The word khaliya خلية, pl. خلايا khalâya, from a root which means “void, empty space”, refers to the cell, both in the body or in the beehive. It is a close relative to khalwa خلوة, the monk’s cell or hermit’s retreat. The beehive is the dominant note for this modular piece, which evokes simultaneously the cells filled with honey and the flowers that provided it. The geometry is relieved by the irregular gradation of the colours and by the variation within each hue. At the centre, an empty space reminds us of the core meaning of the word; the whole piece is in itself one cell.
This work was conceived in a very unusual way; the idea was suddenly there – so suddenly I can’t recall what brought it about – and I knew what it would look like before I knew what word it was. I never work this way because I don’t force words into shapes, both the concept and the design need to arise from the word. Yet when I was looking for a fitting word and checked the word for “cell”, I was astounded to find that خلية was perfect for the design, with the tall ل in exactly the right place (which is off-center by one unit), and required no manipulation whatsoever. How that happened is still a mystery to me, but it made me trust the idea, although it was such a novel one that until the last piece was in place, I had no idea where I was going. And only after it was completed and hanging on my studio wall, did I discover that it was all about the shadows.
How it looks with and without shadows:
Different light and angles: