Thank you to everyone who joined us for the talk by London-based multi-media artist Rana Begum. As Charles Zuill wrote in his review of the lecture in the Royal Gazette, “Begum is a highly versatile artist, whose work is wide-ranging and yet identifiable as being uniquely Rana Begum. She is a painter, a printmaker, a sculptor, a creator of installations, a designer of furniture, a film-maker. She is an explorer, an experimenter, a modernist and yet a traditionalist.”
Her talk was fascinating and we were thrilled to welcome her to the gallery, where her work is on display in Simplicity of Form: Unfolding Abstraction through to the end of October. The video of talk, courtesy of CITV, is now available to watch for those who weren’t able to make it in person.
Her work, which explores theinterplay of light on colour, is inspired by the geometric patterns of both the Islamic art and architecture that shaped her early childhood in Bangladesh and those found in British urban spaces. Citing Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, and both Josef and Anni Albers as inspiration, her practice bridges painting, sculpture, architecture and design in a contemplation on the relationship between light, material, form, colour and space.
She was elected to the Royal Academy in 2019 and has exhibited at Frieze Sculpture Park, London (2018) and the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2018). A solo show of her work, Reflection on Colour and Form, recently closed at the Cristea Roberts Gallery, London.
In August, Rana will take part in the Hamilton Princess Artist in Residence (AIR) Programme where she will create a piece of original art for the hotel, inspired by the resort and the islands of Bermuda. On August 17, she will be hosting a talk at the Bermuda National Gallery where she will be discussing her practice and how the island has influenced her work during her stay.
We caught up the artist as she prepares for her Bermuda residency, to discuss the importance of honesty and simplicity in her work, how residencies help push her to a fresh perspective and engage in conversations, and the ways in which she attempts to capture the very essence of a place.
BNG:You have cited the American Minimalists amongst your inspirations. In Simplicity of Form: Unfolding Abstraction, your work No. 861 is hung alongside works by Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella. In what ways have artists such as these influenced your practice?
RB: I’ve been inspired by their approach to geometry, form and colour. There is a purity and honesty in the way material and form is used. I am constantly aspiring to keep this honesty and simplicity in my work, nothing is disguised and as you get closer to the work the process and material is revealed.
BNG: You often use geometry and repetition as a means of investigating the relationship between light, form and colour. How do these two artistic devices allow for such a wide-ranging exploration?
RB: Repetition and geometry allow me to explore the idea of the infinite, considering how a work can grow in a space. I have always been fascinated by scale and how it can transform a work, pushing me to think about material and the work’s relationship with the body. There is a constant dialogue between the material and its impact on scale – and vice versa.
I have always found the act of repetition calming, reminding me of reciting the Qur’an in the mosque when growing up. The rhythmic experience becomes meditative, allowing me to really focus on the how light, colour and form interact.
BNG: Your practice is very much rooted in an investigation of place. You moved to London from Bangladesh when you were eight years old and the influence of these two contrasting cultures, and cities, frames your work. You have also completed residencies in countries as wide ranging as Italy, Lebanon, the Philippines and Thailand. In what ways does place affect your work and how do you capture it?
RB: Residencies have been a fantastic way to break my rhythm and push my work through a fresh perspective. I always have an idea of what I might do on a residency, either looking at drawing, colour or a combination. But, despite this initial intention, I have found myself being directed by the experience of a place.
Residencies force you to be open to things happening in your work and engage in conversations. You are constantly observing and absorbing, your senses are heightened when you are visiting a new place.
When I am taken out of my normal routine and day to day distractions and responsibilities, I become able to re-engage with my surrounding and take in the light, atmosphere, smell and temperature. It all has an effect. During a residency I am trying to capture the impact of this experience, to create something tangible that captures the essence of place.
BNG:Bermuda has a long history of artists – from the American Impressionists onwards – visiting the island to capture the unique quality of light here. What do you hope to gain from your Artist Residency at the Hamilton Princess?
