It might sound strange, but Pakistani artist Anila Quayyum Agha is making a name for herself by painting with shadows. Shadow art is nothing new, with shadow puppets having existed for thousands of years, but Agha’s shadows are a little more complicated than someone putting their hands in front of a flashlight. Don’t just take our word for it though – in 2014, Agha won the annual ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The competition is broken down into two parts: the judges’ award and the audience award. Agha was the first artist in the competition’s history to win both awards.
The piece that won her such a prestigious honor is called “Intersections,” and when you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why everyone loved it so much. By suspending a large, intricately carved cube in the middle of a dark room, Agha was able to paint the walls with a beautiful pattern of shadows using only a single light bulb. Check out the images below to learn more about this breathtaking exhibit and the artist behind it.
Agha wanted to highlight the beauty of Islamic architecture. The patterns in “Intersections” were directly inspired by a visit to the Fortress of Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. “I wanted to recreate the feeling of awe and wonder that I saw on the faces of the tourists at the palace.”
Upon seeing this beauty, she couldn’t help but reflect upon her own experience as a young girl growing up in Pakistan. ” … like the millions of women in Lahore, there was no space for me in any of these mosques, the dictates of culture relegating us all to praying at home. It is this seminal experience of being excluded from a space of community and creativity that resonated with me …”
Now, anyone can experience the gorgeous details of this architecture up close.
“Having lived on the boundaries of different faiths such as Islam and Christianity, and in cultures like Pakistan and the USA, my art is deeply influenced by the simultaneous sense of alienation and transience that informs the migrant experience,” says Agha in her Artist Statement. “Through the use of a variety of media, from large sculptural installations to embroidered drawings I explore the deeply entwined political relationships between gender, culture, religion, labor and social codes.”
The cube measures 6.5 square feet and is made of black, lacquered wood. Agha’s artistic background is actually in textile, so this project gave her the opportunity to learn more about woodcarving and design. By using lasers, she was able to increase the speed, accuracy, and scale of her piece.
As shadows are cast on slanted portions of the ceiling, the pattern is stretched and warped, creating something entirely new in the process.
All it takes is one lightbulb, one idea, or one person to change everything that surrounds them.
Here, the artist proudly presents her work.
As people move through the installation, their shadows interact with those from the cube. Can you imagine the time and effort that went into carving every nook and cranny of this enormous cube?
Four completely unique patterns are visible in this single shot.
This photograph from Agha’s workshop should give you a sense of this cube’s size. Countless hours went into making sure every shape was perfect.
There’s no doubt that Agha has touched many lives with “Intersections.” Plus, who knows how many people’s lives have intersected as a result of this one installation? We can’t wait to see what she makes next.
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