[Halima Cassel with her much acclaimed sculptures at the Cosmopolitan Ceramics Centre]
By Nailah Dossa
Born in 1975 in Pakistan and brought up in Manchester, England, Halima Cassell’s varied multicultural background is undeniably represented in her work. Halima studied 3D Design at the University of Central Lancashire, 1994-7, specializing in ceramics, followed by an MA in Design, which she completed in 2002. Thus, allowing her unbridled talent, natural creativity and passion for the arts to grow to great heights.
She has been termed an ‘Awe-inspiring role model’ by International Gallerie as she is one who has overcome barriers in both her personal and professional life to pursue her artistic practice. The overview of Halima’s work can be described as intense yet playful, structured yet creative; substantial yet dynamic and invariably compelling in its originality.
On October 9 I was able to view her much acclaimed sculptures at a private viewing in the Contemporary Ceramics Centre. Seeing it up close, one is able to appreciate the contours of the artwork as well as the distinct surface patterns and overall geometrical symmetry. I was then granted an interview as she surveyed others gush over her work in the gallery.
Tell me something about your design process and your influences.
My influences would be the love of architecture and math. In regard to design processes I kind of work with mathematical form as well as repeat patterns and geometry and I think that’s the main inspiration for my work.
So is it safe to say that you love math?
Math and art were the two subjects I loved at school. They were actually the two I was good at, the other ones I hated. So I guess that affects how you learn but math and art were the two I absolutely adored.
Your work is described as a combination of strong geometric elements with recurrent patterns and architectural principles, which utilizes definite lines and dramatic angles. Can you expand on that?
I think my love for North African design with the repeat patterns and the geometry comes from the math. The architectural principles, the way I carve both the inside and the outside of the surface of my sculptures kind of relates to my love of architecture how the inside and outside of a building kind of works together. So the structures sort of work from inside within, so that kind of affected my work as it developed.
Where did the passion for geometrical design come from? Math?
From the love for Math yes but also I’ve always liked repeat patterns and tessellations and the structure and patterning you find of a lot of beautiful buildings. Being brought up in Manchester and Liverpool, it’s quite rich with architecture and also being brought up in a very Islamic influenced background where a lot of the carvings and calligraphy you see in pictures and the books, I think it all adds in to the way I work. The enjoyment is not in reading the letters but looking at how they’ve been drawn, the structure of them and also the 3D elements in calligraphy.
Would you say your art style has changed over the years?
It’s definitely developed and I think for any artist it’s important to develop and I’m getting more experimental and the work is becoming more and more challenging by working with different materials and different scales of work.
Most sculptures depict some sort of human form. Why don’t you experiment with human form in your sculptures?
I think that’s something that subconsciously happened. In college I did a lot of life drawing but I think my work just naturally developed in the direction my heart went to rather than subconsciously doing it that way. To my heart I think the whole mathematics, architecture aspects is far more important.
Why sculptures? Why not oil painting or other forms of art?
Because of my love for architecture, the tangible kind of relief of a building that you entail when you walk past it, touching the carvings, what’s been hand carved and chiseled and I would just touch things. And when people say to me in museums, exhibitions and galleries ‘Oh it’s difficult I wanted to touch them’ and I think that’s how I always felt with architecture. People want you to connect with the work and want you to touch and feel it and I think it’s quite important.
In the future do you think you would focus on sculptures of a larger scale size?
Yes, I have been doing so in the last five years. I had an exhibition in Canary Wharf and the work scaled from 21 foot, so there were different scales of work there and also different materials.
Do you plan to span out from your current work?
Yes I hope to one day design a building but I think that to be able to do something that I love so much. It’s always going to be an inspiration deriving new ideas and possibilities.
What are your future plans?
To have more children! For my future I just want my work to be able to develop and experiment and explore and do more research with new commissioners and new projects which always inspire new possibilities.