Artist Profile: Rana Begum

1 May 2021

This month, Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945 opens after much anticipation at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This is the first survey of post-war British sculpture by women, exploring the work of over forty sculptors selected from the Arts Council Collection.

The Touring Exhibition provides a radical recalibration of art history, addressing the many accounts of British sculpture that have marginalised women. Instead, the women sculptors’ critical work is at the forefront of the exhibition, illustrating the strength and range of their use of materials, subjects, and approaches.

Artist Rana Begum is one of over forty artists featured in this exhibition. In our latest film, the Arts Council Collection visited Begum in her studio where she talks about her practice and her approach to sculpture that began with her research into light and form.

Rana Begum creates sculptural works inspired by minimalism, urban architecture and her early childhood memories of traditional Islamic art. For her ongoing series Fold, Begum works with industrial materials including powder-coated aluminium and steel to create wall-mounted sculptures of an origami-like construction, blurring the line between sculpture, painting and architecture. Begum states, “One of the great things about being an artist is that you have this amazing array of materials that you can use, nothing is off limits. I’m in this position where I’ve been able to work with as many different materials as possible.”


Light is a fundamental part of her process. Begum considers both light's interactions with the surface of the work itself and its reflections on the space the work occupies. For her work in the Arts Council Collection, No.429 SFold (2013), Begum explains “[No.]429 was at a period where I was looking at how light changes the surface of the work, so I started introducing two different painted surfaces: one is kind of a satin finish and then in contrast to kind of something that was much more reflective and glossy. I have a limited palette of colours that I can work with because they are ready-made, I don't have to think about the process of mixing or making too much. It becomes more about colour and its interaction with the form and light, and how those things come together.”

Begum reflects on growing up in Bangladesh and in a Muslim family, and the influence these experiences have had on her work. “It becomes part and parcel of who you are...but you know I don't think about gender I don't think about my own sexuality, my religion or my culture when I'm making the work. I think for me you know, I was looking for a language that was universal, a language that anyone can approach, understand and kind of question.”


Watch the full film below.


Breaking the Mould is an Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition initiated in response to Women Working in Sculpture from 1960 to the Present Day: Towards a New Lexicon, a research project led by Catherine George (University of Coventry) and Hilary Gresty (independent). 

After the first presentation at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Spring 2021, Breaking the Mould will tour to Djanogly Art Gallery Nottingham Lakeside Arts, The Levinsky Gallery at the University of Plymouth, Ferens Art Gallery Hull and New Art Gallery Walsall.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.