Posted tagged ‘shadow’


December 3, 2009

Yey I finished it!

Icosahedron with simple pattern cut out of it

Icosahedron with simple pattern cut out of it

It was quite fiddley but I felt like I was in nursery doing crafts again. It was so much fun putting it together. For some reason I decided to make life a little difficult for myself too by cutting a simple pattern into it which took tonnes more time but now you can see how the pattern relates to the shape and also a kind of indication of the 3D structure that forms an Icosahedron.

So continuing from last week the images below show the process for making it:

Icosahedron template

Icosahedron template

pattern on to Icosahedron

Cutting pattern into each face of the Icosahedron - which is made up of equilateral triangles

Pattern cut into Icosahedron template

Template of icosahedron with pattern cut in all faces. The thicker borders are where the tabs are for attaching edges to the neighbouring edge

Assembling the Icosahedron

Assembling the Icosahedron

So obviously as soon as I got that done I just had to start experimenting. I used my reflective sheets and cut-out from a few weeks ago and formed a quick sculptural piece similar to what I would submit for an installation. I laid this flat, turned the lights off and left the small PIR unit at the end of the cone like shape to allow the light to flow through this towards the icosahedron and onto the cut-out pattern below.

View from above

View of installation prototype from above

View of prototype head-on

View of prototype head-on - before main light is turned off

prototype side view

prototype side view in dark which is how it would be exhibited


Only the PIR light has been left on and creates the view seen here. There is a mix of shadows competing with reflections and larger areas of light and shade.

prototype close-up

Close-up looking into the cone like area to where the icosahedron sits

I like how this looked against the black of darkness. It conveys the high contrast I was after and allows the distinctive shapes to show clearly.  The reflection of light makes it much brighter and the shadows cast from the patterns much darker therefore it stands out with much more contrast and visibility. I also like the fact that the whole piece is surrounded in darkness and therefore allows it to seem like a standalone installation that could fit into a generic gallery space.

In addition to this it looks quite futuristic and space age – not really something I considered before. I may contemplate this at a later stage – whether I want to leave this aspect as it is or change or remove it.

I also realised that the shapes and lines and use of the cone shape remind me of architectural structures. This was reaffirmed when I received feedback in which a similar comment was made.

I don’t think the photos do this piece justice though. It’s meant to be viewed in its physical form with the naked eye. In trying to capture it as an image it loses some of its awe. The good thing about it being a physical and 3D piece is that it encourages the viewer to move around it and explore it from different angles. By doing this the view changes with shapes changing according to the direction of light and casting of shadows and reflection.

I think for this point of the course – with the Unit 1 assessment just around the corner – it’s a good thing I’ve been able to experiment with the shapes and lighting even if it is still only the early stages of this.

The set-up of all the parts and the addition of the lighting meant a lot of time has to be set aside for this in future.

My next objectives are to:

– Do more research into lighting – especially motion sensitive options.
– Look into stronger materials for another prototype.
– And sooner or later I will need to pick my final pattern – which I will need to convert into a vector image suitable for use with the laser cutting machine.

PIR lights

November 16, 2009

The small magnetic lights arrived from Hong Kong but they don’t work all that great. They are supposed to work with a magnet that once pulled away from the unit cause the light to switch on. They are advertised to be used in say a cupboard where the magnet would be attached to the inside of the door and the light would be attached to the underside of the top of the cupboard. So when you open the door the light turns on. However, they seem to be a little temperamental and have either stopped working completely or decide to switch on or off in an erratic manner unrelated to the location of the magnet. They are also actually much smaller than I thought. But then that’s the risk of purchasing something from ebay I guess. They only cost about £4 so it was worth the risk.

Small lights activated with magnets

Small lights activated with magnets

Anyway I thought they could be used in some inventive way. I thought of maybe attaching the magnets to wands and getting people to turn the lights on from hidden places under my possible sculptures? Or some other hidden form of physical interaction where the person wouldn’t know a magnet was involved and would just assume it was all touch based. Hmm, if only I could create something touch based – but I’ve realised my skills in programming will not be advancing any time soon.

