reflector sculptures are ‘No.1064’ (2021) andNo.1065’ (2021) acrylic on aluminium paintings which repeat a pattern of rectangles. The flat, two-dimensional paintings make for an interesting contrast with the soft, fluid, tactile nature of the reflectors and communicate how Begum’s work literally reflects upon itself. 

In Dappled Light, Begum manages to capture a sense of ephemerality in solid form. This is exemplified byNo. 1084 Net’ (2021) where spray painted fishing nets are hung from the corners of the room. The fine drapery of the net creates delicate veils of colour which overlap and merge with one another. In places, a tension disturbs this lightness as areas of the net are forced to stretch from one corner to the other, evoking the sense that Begum is drawing with gravity. 

The last piece in the exhibition ‘No. 1081’ (2021) is an impressive installation which features cloud-like mesh forms hanging from the ceiling. The undulating mesh shapes in numerous colours evoke light shifting through vaporous layers of cloud; Begum captures something fleeting and intangible through an ostensibly rigid material. 

It is not hard to understand why the visually impressive nature of Begum’s work is so irresistibly ‘instagrammable’.

It is therefore not hard to understand why the visually impressive nature of Begum’s work is so irresistibly ‘instagrammable’. Throughout the exhibition, people were eager to have their photographs taken in front of the wall-sized canvas ‘No.1079’  or underneath the billowing mass of mesh clouds of ‘No. 1081’. The gallery itself encourages guests to take pictures with the work and post it online. This raises the question of whether contemporary artists like Begum are forced to keep in mind the remediation that their work will undergo in the age of social media. Does the knowledge that their artwork will be reproduced thousands of times through the digital photographic medium affect their creation process or influence their work? There is a sense that when you begin to perceive Begum’s work as an ‘Instagram backdrop’, the magical illusion of transience is lost.

Overall, Dappled Light is a thoroughly uplifting exhibition… just resist the urge to immediately reach for your phone!  

Dappled Light runs from the 13th of January to the 13th of March 2022 and is free to enter.

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