RB: I hope my trip to Bermuda will give me an opportunity to reflect and think about my work. I’m hoping it’s an opportunity to push my work through drawing and painting and feel inspired by the light. Essentially, I want to be inspired by the light and make the most of having a sustained period to focus, reflect and have conversations.
Rana Begum will be hosting a talk at the Bermuda National Gallery on Thursday, August 17. Click here to register. Tickets are $35 for BNG members and $50 for non-members.
To celebrate the close of From Darkness to Light, artist Henry Ward gave a fascinating talk at the gallery last week, in which he discussedhis approach to portraiture, his techniques – which are inspired by the Old Masters – and the influence that Rembrandt has had on the development of his practice.
The artist also discussed his experience painting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Ward is one of the few painters for whom the late monarch sat and his portrait of her, which now hangs in the Savoy in London, is one of only two which she unveiled in person.
We were thrilled to welcome students to the exhibition after two years of restrictions, with East End Primary (pictured below), St David’s Primary and the Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation home school group visiting in recent weeks. The exhibition, which captured key figures in Bermuda’s diverse communities, provided a valuable teaching resource in both portraiture and the use of chiaruscuro.
Join us for an insightful talk by local artist Jill Amos Raine on Thursday, December 9. There will be a drinks reception at 5.30pm, followed by the talk at 6pm.
Jill will be discussing her time in Cape Dorset (Kinngait), Nunavut, in the Arctic territories of Canada. The settlement, which is considered the epicenter of contemporary Inuit art, is the subject of The Shadow Land, currently on display in the Upper Mezzanine Gallery.
The exhibition focuses on stone cut prints from the 1960s, presenting artworks produced by the first generation of full-time Inuit artists based in Cape Dorset. Jill will discuss her time living and teaching English at the settlement with her husband, David Raine, during this time period.
Click here to register. Tickets are $10 for BNG members and $20 for non members.
Spaces are limited. Please note that a government SafeKey will be required for attendance.
Earlier this year Gherdai Hassell held an Artist Talk at Bermuda National Gallery in partnership with the Department of Culture to celebrate the opening of her first solo exhibition, I Am Because You Are.
In the talk, which has since accumulated over 1,500 views on social media, Gherdai eloquently took the audience through her journey from cutting out paper dolls as a child – a forerunner to her Alibi series she realises in hindsight – to pursuing (and relinquishing) a law degree before moving to China, returning to art and realizing that it is her true calling.
The BNG Lecture Series featuring Jacqueline Alma is now available to watch on the BNG YouTube channel.
The film provides a behind the scenes look at Jacqueline’s methodical approach to art making and the background to her dynamic exhibition Like A Tree Let The Dead Leaves Drop which featured drawings and paintings inspired by her personal experiences.
You can view the film, which was recorded live at the BNG in June 2019, here.
2020 Bermuda Biennial artist Bryan Ritchie recently gave a talk for the BNG live from his home studio in Wisconsin in which he gave an overview of his practice and the concepts behind the art he creates, which primarily focuses on drawing and lithography.
Bryan has exhibited extensively in Bermuda, Canada and the United States and his work has been included in five Bermuda Biennials. He is currently a Professor of Art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where he recently concluded an additional role as Department Chair.
My work explores social and political paradigms through implied narratives. I respond to a myriad of sources, including social interactions, media influences, daily rituals and memories. My process stresses invention, with an emphasis on mark making and character development, to create depictions that explore a place between abstraction and representation. My entries for the 2020 Biennial represent a recent body of work produced while serving a new employment role as a department chairperson.
To remain connected with my creative practice while I learned the administrative assignment, I established a drawing ritual with specified working parameters. The resulting body of work became a whimsical snapshot into a period of risk, vulnerability and achievement. I questioned axioms regarding what is valued, what are aimers in life, and how does one navigate doubt, insecurity, failure and loss to achieve goals. The work was raw, but honest and gave form to shared questions about how to remain hopeful and vigilant as we age and accept new challenges.