“Often, my goal is to explore the binaries of public and private, light and shadow, and static and dynamic, by relying on the purity and inner symmetry of geometric design, and the interpretation of the cast shadows in both the sculptural installations, and the flat work.” — Anila Quayyum Agha
Suspended and lit from within, All The Flowers Are For Me (2017) by Pakistana-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha is an intricately-detailed, 1.5M square floating steel cube that casts elaborate floor-to-ceiling shadows, transforming the surrounding space of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at London’s Kew Gardens. Entering the installation provided us with an “Oh, Wow!” moment, for sure.
The spectacular turquoise cube is laser-cut with elaborate South and Central Asian patterns of flowers and plants, with bright lights inside the cube throwing intricate shadows onto the deep orange walls. The work alludes to richly-ornamented public spaces, such as Mosques, that the artist was excluded from as a female growing up in Lahore, Pakistan due to cultural norms.
While I had the luxury of photographing the installation when the room was nearly empty, the artist emphasizes that the presence of gallery visitors is integral in experiencing a shared space, to simultaneously contemplate intimacy along with the differences and commonalities that shape our lives and relationships.
The cube’s turquoise color is inspired by lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone commonly found in Pakistan and Afghanistan and often seen in South Asian buildings and jewelry. Painted a deep orange, the gallery walls reflect shades of bright to dark orange, evoking danger as well as hope: a message that the natural world is under serious threat.
All The Flowers Are For Me by Anila Quayyum Aghat closes at Kew Gardens’ Shirley Sherwood Gallery on September 30th, 2023, so see it now if you can!