Anila Agha explores the contrasts between light and shadow, lace and steel, and love and loss in her installation All the Flowers Are for Me.
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Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers are for Me-Red, 2016. Lacquered steel and halogen bulb, 60x60x60in. Image: Aicon Gallery
Agha uses geometric shapes common in Islamic architecture.
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Anila Quayyum Agha, All the Flowers are for Me-Red, 2016. Lacquered steel and halogen bulb, 60x60x60in. Image: Aicon Gallery
Anila Agha
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AP77600624573: AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com, Cory Morse
Sculpture of Light
Artist uses laser technology to explore light and shadow

Alexandra Franklin | for Scholastic Art

For Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha, 2016 was a year full of ups and downs. In the space of just a few weeks, her son was married and her mother passed away. Agha’s experiences with love and loss inspired her to create an installation that plays with contrasting design elements: light and shadow. The result is a large-scale sculpture called All the Flowers Are for Me—a cube lit from within that casts complex geometric shadows on every surface of the room in which it is suspended.

Laser-Cutting Technology

Agha, who has a Master’s degree in fiber arts, started out as a textile artist. She was known for working with embroidery, wax, dyes, and silk-screen printing before she began experimenting with laser-cutting technology. Laser-cutting is a process that uses a very thin, focused column of high-intensity light and compressed gas to melt or vaporize steel in intricate patterns. Agha brings her experience with delicate, patterned textile art to very different materials—including wood and steel—in her series of large-scale light installations.

A light suspended inside All the Flowers Are for Me illuminates ornate patterns cut into the surface of the cube. As the light shines through the negative space, it projects the pattern onto the surrounding walls, floor, and ceiling. The patterns appear crisply, clearly, and in the original proportions on the surfaces closest to the cube. But they are distorted as the light travels across the space.

A Pattern of Opposites

The five-foot, red-lacquered steel cube is laser-cut with an intricate pattern inspired by the floral patterns Agha’s mother loved, and by geometric shapes from the Islamic architecture of Agha’s native Lahore, Pakistan. The artist explains that she is fascinated by “presumed opposites that are never quite so.” Just as there is no light without shadow, there is no joy without grief. And though the installation’s delicate, lacelike pattern seems fragile, it is made of steel and unexpectedly strong.