Anila Quayyum Agha Uses Patterns to Break Patterns


The titles of the two immersive light installations by Anila Ayumuaga on display at the Masterpiece London Art Fair this week do not seem to promise a bright vision of “this is not a shelter” and “beautiful despair.”

However, the work that all visitors see at the entrance to the fair as part of the Masterpiece Presents program does not seem monotonous and depressing.

Instead, both cast dazzling decorative patterns into a colorful environment. Aga laser-cuts elaborate shapes, partially inspired by Islamic geometric motifs, into steel cubes. The cube is then illuminated from the inside, creating a picture with light and shadow.

“People need to be rejuvenated and hopeful, both creating a very awe-inspiring environment,” says Aga, 57.

Born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Aga has lived in the United States for over 20 years and has traveled from Texas to Indiana and more recently to Georgia to teach at Augusta University.

Her light installation has recently received a lot of attention from her.

“Now I’m in the heyday of the exhibition,” Aga said. She spoke on the phone from Washington, a researcher at the Smithsonian Castle.

The installation “Leta Million Flowers Bloom” was recently presented at the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina, and “All the Flowers Are for Me” is on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

Last fall, a version of “A Beautiful Despair” was exhibited at the Amon Carter American Art Museum in Fort Worth. The museum then acquired this work, along with three paper works by Aga.

“Beautiful despair” stems from a personal tragedy.

“During the pandemic, I lost my sister myself,” Aga said, adding that the general sense of loss during the Covid era also motivated her.

Shirley Reese Hughes, curator of Amon Carter, who hosted the Fort Worth show, discovered Aga’s work at the 2015 exhibition “Crossroads” at Rice University in Houston.

“She isn’t influenced by the trends and directions of the art world,” said Reese Hughes. “That’s how she differentiated herself.”

Aga said her practice goes beyond the widely seen installations.

“I think most people who know my job are familiar with shadow boxes. They stand out more,” she said. “But the drawings and paintings I draw are more intimate.”

“Her work is conceptually driven, but it’s also beautiful,” said Tagore, who has galleries in New York, London and Singapore. (At his fair booth, works by other artists he represents, including Maya Ando, ​​will also be on display.)

The idea behind “this is not a refugee” is “specific to the state of refugees trying to reach safely on both the European and southern borders” in the United States over the past few years, Aga said. rice field.

“As we approach it, we realize that it’s not really a shelter,” she said, referring to the effect of the work. “It looks beautiful from a distance. It’s like a mirage.”

Perceived duality and opposition, including gender, often enliven her work. “I think my job is very feminist,” she said.

In particular, “beautiful despair” focuses on the position of women. It lights up twice and creates the feeling of being in the water.

“I really thought that 50 percent of the world’s population (women or people who identify as women) would often be left behind,” Aga said.

This includes the cultural environment of museums and galleries in the United States.

“The world of art has long held women under control,” Aga said.

Some of her paper mixed media works include embroidery, and the choice of the medium, once considered a woman’s work, is important, Reese Hughes said.

“In Pakistan, women were expected to sew. Her mother was in the sewing circle,” Reece-Hughes said of Agha. “She says sewing is as valuable as painting.”

Aga specifically uses two forms, a running stitch and a blanket stitch, often in combination with collage material.

“Sometimes I incorporate Mylar to give it a ghostly image,” she said.

Aga earned a bachelor’s degree from Lahore and later a master’s degree in art from the University of North Texas.

“When I was a graduate student, I was often told that using paper patterns would make me a craft artist,” says Aga.

She added. “I’m from the east. Patterns are part of my life. I decided to change the idea that only women are associated with patterns.”

Aga cited the effects of Mughal architecture in general, especially the Jahangir tombs in Lahore, built for the Mughal emperors, using a pattern of perforated walls called Jali. She visited her grave as a teenager.

“Jali is carved from a sheet of marble about two feet deep, and the holes allow air to circulate inside these huge buildings,” she said. ..

Her subsequent trip to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, was famous for its soaring Islamic architecture, but she said it left an impression, partly due to the reaction of her fellow visitors.

“Everyone was talking to everyone else,” she said. “It was a moment of joy that people wanted to share.”

Even small moments every day will be notified to Mr. Aga’s form.

“When I go for a walk, I look down on my shadow, and I’ve done it for 30 years,” she said. “I love the spotted sunshine coming through the leaves. I’m fascinated by the movement when you’re walking.”

It may be the gateway for viewers to appreciate Aga’s work, whether consciously or not.

“I’m not the kind of artist who wants to hit your face,” she said. “I want to do my work in a calmer and more harmonious way.


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