We speak to artist Shaheen Ahmed about her practice, influences and current exhibition Threads at Gallery Maison Mayci, Birmingham, on view until 10 July.


Prayers for Palestine and beyond, Shaheen Ahmed

Can you tell me more about the processes of making your works? Where are the maps sourced from and from where are your patterns derived?

I manipulate flat maps into the 3D kirigami structures using Geometric patterns. I often use pure silk thread to sew up the tent like structures I create. I sometimes add tallymakrs to the maps to denote minimal meditative marks. The maps I work with are sourced from Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham. There is a clear political undercurrent to your work which has to do with migration and geographical borders.

Can you explain more about this?

I’ve been developing this body of work for the past ten years, in which time there has been a global shift towards mass migration and suffering. It’s this overload of pain and despair that I see around the globe that makes me use my artwork as a form of therapy.

What can visitors expect from your current exhibition at Maison Mayci?

In the words of a recent visitor to the exhibition: ‘beautiful, intricate and delicate yet so powerful.’

Primordial Sanctuary (detail), Shaheen Ahmed

Can you tell me more about some of the recent projects you have undertaken with Ikon Gallery, and at the University of Birmingham and Lapworth Museum? How have these fed into your practice?

I was head hunted by Ikon on the strength of my art practice to mentor artists from Pakistan, along with working in two primary schools within Birmingham. For both of these projects I helped answer specific briefs around script, mark making, creative block, writing skills as well helping pupils design a logo and display area/bookcase. My time at Lapworth Museum was varied from responding to a symposium, teaching, working with a scientist and researching maps. All of this along with my study trip to Italy to learn bookbinding and gestural mark making has helped feed my art practice immensely, from adding a blanket stitch within my map work, to using brush and ink work, to working with maps and 3D structures.

What are your ambitions for your practice in the longer term?

I’d like to carry on sewing up maps within my studio. I feel there is quite some mileage within this technique and would like to explore this further through textiles and garments. I will continue with my brush and ink series on paper and 3D kirigami. I am also working towards creating a light installation at STEAMhouse.