I’m actually quite wary of even going down that route – not only because I know I am not going to have time but also because I think I can find alternative solutions that allow more time for experimentation and proto-typing instead. Plus the pattern-making takes up the majority of my time. I don’t mind this as I still enjoy this very much, but it means I need to manage my time especially efficiently.

The disappointment of these small lights led me to Maplin where I purchased a much chunkier light which actually uses PIR (passive infra-red) to detect movement and so turns on automatically. This is designed for in-door/garage use and works well for what it is. The light seems to have a bit of a blue tinge to it though.

PIR light

PIR light - you can see comparative size of this to the smaller lights and the small pin I left on the desk but which highlights the scale of proportion

The down-side is that there is no flexibility in terms of how long the light stays on for (dependent on movement being continuous) and it has only 3 modes:

– On all the time,
– Off all the time,
– or automatic activation which only works in the dark and when movement is detected.

I did a bit of testing with this and it turns on as soon as you get a few feet near it. But the light doesn’t reach far enough and this I think will pose safety issues unless I have some other dim but permanent source of light also in the room/space I exhibit it.

During my tests I stuck my reflective cut-out onto the ceiling near a corner at a curved angle so that it looked like a web hanging down.

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Hanging reflective pattern cut-out. This was with the light on - one side shows the reflected pattern and the other shows the shadow - both stand out very well

I then switched the lights off and used the PIR light as if it were a torch moving around with it. The cool thing about this is that it deals with a very strong aspect of the interaction I was hoping for.

(I have a video of this but it’s a bit jumpy and has me having a conversation over it so I need to remove the audio before it can be viewed. As soon as it’s sorted I will post it up so be sure to look out for it as I think it’s come out quite good).

Here’s a shot before I made the video – not the best but conveys how it looks in the dark (light source being the large PIR unit I mentioned above):

Shadow_vs_reflection - hanging pattern

Once again shadow vs reflection - a nice line of symmetry shown here

I wanted the light and work to be affected by the motions of the viewer. Carrying the source of light means that the light is in constant motion and as it reflects off of the surface of the work the projected reflections as well as the shadows are also in constant motion.

SO I think this is a significant development – and although it seems a bit funny when I think about how someone new to the work might view it in a physical sense, I also think it will be quite fun.

So my objectives for the next week or so is to think of ways to present this light source to the viewer, look into how they may use this, carry it, interact with it and what the dangers of this might be (if there are any).

I also need to speak to Andy about how dark I can have the space in which I install my work and what restrictions I may face.

As for the actual sculptural materials – I am currently seeking advice on what can and cannot be laser-cut, what is flexible enough to be re-shaped or moulded after having been cut and how I might be able to mount/display these.

And finally – we have our Unit 1 assessment due in early December which is when we not only have to have a proto-type ready but also have an online curated page which illustrates how we have met the learning outcomes for that Unit. I’m pretty sure the curating part will not be too difficult in terms of finding content, but it will be tricky deciding which posts are most significant in conveying my developments. This will be the true test to see if all my tagging and categorisation was done well.

On an unrelated note but one that is concerning me is that I realised I didn’t put enough quotes in my essay. Actually I am shocked at the lack of them and can only imagine I was out of my mind at the time not to have done so. Now I just want to hurry up and know my marks so that I can stop worrying and move on.

Jameel Prize 2009 – V&A

September 30, 2009

N.B – I started writing this post on 23 August 09 but due to the essay, finishing and publishing this was delayed.

Surfing the net I discovered that the V&A had opened a small gallery with work on display from the finalists of it’s Jameel Prize 2009. You may have heard of the famous Jameel Gallery which holds some of the world’s most famous Islamic artefacts. This prize is supported by the same guy who commissioned the Jameel gallery:

The Jameel Prize is a new international art prize launched by the V&A and supported by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel. The Prize will be awarded to a contemporary artist or designer for work inspired by Islamic traditions of craft and design. (Taken from V&A’s site:

So on Wednesday (19-08-09) I went along to take a closer look.

Firstly we come across some of the other nominated work. The most eye-catching being Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj.

