Shaheen Ahmed is a Birmingham based UK artist whose practice is driven by empathy, reworking maps to share narratives of statelessness, crippling infrastructure and disparagement. Shaheen creates Kirigami map art along with brush, ink and thread work. This unique style evolved whilst studying book binding and gestural mark making in Italy, as part of a residency with the National Trust.
Shaheen's recent collaboration at the Lapworth Museum of Geology enabled her to experiment with scientific research relating to geometry fomulations and geological maps around plate tectonics (movement of a place). Shaheen uses a multitude of techniques and approaches that are layered within her work, from calligraphy to digital and Islamic geometry.
A pivotal point in Ahmed's practise arose at Burnley art college when she was told there wasn't enough information on Islamic art within their library. This led Shaheen to question what does her parent's faith have to say and what is Islamic art? Shaheen's artwork empowers and liberates those within a world that often feels hostile towards her and her artwork. Ahmed has led on several residencies, studied in Italy and worked in Pakistan.
Shaheen connects with the earth on a spiritual level, stressing that primordial earth belongs to the destitute whether they are humans or animals. With the earth's ruptures, shifting tectonic plates and the movement of vast communities across the globe, she contemplates a more meditative approach within her own life. Greed and the consumption of and the glorifying of excess wealth and notoriety, is a sickness that seems to be destroying human harmony.
Her latest commission is a group exhibition at the Crafts Council UK – Tackling Racism through Craft. 2022 will see Shaheen working on several international projects, namely craft and map work.
A continuing theme within Shaheen's artwork is the exploration of patterns, signs and motifs. Simple grids and geometric shapes along with abstract patterns and calligraphy are ritually overlaid, all demonstrating the importance to her of ‘the hand of the artist’. This process of contemplation and repetitive rhythm within Shaheen's current practise evokes her childhood memories of play and reading along with constructing and connecting. Shaheen's work is her therapy, the marks symbolise her ritualistic nature dealing with the onslaught of the world around her.
Indra Khanna Independant Curator
Shaheen Ahmed's strangely beguiling bookwork combines child play, dervish ritual and retail therapy. In the darkest black ink, bold Arabic numerals and lettering sweep across the pages of high street store catalogues. As we turn the heavily treated pages we discover a soul at times struggling with then embracing the visual onslaught of consumer culture. A repetitive dialogue opens up on the pages of the Habitat, Muji and Marks and Spencer books, using Japanese sumi ink her black brush strokes seem anxious to nullify the overload of multicoloured consumable objects so beautifully shot and composed on the glossy pages. This is a brave and bold journey, unrehearsed, where we glimpse a child playing, making patterns and finding a hidden symmetry in the compositions, only suddenly to awake from the anaesthesia and questions the point of all this stuff, what the hell is it for? And why do I want it so badly? Painful and beautiful all at once.
Taz Bashier Curator/Mentor/Artist.
IKON GALLERY and the Slow Boat project
I refer to Shaheen’s role in particular, which highlights our ever-embracing engagement
within communities. Shaheen is an artist currently employed in an outreach capacity working
with diverse communities in Birmingham.
She uses the local waterways as a backdrop and a focus for the programme of activity she
devised known as Craft Journeys, in which art is used therapeutically and explores folk
traditions. Through Craft Journeys, Shaheen has identified striking similarities between
traditional Bengali, Afghani, Indian and Pakistan folk art imagery with traditional Roses and
Castles narrowboat decoration seen widely on boats in Britain. Other common ground may be
found in the fact that in all these countries buses, trucks and boats are beautifully adorned
with paintings. The very notion of these ancient ways from once far-off lands being allied to
18th Century narrowboat decoration as an aid to enhancing social mobility in the 21st is, by
any yardstick, captivating.
Graham Fisher MBE
West Midlands Waterways Partnership