24 hrs in London (Pt II) – Rana Begum at Parasol Unit

Reflections on my 24 hours in London continue. After my non-visit to Victoria Miro (a must-read blog post for an apparently must-see show), I went next door to see ‘The Space Between’ by Rana Begum at Parasol Unit. Away from the chaos of the queues for Yayoi Kusama, I was thrown into the sensorial, colourific, neon minimalism of Rana Begum.

I first came across Begum‘s work when friend and colleague Adrian George gave me a tour of the Government Art Collection back in May 2016. Recently acquired works were waiting to be packed and stored in the collection store. They immediately struck me with an intense punch in the eye…sharp folds, obtuse angles, architectural resonance, refined objects of designed-art, they caught my attention and I have not forgotten about them since.

Rana Begum Government Art Collection

When entering the gallery space at Parasol Unit, you are struck by the sheer simplicity of Begum’s work.  Called an ‘urban romantic’ (Nick Hackworth in Rana Begum, ‘Overview’, Bischoff/Weiss, 2009), her works can be situated in multiple domains. Crossing boundaries of contemporary art, contemporary design, questioning the roles of art fabrication and art production, she…

“…draws inspiration both from the city environment and her own childhood memories of the geometric patterns of traditional Islamic art and architecture. Thus, properties of light, colour, material, movement and form have become a hallmark of her abstract sculptures and reliefs. Often bringing a potentially infinite order to her works, Begum skilfully gives physical form to fleeting moments of aesthetic wonder.” (Text by Parasol Unit)


Begum’s choice of colour palette is vital to her practice. Conflicting and impactful, they are chosen to draw illusion and change your ways of seeing. Reflective shadow play increase the intensity of the neon tones as they bounce from surface to surface. Neo-geo in nature -‘geometricisation of modern life’ through a neo-geometric conceptualism – they are a 21st Century take on 1960s minimalism echoing Morris, Andre, Judd and more.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without taking a selfie. Although this completely reinforces yet contradicts some of the statements I made in the previous blog post regarding the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Victoria Miro, it made me realise the importance of being able to indulge in an experience. Alone, I immersed myself in the angular, neon light-play of Begum’s installation. The value in sensorial art of this kind comes with experience. Distracted, and calmed, I stopped for just a moment and detached myself from the world…well, for 15 minutes actually. More than the 40 seconds to one minute allowed next door at Victoria Miro. I wish I could have stayed for longer but meetings and more art were calling…

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