It is roughly around mid to late July that the humid swell of London begins to make sense. Drizzle-cleansed streets harden, summer once again exhumed. With this turning of the season the country allows light to enter, casting long shadows across pavements, both a humble reminder of what we so sorely lack throughout the rest of the year and a welcome relief. It is an experience that echoes that of entering Rana Begum’s solo show ‘The Space Between’ at Parasol unit.
As you enter, glimmers of activity jump out, illuminating the immediate surrounds. No one work is overshadowed and each invites its own narrative exploring the relationship between light and colour. ‘No. 563, W Fold’ (2014), a twisting birch ply, stumbles from the walls displaying Begum’s visual dexterity. Here Begum repositions her works as an investigation into the glitch between representation and abstraction, part sketch / part sculpture / part architectural suggestion. This difficult relationship is echoed in the adjacent ‘No. 531’ (2014), a representational reminder of the power of subjectivity, with the work morphing as each person encountering it navigates the illusion.
Throughout the show it becomes clear that Begum’s particular ability is to illustrate the structural hazard where one colour ends and another begins to create line and form. This effect is none more present than through ‘No. 161’ (2008) with its up-close limbs thrown against a wall left precariously half-assembled. From afar its structural towers are marked by the waning sunlight. Begum cites Agnes Martin as an inspiration and it has often been said that Martin ‘painted with her back to the world’, a technique purposefully honed through architectural abstraction. Cache is attributed to what is unseen or lost as we traverse our urban territories.
Whilst Begum’s work doesn’t necessarily move we encounter it through a kinetic experience, shifting alongside it, drawing our eyes around it, or as is the case with ‘No 670, L Mesh Installation’ (2016) passing through it. Begum’s ability to encourage exploration through her work speaks to her capacity to absorb her physical environment, optimistically repositioning her memories as structural form and light requiring investigation.
Begum’s evocative relationship with all that surrounds her means that we are never sure of the genesis of each sculptural work. This is something which could be attributed to Begum’s biography. Born in Bangladesh and raised in London, this complexity is stitched together through ‘No 48’ (2003) in resin and electrical tape, delicately forming ribbons of colour which arch carefully into place upon wall-mounted blocks. This is memory disguised as structure.
It is the act of repetition that defines the passage through our lived experience. Begum’s work ‘No. 680, Painting’ (2016) hints at this through the use of the grid-like configuration. Here we come into contact with the sympathetic realities of Begum’s phenomenological investigation – not every square alike and not every colour in the same position. Begum’s dynamic sensitivity composes a structural aesthetic akin to minimalism. Where she rebels is by using this space to allow for the complex emotional abstraction of life to breathe and exist.