Rana Begum is an urban Romantic. A sensibility that evolved in opposition to industrialisation and urbanisation has come full circle. In 18th century Europe the Romantics sought refuge from a vulgar future in awesome nature, finding in its inhuman majesty authenticity, purity and wild, profound beauty.
In 2008 humanity officially became an urban species with more than 50% of the global population living in cities. Now the urban environment is our most common habitat. In it Begum finds her moments of transcendence in the myriad, hard, surreal, aesthetic wonders that emerge during any journey through a city.
The essence of the urban experience lies in the human need to find meaning and order in amongst the chaos and complexity of the city. If we, like Christopher Isherwood leaning out his window in Berlin in 1930, imagine ourselves to be a camera or an eye, disconnected from thought, and stood at the heart of our city, then for us the city would become a vast, constantly shifting stream of colour and form, a visual puzzle without end or aim, full of random and momentary meetings of signs and symbols. Transient relations emerge, configure, dissolve and reconfigure as the parade of the mobile passes against the backdrop of the static.
Begum's work is crystalline, simple, pure and hard-edged. She takes her experience of the vibrant collage of the urban environment and concentrates it through a process of refinement and filtration. Her work, minimal in its formal language, imposes order and system, as all art must, by abstracting those moments of accidental, aesthetic wonder. We find bands of deep colour that slowly bleed into each other or else, sit hard by each other. Each mini-colour field might be imagined as representing a momentary visual memory, the remembrance of a colour seen in a specific place and at a specific time, reified, becoming a perfect version of its self.
True to the complexity of urban forms, Begum's works are both sculptures and paintings. Though static they are activated by the mobility of the viewer, using relief and perspective to present the moving eye with shifting patterns of colour and form that ripple, brake and reform. Often formed from repetitive, rectilinear units that bring the wall into the visual play, they remember the fragmentary nature of our visual environments and the contingency of the visual relationships that they generate and yet articulate the human desire to draw out meaning from chaos.
In every aspect Begum's work displays a subtle and acute intelligence.
Amongst the many ends that art can aim for, is an end that Begum's work achieves. That is the articulation of experience in a purified and heightened form that, if properly understood, brings us to a heightened awareness of the original subject that carries within it, into all the messy, imperfect contingencies of life, a memory of the hope that is crystallised in the perfection of art.
Text by Nick Hackworth
Born in 1977, Sylhet, Bangladesh. Lives and works in London.
2002 Slade School of Fine Art, London, MFA in Painting
1999 Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree (Painting)
1996 University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Hertfordshire
BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art and Design
2014 Solo show, Gallerie Mana, Istanbul
Solo Project, Dhaka Art Summit, Jhaveri Contemporary, Bangladesh
Solo Project, Art Brussels, Christian Lethert
2013 Solo show, The Third Line, Dubai
Mainfold, Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne
2012 Solo Show, BISCHOFF/WEISS, London
2011 Solo show, Amrita Jhaveri, Mumbai, India
2010 Digital Art Residency at The City Gallery and Phoenix Square, Leicester
Fractured Symmetry, BISCHOFF/WEISS, London
Solo show at Delfina Foundation, London
2009 Solo show at Barts Hospital, VitalArts, London
The Moment of Alignment solo show at The Third Line, Dubai
2008 Transient Symmetry at VineSpace, London
2007 Colour Codes at The Third Line, Dubai
2014 The Language of Human Consciousness, Athr Gallery, Jeddah
2013 The Edge of Painting, The Piper Gallery, London
2012 ABC Art Fair, Berlin, with The Third Line
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London
Group show, Galerie Christian Lethert, Cologne
2011 The Art and Math of the Fold, Ft-Contemporary Berlin
The New Middle East, Willem Baars, Amstardam
Common Logic, group show at IMT, London
2010 Small is Beautiful, Flowers Gallery, London
Form & Phenomenon, group show, Project88, India
Serendipity City, Future Everything, Manchester
Group show, Red Bull Music Academy, London. Catalogue
2009 How Nations are Made, Cartwright Hall and Manor House, Bradford
Pattern Recognition, The City Gallery, Leicester
Lines of Control, group show, London. Catalogue
Identity, group show, Aisho Miura Arts, Tokyo. Catalogue
Neither Here, Nor There, Various Cityt Location- Billboards
2008 Contact, Bricklane, Work No. 951, London. Catalogue
Monologue/Dialogue Part II, Bischoff/Weiss, London
2007 Repetition and Sequence, Jerwood Space, London. Catalogue
Group show at Pablo's Birthday, New York
Sequence and Repetition, Beldam Gallery, Uxbridge. Catalogue
2006 Monologue/Dialogue, BU Gallery, Bangkok. Catalogue
2005 Art:21 Power /Memory/Structures/Play, Art Museum of Western Virginia
Ad Infinitum: The Aesthetics of Repetition II, Haines Gallery, CA
Summer Exhibition, group show, Purdy Hicks, Boston
The Same But Different, MILL-WORKERS, Manchester
Colour My World, Riflemaker, London
2004 Upstarts, Haines Gallery, San Francisco. CA.
Summer Exhibition, group show, Purdy Hicks, Boston.
Gallery artist, group show, Purdy Hicks, London.
2x2, Dahl Gallery, Luzern, Switzerland.
2014 HCL Commission, Delhi India
2013 Surbiton Health Centre Public Art Commission, London
Hualien Cinema, public art commission in Taiwan
2012 Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts, London
2011 Marcol House commission, London
Non Sans Raison commission, France
2009 Two months residency in Beirut through Delfina Foundation
2006 British Council Residency in Bangkok
2007 Nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award
2005 Lewisham Hospital Commission
Coventry Hospital Commission in collaboration with Tess Jaray
Artist in Residence at West Dean College, West Sussex
2000 Arts and Humanities Research Board award for postgraduate study.
2013 AAP, No.10
Surface, Steel This Art by Marina Cashdan
The National, Surface chemistry by Anne Seaman
2012 Platform, The Folded Page
2011 Wallpaper, Colour Scheme by Deepanjana Pal
Vogue India, Shape Shifter by Deepanjana Pal
2010 Time Out, India. Block Game by Zeenat Nagree
Art Asia Pacific by Hanea Ko
Time Out, In the studio by Helen Sumpter
2009 Modern Painters, Back to Black by Jyoti Dhar
What’s On, Dubai, The line of beauty by Catherine Jarvie
Gulf News, Dubai newspaper, Lines of enchantment, Jyoti Kalsi
Time Out, Dubai, Solid Geometry by Chris Lord
The National, Dubai newspaper, Patterns of work by Ed Lake
2008 The Financial Times, Abstraction Rules OK by Jan Dalley
2007 Vogue UK, October issue, The alchemists by Louisa Buck
LÓfficial Middle East, Colour Codes
OK, Dubai, Colour Codes
City Times, Dubai, Colour Codes
Gulf News, Dubai. Colour Codes
Time Out, Dubai, Issue 36, Colour Codes
Harper’s Bazaar, Dubai, Sep. 2007, Colour Codes
2006 The Nation Newspaper, Bangkok, Monologue/Dialogue.
2005 Art at the mill, a-n magazine, review The Same But Different.
2004 Alison Bing, SF Gate, review Upstarts, Haines Gallery, San Francisco.
Apero Newspaper, review 2x2 show, Dahl Gallery, Switzerland.
Simons Foundation, USA
Farjam Collection, Dubai, UAE
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, India
British Telecom Headquarters, London, UK
Coimbatore Centre for Contemporary Arts, Rajshree Pathy Collection, India
MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Tasmania
Ernst & Young Collection, London
Art Museum of Western Virginia
The London Institute