It appeared that the corner of a cafe had been cut out from some foreign arab town and planted in the middle of the gallery. The vibrant colours made it stand out and the combination of prints on different textures encouraged an exploration of the ‘environment’. On close inspection I noted the Louis Vuitton covers on the seats sewn to the top of tin containers. As with every other object in this ‘salon’, the seats, tables shelf unit, all were made from everyday items. Most of which are heavily branded. It reminds me of Pakistan where, for some reason, nearly every bit of outside space is covered with advertisement and branding of popular products such as Coca-cola and Pepsi.

Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj

Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj

On the sign next to this peice installation it said ‘Interactive Installation, Multimedia’ I was a bit confused by this because having sat on the seats and moved around the objects I could not see nor hear anything happening in response to my movements. Later it came to me that perhaps what was meant by ‘multimedia’ was the traditional concept of multiple mediums in use. And the ‘interactive’ element was perhaps the fact that you are able to sit within the environment created by the work and are able to move some of the objects around.

Having studied a BSc in Multimedia I had developed my own understanding and opinion of what Multimedia is but only after coming across varied definitions and interpretations from researchers and practitioners alike. From what I have read and seen most people would regard multimedia to consist of either digital or electronic content that responds to an action. Therefore it is reactive to it’s surroundings or to something that is done to it.

In this example I believe that the term multimedia was referring to the combined elements of print, graphics, photography, textiles and crafts that were used. Nevertheless, I think it fulfilled the interactive purpose it was intended for as, visitors felt able to sit and take pictures on the provided seating.

Next was a large piece that was very familiar to me. I had seen it at the Word into Art exhibition in Dubai a few years ago. Ana by Susan Hefuna is a wooden structure made from pieces that form a pattern in its structure. Seeing from my picture this peice also plays with the light and dark with shadows being cast by the breaks in the patterns formed by the joint pieces. The combination of arabic text and pattern make this a memorable artwork for me.

Ana by Susan Hefuna

Ana by Susan Hefuna

Moving round the gallery there is a selection of different mediums in use and all with different themes too. It gives a clear impression that there are artists who are using their specialist areas of skill allowing them to create their artforms in unique styles.

A great example of this is the work of Sevan Biçakçi a Turkish Jewellery Designer. In this collection we have 5 rings which look very ornate from the regular viewing distance. However, on closer inspection (and you can only really get so close because these have been encased behind a glass enclosure) you can see that the large gem/stones that form the centre-piece of each ring actually holds something within. One looks to be the famous mosques of Istanbul, the colourful domes being the notables features of the buildings. The rings are quite large but it still must have been a painstaking process to create the miniature scenes on an within the rings.

Two of the five rings at the V&A by Sevan Bicakci

Two of the five rings at the V&A by Sevan Bicakci - Image from Nafas art magazine:

Another of the rings looks to be painted with the tiniest of mosaic murals – and if you look closely you can make out the image of a figure within this. The accuracy and detail is quite amazing and makes this entry more fun to gaze at just because you’ll be trying to spot something new. For detailed images and more information about Sevan Biçakçi you can visit his website at

The next entry was a recognisable name from the stylistic features of the medium you may also recognise a familiarity in it (see older post in which Abbas’s ‘Paper plates’ were mentioned: Hamra Abbas’ ‘Please do not step’ was stuck to the floor with an angular pesperctive to give the impression it was projected from above. It was position between the two rooms that make up the gallery and so it was impossible to pass through without stepping on the words spelt out by tiny peices of paper.

Please Do Not Step by Hamra Abbas

Please Do Not Step by Hamra Abbas

The words were constructed with Islamic patterns made from the tuck together pieces of paper, linked to form geometric shapes. On these papers were the words ‘Please Do Not Step: Loss of a Magnificent Story.’ repeated continuously. Looking on Abbas’s web site you can see that she has actually used the same method and medium in her other works and these have been presented in galleries in different ways. I still like the idea of all the small pieces being used to create a larger overall work.

Next to be mentioned is Seher Shah’s Jihad Pop. This is a massive wall piece framed behind glass but completed as a print on a very large paper. The detail is immense and the content slightly overwhelming. Taking the work in as a whole is almost impossible as you cannot see all the details from one vantage point. You can however, appreciate the work that has gone into it. You can also gauge that there are a few different topics being expressed within the peice. Firstly there is the perspective provided by architectural elements. There is then the geometric shapes that come through from this and the obvious cube formations which having been coloured black are reminiscent of the Kaaba (place of Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca and the direction to where we face when praying). Then there are all the smaller petal like shapes that conjoined look like a swarm clouding around different parts of the image.

