For her debut solo exhibition Shaikha Al Mazrou presents Expansion/Extension. The title draws from the artist’s own experience conceiving the show – expanding and extending her research into the meaning of sculpture, material and its representational function.
Soft, squashy, spongy –not qualities normally associated with steel structures, yet in this new series Al Mazrou makes them appear inherent. Each of the seven wet coated steel pieces created for the exhibition has an element of surprise, playing with positive and negative tension and illusions of colour and material. Expand isa single bright red cuboid that bulges out from the wall. Its crumpled edges evoke a sense of malleability and frailty. Other works are coated in recurring colours and different geometric combinations– two hues of blue, yellow and orange – that play with our sense of perspective and space. Not all are cuboid shapes– circles are a recurring feature in Al Mazrou’s works: Excel comprises two round sculptures painted in opposite concentric colours that look like creased pillows.
Each work appears to end where another starts. The arrangements reverberate off each other and their groupings act as dialogues. Engage, comprising two large floor sculptures painted in bands of colour, resembles a pair of sacks stacked side by side just before the moment they fall into each other, while Extrude, a triptych of three vertical forms, is stretched upward, their edges marked to resemble thumbprints left behind on play dough (the title itself a reference to the pottery technique of passing clay through a small tube or “extruder”).
Some of the works, particularly where arranged in pairings, such as in Engage or Excel, appear like figures stopping in motion, their shapes seeming to inhale and exhale, stretch and shrink, reaching suggestively through the space to suggest a lost physical presence.
Al Mazrou's irreverent use of material and its apparent contradictions, using durable materials that are made to resemble something soft, pliable or ephemeral, is central to her practice. Fascinated by notions of physical space, her sculptures and installations materialize as simple gestures that emphasize the representation of tension, weight and space, whilst borrowing formally from minimalism and intellectually from conceptual art. Exhale, is a floor piece where a large glass sheet is held at an angle by what looks like two bean-bags, the weight of the glass is in a precarious balancing act that defies gravity and logic.
The influence of Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt and Carle Andre are all discernable in her work. Al Mazrou engages the formal aspects of minimalism as she explores the materiality in art. Steel, a mass-produced industrial material, combines with colour in her abstract geometric arrangements.
Expansion/Extension – whilst rooted in sculpture – is also an experiment in colour and painting. Some of the sculptures are produced as diptychs and triptychs; others hang from the walls like paintings. The colours used are bright- a new departure for Al Mazrou for works of this scale, very different from her recent works such Ironic Experiments, 2017 and Scales, 2017 both of which were markedly more muted. Her use of colour and geometric lines in this new series adds to the sense of perspective and illusion.