Colleen Quigley pairs Islamic design with unexpected materials at Dubai’s XVA Gallery

Colleen Quigley’s solo show Searching for Optical Wonder at XVA Gallery in Dubai presents an uncommon marriage of classical geometric patterns and techniques from 16th to 21st century Islamic design and contemporary materials, including laser-cut acrylic plexiglass and various mirrored surfaces. Quigley, who teaches painting and colour theory at Zayed University, has been influenced by Josef Albers’ colour studies of two-and three-dimensional forms, as well as Islamic patterns encountered both in Dubai’s architecture and the emerging local design scene.
The notion of reflection’s impact on viewers’ perceptions of colour and pattern is of principle importance to Quigley, who set out wanting “to see the effects of layering, and discovered that the semi-translucent qualities of some acrylic plexiglass was one way to contain very radiant colour.” To compose the Mashallah Red, Blue and Yellow series, Quigley used an encaustic process in which glazed, hand-printed hexagonal tiles were painstakingly arranged in congruent patterns, then anchored in dense beeswax, which was melted to create a shiny veneer.
When she was not experimenting with new materials in her studio, or occupying the laser cutter at local artistic hub Tashkeel, Quigley was actively researching both in the library and on foot. “I looked at old engravings of Islamic architectural details such as lattice work of ancient mashrabiya widows and ancient door knockers,” she explains. “Mashrabiyas not only filter the light but also allow one to see without being seen. Door knockers invite one to open doors. Both serve as vehicles to perceive something further.”
Visitors to the show will intuitively knock on doors and become part of the work itself as they interact with The Reflecting Wall, an installation of mirrored Islamic designs that projects distinct colour combinations and moods, depending upon where viewers are standing and the light’s attributes at any given time of day or night. •
Searching for Optical Wonder continues at XVA Gallery until October 21.


A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Colours Issue #32, on page 26