KEY to my Mapwork
Geological Maps I am drawn to the immense colours of geological maps. Through my research at the Lapworth Museum of Geology I have come to learn of the geometry formulations and geological maps around plate tectonics (movement of a place)
Silk threads – Silk Road, history, connections, stop points of rest and development for trade and commerce about trade routes.
Blanket stitch – When I am slicing open a geological map I sometimes think about the visual imagery, it feels quite cathartic to sew it back up again using a strong binding stitch like blanket stitch, almost like an incision that is healed through being sewn up. A blanket is a symbol of warmth, comfort and protection and my symbolic use of a blanket stitch is reflective of this
Tents – a symbol of refuge for the destitute and stateless
Islamic geometry – tile work in the Alhambra in Granada Spain– my place in Europe. The eight fold geometric pattern I take from the Alhambra Palace makes me feel as a Muslim I have always been a part of Europe.
Sumi ink – Japanese Ink. My link to Burnley Lancashire. My art college teacher suggesting I study the influence of Japanese woodcut prints on 19th Century Impressionist Painters. I never understood the pull of Japanese inks, brushes, embroidery until I was studying gestural mark making and book binding in Arezzo Italy
Meditation Whilst working in my studio on a reflective piece, I bring to mind the suffering of specific community/nation, and try to reflect on what might they be going through
Fabriano Paper Whilst studying in Italy I was based in Arezzo , a place close to where Fabriano paper is made. I often work with Fabriano paper as it holds the ink well, often as though it is still wet, with a glossy shine to the surface of the paper.
Calligraphy I repeat the Arabic words for peace, patience, hope, resilience, justice, fortitude and strength. Recently I was in conversation with a charity sector based in Gaza and these were also words that resonated with some local artists in Palestine.
Tallymarks I use tallymarks to document my reflections, meditations and contemplations. They have a dual reference for me, as they also signify pain and suffering in different parts of the globe
Studio work, large brushstrokes created whilst wearing a blindfold
THREADS SOLO SHOW 2019
April 26 - 10 July 2019
Shaheen Ahmed works with maps; cutting, layering and stitching to create small-scale reliefs. These sculptural objects contain tent-like elements that explore the idea of sanctuary relating to the destitute and the downtrodden and seek to reflect, more generally, on the history of global diasporic communities. The relief structures also evidence an interest in Islamic pattern work, particularly that of the Alhambra Palace, a building that symbolises, for Shaheen, the importance and longevity of the coexistence of different cultures and perspectives within Europe.
Shaheen has worked with the Ikon Gallery Birmingham, as an artists’ mentor. This took her to Karachi in Pakistan; she was subsequently, the lead artist on a related project linking schools in Birmingham and Karachi. Her recent residency at the Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham, has enabled her, through collaboration with Dr Carl Stevenson, to look at the movement of people in relation to geophysics. In 2007 she received the Alhambra Award for Excellence in the Arts.
ORT GALLERY MEMBERS EXHIBITION
April 26 - 10 July 2019
FUTURE POSSIBILITIES LAB
November 2017 to April 2018
Future Possibilities Lab (FPL) is a curatorial space exploring the connections between artistic practice and scientific data to develop new, digital, data art. FPL crosses both physical and digital spaces and brings together artists and academics to work collaboratively to interrogate research and participate in enquiry and discussion to question, subvert and inform practice.
Future Possibilities Lab is funded through an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, University Of Birmingham Public Engagement Research Funding and supported by Lapworth Museum of Geology and Sampad South Asian Arts and Heritage.
Dorothie Feilding was the Florence Nightingale of the Midlands, driving her ambulance and giving assistance to the wounded and displaced during World War One. Dorothie made reference to French Algerian Zouave soldiers in her letters of corresponence (Reference: CR2017 Feilding papers, Warwickshire County Record) on several occassions to her family back in the Uk.
'These Zouaves are wonderful troops, and something so fine about them, and their morale and bravery.'
Reading the first hand accounts of Feilding, inspired me to create 'Zouaves Standing'. My homage to Algerian Zouave Soldiers who fought in World War One. Paper Fez hats with the writings, drawings and paintings of Dorothy Fielding to create a cohesive collective narrative.
The hats are suspended from the ceiling to create the illusion of tall soldiers on guard, standing in rows. Through Dorothie's documents I find a narrative that speaks to me, has a shared history and identity I can relate to. My installation is a response to the connection I feel to these soldiers. They travelled from their homeland to fight in a War to protect the down trodden and oppressed. With an aim to achieve peace in all the lands the Zouave Soldiers bravely fought alongside their fellow comrades. The hats caste shadows on the wall behind them, leaving a ghostly pressence of their having been amongst us.
THREADS OF MIGRATION
Group Show at Qube Gallery Oswestry UK
ART AS POLITICAL EXPRESSION
Group Show as part of Festival of the Mind Sheffield University UK
2014. Digital print of 15th century Turkish map of Europe, silk thread
Group Show as part of Culture Central Birmingham UK. Money raised from the sale of this artwork was used to purchase bicycles for young Syrians living in Birmingham
SACRED KORAN PROJECT
2009 Book cover design
Celtic knot inscribed with verses from The Merciful The Holy Quran overlaid on a William Morris background
Part of National Trust, Ulfah Arts and Arts Council England
2008 - 2010
Photography: Nelson Douglas
Wightwick Manor Residency
This Maypole has been produced by Shaheen Ahmed as part of an artist residency programme at Wightwick Manor and Gardens. The work was funded through an Arts Council England West Midlands initiative called British Summertime working in partnership with Hybrid (a research and producing company) and the National Trust (Whose Story?).
Working at Wightwick Manor and Gardens, Shaheen draws upon heritage and stories that at first glance seem completely unconnected. She picks up on the history of Wightwick Manor and its inhabitants and at the same time explores the role of spirituality yesterday and today. As a textile and calligraphic artist, Shaheen explores how the games of yesterday, such as the spring Maypole traditions and customs can still resonate with us today. This became a starting point for Shaheen to link the various strands of this project. Previous owners of Wightwick Manor were married into Indian royalty, and so the spread of the Maypole dance travelled to India in times gone by.
Through the Maypole Shaheen explores how the diverse cultures and heritage of the UK have merged to shape contemporary society. Historically, traditional events such as the Maypole celebration would have contained contemporary references - about local events, people, politics and religion - giving local people an opportunity to question prevailing power and social relations.
So, for Shaheen, the Maypole represents a merging of cultures and heritage that is both relevant to the intercultural nature of contemporary Britain today but also questioning existing social normalities. Shaheen’s work challenges notions of what typifies English heritage and highlights how culture can transcend time and place.
The ribbons wrapped around the Maypole symbolise the visit by the Chinese Delegate.
When Sir Chih Chen Lofengluh, the Chinese Ambassador visited Wightwick Manor and Gardens in 1899, he was asked by a member of Wolverhampton Council ... of the binding up the feet of the female sex ...was gradually being given up in ...principal parts of the Chinese Empire.
''Ah!'' replied the attaché ''I have no doubt you English people consider that a very cruel practice. You allow your ladies in this country more freedom of action in that respect?''
''Most certainly'' said the gentleman..
''But'' added the attache (with a merry twinkle in his eyes) ''I have noticed during my residence in this country that your ...fashionable ladies have very small waists...And I was interested to learn how they accomplished it. And I was informed that the contraction of their waists was brought about by compressing them within a kind of steel cage – I think you call them corsets...Your ladies with their small waists certainly look very pretty... To my idea however, it seems rather a cruel practise to prevent Nature developing herself...in that way. You doubtless greatly admire your ladies small waists, and so ...we also admire our ladies small feet. ''
Extract taken from 'A Very Private Heritage: The Family Papers of Samuel Theodore Mander of Wolverhampton'. 1853–1900 by Patricia Pegg.
An aspect of how cultural superiority is perceived can be drawn from the above conversation. The binding of feet in China and the widespread use of corsets by women in England are two cultural similarities mirrored by the wrapping and tightening of the ribbons around the Maypole.
As Artist in Residence at Wightwick Manor and Gardens, Shaheen takes us on her journey from a study trip in Italy to learning about one of England’s archetypal artists - William Morris, a nineteenth century artist, craftsperson, designer and conservationist.
Shaheen drew upon many of the treasures contained within Wightwick Manor, particularly exploring Morris’ work, which she saw as having also been inspired by world cultures and wide-ranging cultural aesthetics. In developing his own quintessentially English expression his work was influenced by Islamic designs of nature.
It is this approach which prompted Shaheen to produce this Maypole. Her work is intricate but playful and shows us how traditions travel across the world and find their homes in unusual places. As Morris took inspiration from Islamic designs, Shaheen has taken her inspiration from both Islamic designs and Christian manuscripts, such as those found at Wightwick Manor. Combining Morris’s flowing, cursive designs with geometric patterns she has sought to complicate cultural customs and boundaries, a sense that she also seeks and finds within cultural life in the UK.