Jihad Pop Progression 4 - Interior Courtyard 1 - by Seher Shah

Jihad Pop Progression 4 - Interior Courtyard 1 - by Seher Shah (image from

After walking from one end to the other a couple of times I then noticed some Arabic within the details around the Kaaba. This was  ‘Bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-raheem’ which translates to ‘In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful’. This is a very well known sentence from the Qur’an which is mentioned at the start of every new chapter. It is also used regularly as an invocation by Muslims on a daily basis before performing any act (mundane or otherwise).

As there are no human figures, or any un-Islamic elements to this work, the inclusion of the above sentence says to me ‘This is Islamic Art’. With a lot of other peices in the gallery there is a link or connection to perhaps an aesthetic familiar in Islamic Art or the cultures connected to Islamic countries. But this work displays the Kaaba as well as holy words from the Qur’an. On top of this, the piece is named Jihad Pop. Jihad is an Arabic term that translates to ‘struggle’, be this internal or external. What struggles is Shah referring to? The ones faced in Islamic countries? Or by Muslims in the West?

There is a slight chaotic nature to the piece and perhaps that was intentional. Is it an indication of how Islam is misunderstood? Or maybe it is the artist’s personal reflection of it?

Regardless of reading too much into the work – I do like this piece a lot. It incorporates many different stylistic features which seem both organic and synthetic at the same time but don’t conflict with eachother.

Now on to the winning piece – 1001 Pages. When I described this to a fellow student/friend at uni she knew why this was significant. The work, on the surface, sounds very similar to what I wanted to create myself at some stage of this project, if not as the final outcome.

1001 Pages by Afruz Amighi

1001 Pages by Afruz Amighi

Some of the similarities are the use of:

  • Light
  • Shadow
  • Patterns
  • Projection

‘1001 Pages’   is made from a thin sheet of white plastic which actually seems like fabric (this sheeting is used for making tents) that has been hand-cut by a stencil burner and hung from the ceiling. It is quite large and so comes down close to ground level.

It greatly reminds me of the windows and archways found in mosques and palaces that have cut-out designs for letting light and air in – similar to what you see in the image below taken at the Grand Mosque in Muscat:

Decorative window - Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

Decorative window - Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

The design that has been cut into the sheet is a combination of geometric shapes, vegetal patterns, birds and arched windows with further patterns within. A light is then projected through the sheet to produce a replica on the wall directly behind. The shadows cast from the patterns and intricate details that have been cut produce a lovely mirror image of light playing with dark. Opposites in colour as well as atmosphere – light contrasted to dark creates some brilliant effects.

Afruz Amighi created her work as a static piece – although with it hanging in midair you wonder if a slight breeze coming through the hall will have an interesting affect on the shadows being cast on the wall.

Detail of 1001 Pages - by Afruz Amighi

Detail of 1001 Pages - by Afruz Amighi (image from

This winning piece is probably an ideal example of where Islamic art has evolved. It is a contemporary piece that utilises current technology but combines hand-crafted skills too with the traditional look of Islamic patterns as used to decorate buildings and ornaments throughout it’s history. The combination of the two allow for the work to also seem timeless but with the added knowledge that geometric patterns go beyond cultural associations because it has a connection with universal aesthetics – i.e. nature and proportion, golden ratio, etc. Then there is the fact that this work could be termed as ‘digital art’ and is moving with the trends – keeping up with the latest form of artistic expression or perhaps just presentation. Whatever the purpose, it doesn’t detract from the look and feel that is generated, if anything it seems approriate to have a projector within a gallery space. And a gallery space which is dedicated to current art work rather than antiques. Islamic Art is alive and thriving!

And to prove this I am aiming to create an installation that is interactive, so hopefully with the incorporation of my chosen design and technical elements the work will be of interest to those viewing it, and possibly fun too. And as we all know this should make it more memorable too.

For more information about the Jameel Prize please visit the official V&A page:

And for further imagery and reviews please see Nafas Art Magazine’s article: