Archive for October 2009

Workshop pattern

October 29, 2009

The following images show the stages gone through in order to produce the final cut-out pattern seen at the end of this post. The steps in creating this classic 8-fold rosette tiling were set by Richard Henry in the Saturday workshop.

I completed this partly in the class itself following a worksheet he provided and then finished it off at home. I’m not even quite sure if I tiled the final stages correctly but I have to admit I am quite pleased with how it turned out 🙂


First few stages is getting the overall block shape of the Khattam down (two slightly rotated squares - one atop the other)


Using the shapes produced within the larger tile walls we found where the octagonal shape is formed, and then the 8-fold rosette within this (dashed lines)


At home I continued by re-producing the rosette in four other squares by tracing the orginal one to retain accuracy

Each stage was done on a new sheet of tracing paper as I like to preserve the stages. This also helps me to remember how I got from one stagee to another if I need to recreate it.


I then created thicker edges by adding two lines on the outer and inner sides of all existing lines that form the rosette petals. This adds a thick border to allow for a weave effect


Using another sheet of tracing paper I went over only the outer and inner lines but weaving each under and over the intersecting lines.

Detail of weaving - was a bit tricky at some points but still fun trying to figure it out

Detail of weave effect - was a bit tricky at some points but I really enjoyed figuring it out


I photocopied the final pattern and cut it out to create a stencil. This is the photocopied cut-out against a black background


I then used the stencil to draw and cut out a black sheet filled completely with the pattern


And this is the final black cut-out of the full pattern repeat. Can you see the cube that is formed in the centre?

A very busy few days but worth the effort.

Reflective light projection

October 25, 2009

I wonder if the title depicts what I actually mean by it. Well images are always useful in these circumstances. I’ve been to the art shop recently and, as mentioned in a recent previous post, I decided to pursue the idea of using reflections. I found some reflective sheets of card (quite large A1 size) and had one placed on a box in my room lying flat but parallel to the wall. The light in my room was hitting off of the sheet and this was bounced/reflected on to the wall where it was casting some oddly shaped lines.

I then placed a cut-out pattern directly on to the reflective card – that was a good move. The card was slightly curved and as a result the light and pattern was also curved in its projective state on the wall.

Light reflected from card on to wall

Light reflected from card on to wall

I moved the sheet slightly higher and deepened the curve and the results changed too:

Twisted projection of pattern with reflected light

Twisted projection of pattern with reflected light

I was pleased to see how the small changes in the curves and placement of the card could create many variations of patterned shapes. This led to another few sample work ideas for installation pieces. These would probably be stand alone pieces as part of the wider range of work presented.

I then pulled some of the above photos in to Photoshop and experimented with colouring and was able to produce a hightened contrast by darkening the images and layering and rotating them. The light stands out better here and looks like a hologram or a laser display:

Digitally manipulated image from reflective light series

Digitally manipulated image from reflective light series

General Update on activities:
I have also been able to find some 3D geometric template sheets online to cut out and assemble. These are small and tricky to stick together but I managed to get them to hold for a few seconds while I took a couple of images. The really hard part will be figuring out how to apply a pattern to these shapes that has a similar underlying grid to the shapes they are made up from. For example for a dodecahedron there will need to be a construction with a pentagon tiling and for the icosahedron an equilateral triangle.

Flat template of for making a dodecahedron - printed from

Flat template of for making a dodecahedron - printed from



An icosahedron prior to assembly - printed from

An icosahedron prior to assembly - printed from

Icosahedron - just before it fell apart

Icosahedron - just before it fell apart

I may need to create a large-scale pattern on a large flat sheet first and then outline the template to cut out from this with correct placement and hope it sticks together right. In practice I will probably get it all wrong – still, no harm in trying.

Pattern-making workshop
I’ve joint a 10-week workshop where we are creating traditional Islamic patterns being taught by Richard Henry. He teaches with Birkbeck as well as with schools and also creates artwork himself. He was also taught by Keith Critchlow so I think we’re in good hands!

Richard’s worksheets are very easy to follow and start from basic circle formations to developing full pattern constructions. Some of the patterns are similar to those I’ve done already but Richard’s approach to constructing them seem easier and sometimes more practical. I wanted to take the class to see how things could be done perhaps with short-cuts or to make some of the stages quicker with ‘best-practice’. Many a handy tips have been passed on already. It has also affirmed some of the general things I’ve picked up about pattern-making and the things I need to be aware of (for example I thought it was just me when my compass would slightly alter itself). All in all I’m really enjoying it.

To have a look at some of Richard Henry’s work visit his web site:

Gender, War and Chadors – by Canvas magazine at the British Museum

October 20, 2009

This panel discussion on the topic of ‘Gender, War and Chadors’ in relation to Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, took place on Monday 12th October.

The panel consisted of three professionals with relevant experience and interest in this genre of art: Saleh Barakat (Curator and Gallerist, Lebanon), Rose Issa ( Independent Curator, Lebanon and Iran) and Dr Venetia Porter (Senior Curator of Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern Art at The British Museum). This panel was moderated by Dr Anthony Downey (Programme Director, MA in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art).

For official information andbackground into on the panellists please view this link from the Canvas Magazine site:

The audience was an interesting mix of curators, researchers, critics and artists.

The talk lasted an hour and addressed issues that have cropped up for me during my research in the last year. Some of the issues mentioned were the lack of investments in Middle Eastern Art, it’s identity and how it is different to Islamic Art, why it is not considered as contemporary art when it should be and why it is usually grouped as ‘Middle-Eastern’ and sometimes ‘Islamic’ art when this is sometimes clearly a confining label or even a mistaken label for the work in question.

Here are a few notes I took. Some of this may be direct quotes or my own extension of what was said by one of the panellists:

– Defining the Middle-East as a region is becoming the subject being discussed rather than the work itself. It seems to be a Western pre-occupation. Whereas people within the Middle-Easter don’t think about it that much and sometimes not at all.

– There seems to be a problem with the local and regional infrastructure in the Middle-East which is causing a slow movement of work and communication. The knowledge is not travelling. Whether this is in terms of publishing work/writings or in trying to set up an exhibition – it takes much longer and much more effort compared to London and other European or US cities.

– Middle-Eastern art is not being taught anywhere as a comprehensive subject. You can learn the European classics anywhere, but there is no recognised institution where you could say straight off your head, for example for  ‘where a PhD in Middle-Eastern art’ should be completed, there certainly is nowhere to do this in the Middle-East. Dr Venetia Porter said that she is approached by many students asking where she would recommend they continue further studies in this subject. SOAS was mentioned as a good place as it covers the languages and culture studies.

Once the talk was finished I managed to grab some apple juice, munch some olives and a few minutes of Dr Venetia Porter’s time. A very nice and friendly lady, she was very encouraging about further studies in the contemporary Islamic art field. I mentioned my project for the Visual Arts MA I am doing and she was glad to hear that I had found a way to combine contemporary art practice with traditional creative methods from the Islamic world. As she had mentioned the lack of postgraduate courses that suit this area I was able to say that this is my way of dealing with that problem. As it happens I think my situation could not be more ideal. I have managed to set the objectives of my project to suit both the learning outcomes of the course syllabus as well as my own goals of producing contemporary Islamic art.

I departed with a smile on my face and the encouragement from Dr Venetia Porter spurring me on.

More patterns

October 15, 2009

I have a tendency to say too much so this time I am just going to add a load of pictures of my latest pattern-making endeavours. The images below are the initial stages of creating a pattern to be used for some of my sculptural experiments. You will see the stages I go through from start to finish.

Using my favourite book and following the instructions as layed out in Islamic Design: Genius in Geometry by Daud Sutton

Using my favourite book and following the instructions in Islamic Design: Genius in Geometry by Daud Sutton

Continuing stages as the pattern takes shape

Continuing stages as the pattern takes shape

Final stages before tiling - hand cutting parts if the pattern

Final stages before tiling - hand cutting parts if the pattern

Using the new cut-out to trace a repeated/tiling pattern on to large black sheet of paper

Using the new cut-out to trace a repeated/tiling pattern on to large black sheet of paper

Cutting out the full pattern from the black paper

Cutting out the full pattern from the black paper

Sample of the final version - white sheet beneath the black to show the cut-out pattern

Sample of the final version - white sheet beneath the black to show the cut-out pattern

Placing the photocopied stencil within the lampshade to trace the pattern

Placing the photocopied and slightly altered stencil of full pattern within the lampshade to trace. This will then be cut out, again, by hand.

More images will be added soon to show the final stages of this process.

Excitement begins

October 3, 2009

I am experiencing a surge of brainstorming (I am told this is no longer a P.C word but I can’t remember what the new term is so no offence to anyone) in relation to the work I must complete by December for my assessment.

We’ve been told we should have something along the lines of a proto-type complete for that stage in our course but with all these new and exciting ideas I want to have more than just one project outcome.

I am very excited about creating the physical pieces that reflect the research I’ve been doing for the last year and have been particularly thinking about the space in which my work will be displayed,shown or installed.

There are many different ways a person can present their work and these have inspired me to think of all alternatives – not just as Plan B’s in case my main work doesn’t turn out how I wish but also as accompaniments.

At the moment I am contemplating having 3d shapes with patterns either on, around or made up from the patterns. It’s hard to explain this so I’ll leave it to when I have some pictures once I get experimenting with the shapes.

I have been doing some very bad sketches in my notebook in order to consider how lighting needs to be placed within a rectangular room for example. There also the need to consider where a person might enter from and how they may navigate through the space according to what first comes into their sight. This is very important because I am planning to have my work illuminate itself based on the viewer’s movement into the space. They need to be able to see where to go for safety reasons but it also needs to be dark enough for the light to make the right kind of effect when it comes on. I also need to consider if my work will be one large focul piece or made up of three or four pieces.

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 1 of sketches and notes

Page 2 of sketches and ideas

Page 2 of ideas

These sculptures/shapes also need to fit to either the walls, floor or ceiling but with the light source either pointing towards or from behind them. Once again I won’t know which is best till I try it out. The light source itself is also something I am looking closely into. In my last tutorial Andy and I discussed sensor activated lighting and he agreed this may be the right thing for me to use. I’ve had a look at PIR lighting products and am trying to find something wireless which would be less of a safety concern as well as less shabby looking once up. Pricing is also a factor and how it might be fitted to walls/ceilings.

Another really cool idea I had was to have a sort of very large 3d hollow shape, perhaps made from card or papier mache (or maybe something a bit like stiff canvas or whatever is used to make lampshades), hanging from the ceiling but high enough off the ground to allow someone to pass under it. As they would come closer it would light up and then they would be standing beneath it. When they look up into the work they would see layers of shapes cut into the material and these would overlap so that the shadows and holes would create an ever complicated pattern. What I imagine in my head certainly looks quite spectacular. I wonder if I can actually achieve it.

It reminds me of the Muqarnas found in many mosques around the world, some of the most famous being at the Al-Hambra in Spain and at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran as seen in the image below. It is a very interesting architectural feature which I will just show you instead of trying to explain:

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from

And yet at the same time what I have imagined also reminds me of a kaleidoscope. As my youngest sister was sitting next to me as I jotted this down I asked her if she knew what a Kaleidoscope was. She’s ten years old and, well, her generation is quite different to mine so I can well imagine that they aren’t likely to be as familiar with a non-electronic/digital toy such as a good old kaleidoscope. And I was right, she didn’t know what it was so I did a quick search and had a look through google images as I explained it to her. I then came across this very interesting image of a human mirrored kaleidoscope:

These kids are clearly having fun, and it means they are engaging with the space too. The effect is brilliant and I think if I could adopt this in some way but have my patterns in there too then it would just be sooo good. But I’m not sure if it would be over ambitious for me to go down this route, least of all because I’d have to actually build an enclosed space with mirrors inside. Or maybe I could make a cheap and tatty/plasticky version? We’ll see. But the use of mirrors is certainly worth keeping in mind.

All in all I am really getting into this and I knew it would be the stage I would enjoy the most. I may be thinking about some of the aspects of the installation a little to early but this is how I have always worked – I like to get down to the nitty gritty much in advance so that I have contingency time as well as other work in place if needed.