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Halima Cassell Nature in Stone

June 10, 2019

Any sense of familiarity we have with the art of Halima Cassell perhaps comes from seeing geometry in nature. I came across Halima’s work on a recent trip to the Manchester Art Gallery and marvelled at the flow and movement of her work.

As a child, Halima investigated the patterns of maths and nature by dismantling plants. Trying to understand the art in the multiplication of living cells brought Halima the same joy that many people feel while gazing upon her creations. Although being dyslexic created challenges for Halima’s academic studies, laying the family carpet at the age of 11 was one small sign of the creativity and beauty her hands would bring into the world.

She was born in Kashmir, grew up in the north west of England and her sculpture reflects her dual international and local heritage. Early ceramic works such as Mancunian Roofscapes, (below) first shown at Manchester Art Gallery in 2005, were influenced both by the architecture of the north west and the repeated geometric patterns of Islamic design.

In recent years, Halima has travelled throughout Britain and in Italy, Japan and Pakistan to explore new materials, techniques and approaches.

These experiences have enriched her work and taken it in previously unforeseen directions: the regular repetition of carved geometry and immaculate symmetry giving way to sensuous organic curves and asymmetry.

Travel renewed her appetite for experimentation – in Japan she threw pots whilst stood on a step ladder and in Italy she worked in marble for the first time.

She is gifted with an exceptional ability to visualise complex patterns and mentally project them on to 3-D objects. Her work is diverse in inspiration and form, but her personal style is instantly recognisable due to her bold, energetic designs, crisp carving and intuitive understanding of how to integrate pattern, form, material and scale. You can’t appreciate the scale and intricasy of the work until you see it close up.

Here (above) Halima explores the idea of organic shapes emerging from natural structures, and (below) makes a flowing sculpture turn into liquid marble.

A few early ideas and prototypes, discovering form and movement.

Amazing to see how her travels and gathering of clays from other countries have had such an influence of the textures, colours, patterns and shapes of her final pieces.

Is this an Owl or some ancient spirit watching over it’s owner !

In her artist’s statement Halima says :-

“In my early work I was exploring the boundaries of my new found modus operandi, which was infused with Islamic influences drawn from heavily carved architecture. This led me to look to other examples of intricately carved and constructed buildings from all around the world. In addition, I was inspired by the repetitive motifs of pattern derived from the influences of North African surface design.

Delving deeper into these architectural influences and looking closer at structures of past and contemporary building styles, I discovered that I was also greatly intrigued by the internal space and the construction, which were articulated together on the external surface envelope. These relationships have informed my own work as I strive to unify not only internal and external forms but also the parts to the whole. In this respect I am reminded of the Greek principle of the Golden Section, namely that, the smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole ”

The exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery runs until early February 2020.

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