Islamic Architecture Meets Hipster Colorblocking: Rana Begum’s No. 10

Rana Begum, N0. 356, 2012, paint on lacquered mirror finish brass, side view

Rana Begum, N0. 356, 2012, paint on lacquered mirror finish brass, side view

Dubai. No. 10, Rana Begum’s solo show at The Third Line demands to be visited in person because it is meant to be interacted with rather than passively viewed on a screen. Consisting of wall-mounted metal, with bursts of bright neon paint, copper, brass, and mirror finish steel, the sculptures’ asymmetric folds drew me into physical conversation, and I found myself circling them, and even contorting my neck uncomfortably to view them from all angles, the way I would a landmark building with distinct features frontwards, backwards, and aerially.

Rana Begum, No. 415, 2013, paint on mild steel

Rana Begum, No. 415, 2013, paint on mild steel

The works have an urban feel to them that made me nostalgic for the floodlit nighttime billboards, cab-filled arteries, and narrow skyscrapers of the big city. They cast a charade of odd shadows onto the gallery’s walls similar to those projected by buildings onto concrete sidewalks in the thick heat of a summer’s afternoon. Their bright paint reflected so dramatically that for a moment I incorrectly believed there was a light bulb concealed behind each of them. Begum is originally from Bangladesh but lives and works in London, yet her practice doesn’t feel grounded in any particular geography. The sculptures float kite-like over white cloud space, and could belong as familiar silhouettes in the skyline of any modern city.

Rana Begum, No. 428, 2013, paint on mirror finish steel, detail

Rana Begum, No. 428, 2013, paint on mirror finish steel, detail

I couldn’t help but wonder if Begum had in any way absorbed the recent Hipster fetish with color blocking in neon Pantone shades. All the striped-pants wearing, Moleskine-notebook flashing hipsters I know would surely go bananas for these sculptures. On one hand, No. 10 seemed terribly of the moment, on the other hand, Begum has said before that her creativity has been heavily influenced by the recurring geometric patterns evident in Islamic architecture. This was most evident in the two benches that are also part of No. 10, featuring interlocking slices of perfectly smoothed wood. Islamic architecture is best known for being fully functional, and the benches have been designed for use in public spaces.

No. 10 at The Third Line with Rana Begum’s benches in the foreground

No. 10 at The Third Line with Rana Begum’s benches in the foreground

If you’re in Dubai, it’s worth the trek to The Third Line in Al Quoz to experience No. 10 in person. The gallery managers will smile accommodatingly if you show up, glistening in sweat from the 40-degree Dubai heat, and take a seat on one of Rana Begum’s benches to lose yourself in her city of angles and shadows.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Rana Begum and The Third Line

No. 10 by Rana Begum is at The Third Line through 30 July, 2013. For more information and timings visit: http://www.thethirdline.com