Squaring the Circle: Layla Juma

28 September - 31 December 2021

Aisha Alabbar Gallery is pleased to present Squaring the Circle by Emirati artist Layla Juma. In her first solo exhibition at the gallery, Juma explores the complexities of subtle states, finding balance by merging physical forms with abstract ideas. The artist sees shapes not as we see them but as dynamic beings with the potential to align despite their unique properties. Squaring the circle becomes a challenging process that looks for overlapping points in disconnected areas and blurs the divide between rational perception and experimental methods.


An architectural engineer trained to imagine and reimagine possibilities, Juma studies compositions of seemingly simple experiences. Drawing lines between points – visible and invisible – often resulting in irregular forms, shapes and sequences, which she traces to the links between elements of being. 


Aware that there are infinite variations, combinations, and ways of seeing connections throughout the universe, Juma visualizes slices of how beings are connected. Whether the being is a feeling, a microscopic organism, a colour, a shape, a house or a city, it is a part of nature that constantly attracts new connections even when it seems detached. Juma’s work addresses ‘connecting’ as a boundless idea.


Untitled Houses (2005 – 2011) is a series of urban landscapes and houses painted from memory. The artist contemplates her childhood home and what it has become. She meticulously highlights multiple perspectives by repeating lines and accents of vivid colours, outlining the feeling of being connected to the same place at different stages.


In Humans 2 (2015), a pair of black and white digital prints, Juma visualizes connections, intersections, and circles of communication between human beings. Speaking on the work, she explains, ‘We think we are connected because of what we know about each other, but sometimes there are shared experiences that connect us unknowingly.’


Lonely Creatures (2010) is a playful painting series where the artist speaks to the intersection between internal and external connectedness. In solitude, the cartoon-inspired figures experience cycles of reflection and deflection, eventually morphing, or in some cases multiplying, into the same beings with slight variations. Another time-based process is explored in Water Sculpture (Splash) (2010). Embodied in layers of curvy stainless steel, an architecturally balanced structure emphasizes those unplanned connections made in states of random change, such as the physical act of splashing water.


These intuitive and reflective processes rely on imagination, in which Juma’s paintings, sculptures, and digital works expand beyond the confines of the physical object. But, like the geometry challenge of squaring the circle, it cannot be resolved rationally in a finite number of steps.