Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq

14 Sep – 05 Nov 2011

What inspired the works in this show? 

I’ve always had an interest in Islamic art. This is how the tape sculptures took a physical form, and secondly, I was fascinated by surfaces that had a black gloss surface. Every day I would look at two perpendicular gloss black surfaces next to each other and eventually, it seemed to me that that the space between the two started to mirror the geometry of the tape patterns. Figuring out what to do with this eternal refraction took four years. The drawings are of proposed sculptures, which I see as objects suspended in space. I feel they are successful in showing the depth of these works on paper.

Do you feel a connection to the geometric quality of traditional Islamic art? 

What we have to remember is that Islamic art is reflective of light that is descending, expanding and ascending. So the patterns that we see in mosques are representative of this infinitive perspective. It’s as though if you look enough, you can concentrate enough to reach a higher transcendental spirituality. The patterns I make are Islamic and they inform that idea of infinity as do the perception of the maquettes. To me, the eternal quality of light and a pattern shares a resonance with our understanding of space.

Why maquettes?

Keeping in mind the history of a maquette as a working model, I think they offer an insight into what the larger works are going to hold at a much more intimate level where the viewer can surround the whole work. Sometimes what you see is the fourth, fifth or sixth generation of a single maquette. The form never changes. It’s just the tolerance of inconsistency that is pushed lower and lower. 

Is there a reason for the overwhelming use of the colour black in your works? 

What black does, in terms of a surface, is that it reduces the reflection and lends the work glamour or a sleekness, which other finishes don’t do as well. Also, in the same way as a silver polished object will always attach itself visually with a looking glass, black symbolizes the idea of deep space, sci-fi, even black holes. Plus, it’s a very natural finish and yet, it is obviously entirely artificial, which works with the forms being entirely geometric.

What kind of planning goes into the creation of your works?

Sometimes, there are occasions when there is a lot of work done on the computer or just on paper. In other instances it’s literally just sitting at the desk and working straight on the maquette. I just finished some drawings yesterday and as I was finishing with the last couple of lines, I realized that someone other than me was going to see them. I don't ever think about the type of reaction someone would get by looking at my work. That’s just a whole different type of anxiety which I can’t understand at the moment.

What do you think distinguishes design from art?

I’m not sure that there is a clear border between art and design. However, the prototyping involved within the design sector negotiates a clear goal, which is to enhance user interaction or ergonomics and ease of use, simplicity, things of that nature. Clearly what art, and especially the artist, tries not to do is make everyone who engages with the work feel the same thing. 

Do you think art needs to serve a function or have a message?

I’m not sure what art “needs” to do or what it needs to communicate. I can only state that all I am aware of in the present is that these works have to take the forms that they occupy at the moment in order to be art.

This is your first show in India. Are you excited about it? Any Indian artists you admire?

It’s exciting to connect with people over points of cultural interest. I am grateful for the opportunity to present a new way of looking, of engaging with objects as it were, and I do hope my work is successful in this regard. Consider the work of Anish Kapoor – the seemingly endless mirroring, the foreshortening of space and volume, the relationship between object and viewer, which is paramount. Or then the architectural scale and rendering of visual plane and space present in the drawings of Nasreen Mohammedi and Seher Shah. These are artistic elements and values I try to balance in my own practice. For me it’s about presenting a serious object, and achieving this without subscribing to illusion or trickery. It is more about a developmental moment of viewing, of understanding that infinity can be presented and that you may not see visual planes meeting or reflecting, but that they are there.