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Zarah Hussain | Grids and Sub-
Hopstreet Gallery, Brussels, 11 November – 21 December 2018
A review by Tony Blackmore
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
Installation view. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery
‘Grids and Sub-
Created according to the structural principles of Islamic geometry, using a pair
of compasses and a straight edge, each cast piece and surface colour pattern is skilfully
and perfectly proportioned. The artworks appear to unfold through the dimensions
with lines and planes emerging from a central point. The planes, an array of triangular
surfaces, form various solid tetrahedrons that appear to radiate outwards from the
centre to the outer edge, and reflect back into the centre. The structural principles
give rise to three principal polygons that are repeated across the works: the triangle,
the hexagon and the square. In each work, the edge of the gesso plaster base is aligned
to the outer boundary of the overall composite form, giving a sense of an enclosed
domain with multiple configurations of internal forms. These configurations are
produced by the repetition, reflection and inter-
Water, 2018. 42 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 85 x 85 x 12 cm. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery
Water (85 x 85 x 12 cm) is one of the two larger reliefs. It is composed of 42 identical
rhomboid forms with a triangular painted repeat pattern. This pattern radiates from
turquoise at its central point, graduating to cyan blue, and to an ultramarine blue
on the outer edge. This pattern unites the composition, creating changing visions
of rhomboids that create larger rhomboids, together with hexagons and 12-
Water is the only artwork where gloss varnish, as apposed to matte, has been applied and so, like water, light is reflected from its surface. The overall effect is that of a harmonic crystalline form, suggesting the journey from water to snowflake, and reflecting the mathematical processes that underlie the atomic and molecular levels of creation.
Although not immediately obvious, Dynamic Square Series I to IV (84 x 84 x 7cm) also
suggests the principal structures and processes that exist at the very heart of matter.
Each square is created from 36 identical regular tetrahedrons arranged in a six by
six configuration that has been rotated at a 45-
Dynamic Square Series I. 36 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 84 x 84 x 7 cm. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery
Dynamic Square may also refer to the dynamic symmetry of Islamic geometry: a way of dividing space to create a specific relationship between its parts and its whole. This division of space is provided by the movement of the surface colour graduations within each Dynamic Square. In Dynamic Square Series I the colours graduate in rows, emanating from the central horizontal axis. In Dynamic Square Series II colours radiate from the central vertical axis, and in Dynamic Square Series III they radiate in concentric squares from the centre. Respectively, these movements of colour appear to visually expand each work vertically, horizontally and from the heart. In its spatial relationship with the viewer, this has the effect of humanising each work.
Dynamic Square Series II, III and IV. Each 36 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 84 x 84 x 7 cm. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery.
The surface pattern of Dynamic Square Series IV comprises equilateral triangles painted
from the apex to the base on all four sides of each tetrahedron. These create three
horizontal bands, each with the same four graduating shades of green. The effect
is evocative of plant life and of light sifting through leaves. This effect is particularly
evident when viewing the work from an oblique angle, which causes the pattern to
fragment and scatter. Chlorophyll is the green pigment responsible for most plants’
Plant life, and the structural principles of geometry, are also alluded to in the
title of Root Series I and II (54.5 x 54.5 x 7 cm). Each is composed of 16 pieces
of cast resin in the form of a three-
Root 2 Series I and II, 2018. Each 16 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 54.5 x 54.5 x 7 cm. Images courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery
On the surface of Root Series I, Hussain has painted a linear framework with a lighter green near its centre, graduating to emerald green, dark green and a dark teal at the outer edge. A kaleidoscopic effect is created here; lines are reflected and repeated from apex to baseline, compelling the eye to follow the framework in a myriad of shapes over the folded surface.
This kaleidoscopic effect is also seen in Root Series II. Here, rectilinear blocks of green have been painted on the face of each individual piece, with one corner joining the next at the baseline. So effective is the completely matte, flat surface that it is hard to see whether the same nominal colour has been painted on each, or whether shadow is altering the hue.
What makes the all the work so engaging is that the painted and cast forms are simultaneously simple and complex in their arrangements. Simple physical forms and their organisation can describe essentially, and not literally, very different phenomena. This is exemplified in the Hexagon Series (38 x 34 x 7 cm), the smallest works in the exhibition.
Hexagon Series I, 2018. 18 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 38 x 33 x 7 cm. Images courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery
Graphically, the hexagon is the shape produced by equal divisions of the circumference
of a circle to form a flower-
In Hexagon Series I, by painting the two longer sides of each pyramid with a bright
fluorescent scarlet. an internal six-
In Hexagon Series III and IV the baselines are white with the outer edges coloured.
In both, the coloured patterning simultaneously radiates from centre to circumference
and back again while also dancing around the edge. When each Hexagon is viewed from
the side the form evolves, becoming more crystalline and flower-
Hexagon Series II, 2018. 18 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 38 x 33 x 7 cm. Images courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery.
With these smaller monochromatic works, the eye is drawn to the white, which as in all these pieces, is not negative or void; it is the colour that best accentuates the form. Traces of the processes involved are visible, providing a human and emotional connection to the artworks.
The title of Super Sonic Star (85 x 85 x 12 cm) is another reminder that cosmology
is the all-
Super Sonic Star, 2014. 42 pieces of cast resin, gesso plaster, paint, varnish, 85 x 85 x 12 cm. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery.
Invisible Threads, 220 x 225cm, is an installation of 54 rhomboid-
There is a constant flow and graduation of coloured light, radiating outwards from
the centre of the composition and travelling through the rhomboids to the outer edge,
creating a highly immersive experience. I am aware that the colour, intensity and
motion of the light is created from the interaction of four different algorithms.
Consequently, it would take longer than the duration of the exhibition for the lighting
sequence to repeat itself. The overall effect is that the viewer becomes entranced;
blissfully unaware of the passage of time. Invisible Threads, with its light colours
calmly changing, its brightness ever-
Installation view of Invisible Threads. Image courtesy of Hopstreet Gallery.
Although light is alluded to both in the Dynamic Square Series and in Super Sonic
Star, it is in Invisible Threads that we experience its spiritual and physical dimensions.
Beholden to the receptors in our eyes, we adapt our responses to colour and illumination
in the temporal and spatial context. When immersed in this environment there is
no reliable objective way in which the viewer can identify or name the colours as
they really are; one can only succumb to them. There are beautiful transitions of
saturated colours -
Hussain’s training and knowledge of the structural principles of Islamic geometry provides the platform on which her intuitive insights are based. Both colour and form have been subjected to the discipline of geometry, ordered into an infinite variety of lines, triangles, hexagons and squares. With all the artwork in the exhibition, there is a sense of emergence, whereby each whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The multiplicity of the forms created by the internal shapes reflecting, repeating and duelling with one another, and their relationship with the surface patterning, provide endless fascination, and give each artwork a sense of oneness and unity with no beginning and no end.