Anila Quayyum Agha: Shimmering Mirage

October 13, 2017 - March 10, 2018

Calligraphy and geometric patterns are hallmarks of Islamic art and architecture. In the Middle East the interiors of mosques, the windows of homes, and the walls of gardens and terraces are often constructed with elaborately pierced and carved screens. The patterned openwork filters light and allows air to pass through—effective strategies in dealing with the oppressive heat and bright sunlight of the region. The cutout screens also animate relatively plain interior spaces with the play of light and shadow created by their decorative designs.

Anila Quayyum Agha is passionate about bringing the beauty of Islam to the West, as well as familiarizing viewers with the conceptual grandeur of its spiritual thought about nature and the cosmos. Her steel sculpture, cut with patterns redesigned from Islamic motifs and housing a single white light bulb, transforms the gallery from an unadorned room into an enveloping world of patterned light and dark. The shadows cast in all directions by the light spilling through the sculpture’s cutout surfaces work a kind of magic, creating dynamic, intricate designs. The experience is at once weighty and weightless, transporting viewers to a mysterious, even sacred, environment.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

The Shimmering Mirage project was born of the emotions that followed a personal loss. On a larger scale, the communal sense of loss being experienced by people ravaged by war and displacement created equivalence and added poignancy to my personal loss. The work also reflects my joy over personal and family gains, as well as for the second chances many people have received through resettlement in new lands, even though they will always carry a sense of loss.

My goals in this installation are to explore the binaries of public and private, light and shadow, static and dynamic, and the expansive nature of spirituality and human interconnections. Adorned with delicate, cutout patterns, the steel form of the sculpture appears fragile, but its material is resilient, hardy, even stubborn in nature—like humans. The installation magnifies the sculpture’s floral and geometric motifs to inhabit a large space, covering and beautifying all within it, and suggesting the underlying orderliness of the cosmos revealed through the purity and symmetry of geometric design.

— Anila Quayyum Agha


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