Runa Islam’s work challenges and explores the structures, materiality and histories of representation and visuality, often in relation to cinematographic and architectural concerns. Adopting diverse methods and approaches in the presentation of her work, she disrupts, alters and enhances visual and architectural space, shifting perception and drawing attention to the act of seeing.
In her last film works, the artist uses an increasingly pared-back filmic language to delve ever more deeply into questions of visuality, perception and the role of lens-based technologies in mediating how we see and understand the world. Sequences of almost abstracted images suggest the material aspects of film, the shimmer of celluloid or the grains of silver halide crystals. Her visual syntax is often so restricted that the image is all but denied. What comes to the fore is the act of looking itself. In Magical Consciousness (2010), for example, the back of a Japanese folding screen serves as an allegory for ‘the silver screen’, while This Much is Uncertain (2009-2010) relates the grain of film stock to the glittering volcanic sand found on the Italian island of Stromboli. Islam’s recent work, Emergence (2011), is a 35 mm film of a photographic print being processed in a dark room. Stripped back to a stark monochrome palette of black and red, it considers the contradictory yet closely linked relationship between the still and the moving image.
Her recent works further highlights the material shifts of film and includes Islam’s process of reclaiming the silver from exposed celluloid to create cast sculptures and drawings.
Runa Islam was born in 1970 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She lives and works in London, UK. Solo exhibitions include Verso, SFMoma (2016), Anatomical Study, Kiosk, Ghent, Dogs Devouring Horses/The Move, Arter, Istanbul (2012), Projects 95: Runa Islam MOMA, New York (2011), Runa Islam, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2011), Runa Islam, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (2010) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2010) The Restless Subject, Kunsthaus Zurich and Museum Folkwang, Essen (2008), Empty The Pond To Get The Fish, MUMOK, Vienna (2008) UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2005), Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg (2005), Camden Arts Centre, London (2005), Centre d’Art Santa Monica, Barcelona (2005) and MIT List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge, Massachussetts (2003). She has participated in many group exhibitions, including Looking around corners, Turner Contempory, Margate (2016) Fassbinder Now, Martin Gropius Bau (2015), The Present of Modernism, Mumok (2014), the 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), 6th Asia Pacific Triennale, Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2009), The Cinema Effect, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington (2008) the Turner Prize, Tate Britian (2008), Brave New Worlds, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2007) the 51st International Venice Biennale (2005), More than This! Negotiating Realities, Göterborg International Biennale for Contemporary Art (2005) and 8th International Istanbul Biennial (2003).