Symmetry in Sculpture: Recent Work by Zarah Hussain

Simple yet complicated, sculptural yet 2D-looking, clean yet vibrant. This is an exhibition of opposites.

This beautifully spaced room of work by Zarah Hussain is stunning. With simple shapes and patterns that look complicated, and 3D sculptures that when stood head-on look flat, this body of work is a treat (or trick) for the eye.

'SuperSymmetry' Image from

‘SuperSymmetry’ Image from

Like the past craftsmen of the Islamic World, Hussain employs traditional yet complex mathematical principles to build beautiful, repeating pattern from individual symmetrical shapes.

With the gallery full of shapes based on hexagons and equilateral triangles, one would think this exhibition would be rather repetitive. However Hussain manages to give each shape, each colour its own character and identity. Perhaps this is because each sculpture is created and painted by hand. Hussain describes this exhibition as a ‘marriage between painting and sculpture’ and this is an experiment for her in moving her expertise in painting on into 3D sculpture.

And this is an element of the sculptures that is noticeable, although not initially tangible. Indeed, while Hussain has managed to achieve clean lines and symmetry, the pieces just stop short of being clinical, maintaining a sense creativity and expression that cannot immediately be grasped.

Hussain talks beautifully about the exhibition in this clip:

My favourite thing about this body of work is that these are not static sculptures. They interact with light and shadow such that as you move, they move with you. This exhibition is understatedly active and playful, interacting with the viewer as you stroll through it.

There are also two large paintings amongst the sculptures that draw on geometric ideas. In fact friends that I went to the exhibition with said that the canvases reminded them of drawing using spiral kits when they were children. That is the beautiful opposition that these works hold: vibrant and energetic, yet structured, systematic and mathematical.

This beautiful exhibition of contemporary sculpture has been around at BMAG for quite a while, but it is only showing for a few more weeks! Make sure you grab a visit before it closes!


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