New commission by Hamra Abbas at Cincinnati Art Museum

'Garden 2' is a principle work in the museums Global South Asia section, which explores multiple artistic, political and cultural histories across the region, from the 19th century to the present

In Garden 2, Hamra Abbas has created a disrupted landscape in tessellated stone. Historically and in Muslim-majority cultures, the garden is visualized through botanical embellishments on architecture and decorative arts. These motifs literally or symbolically reference Qur’anic scripture, where the Garden of Paradise is full of trees, flowers, plants, and rivers. Abbas derives inspiration from the architecture of Lahore to create works that contemplate the garden as a utopia, an idyllic landscape.


To create these pietra dura (marble inlay) works, Abbas begins with drawings to scale that she numbers to indicate stone selection. She then chooses slabs of stone based on tonality, which are sliced, cut, and shaped by hand before careful placement and final polishing. Marble inlay has a long history in both Europe and South Asia. Within the Mughal Empire, the Taj Mahal is the quintessential representation of its use, yet the technique is also found at the Lahore Fort, among other locales. Abbas has pulled this historic practice into the present to create an expansive, integrated composition.


December 23, 2022