Archive for the ‘Essay and/or related to’ category

Content for presentation

November 4, 2009


Understanding the origins, influences and contemporary developments

  • What is Islamic Art?
  • A brief history of Islamic art and the early influences on this art
  • Establishment of traditional Islamic Art
  • The movement of Islamic art practice from the East to West
  • The rise of contemporary Islamic Art

“The term ‘Islamic art’ refers not only to the art made for Islamic practices and settings but also to the art made by and for people who lived or live in lands where most – or the most important – people were or are Muslims, that is believers in Islam. The term is, therefore, used somewhat differently than such comparable terms as ‘Christian’ or ‘Buddhist’ art: Islamic art refers to the arts of all Islamic cultures and not just to the arts related to the religion of Islam.”

Islamic Arts (Art & Ideas), Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, Phaidon Press Ltd (Jun 1997)

Figure 1 - leaf from Kufic Qur'an folio,  manuscript on vellum. First half 10th century

Figure 1 - leaf from Kufic Qur'an folio, manuscript on vellum. First half 10th century. Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 3

Figure 2 – Qur’anic manuscript on buff paper, late 15th century

Figure 2 – Qur’anic manuscript on buff paper, late 15th century. Image from Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 11

Beautification of the Qur’an was encouraged with the repeated mention of perfection and beauty in the Qur’an. And the reported saying (Hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

“Almighty Allah is Beautiful (splendid in His perfection) and loves beauty.”

However, the ban against using imagery with people or animals originates from the following Hadith where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said:

“The most severely punished of people on the Day of Resurrection will be the image-makers, those who tried to imitate the creation of Allah.”

As Muslims adhere to the teachings of both the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the actions and sayings of the Prophet), the above comment becomes quite important in a religious context.

Figure 3 - Early Islamic High tin bronze ewer, Central Asia 8th/9th centruy

Figure 3 - Early Islamic High tin bronze ewer, Central Asia 8th/9th centruy (Image from Christie’s auction catalogue: Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, London 31 March 2009, pg 32)

Detail of calligraphy and patterns on Dome of the Rock

Detail of caligraphy and patterns on Dome of the Rock - Image from Salaam web site: (last accessed 14/09/09 00:35)

Arabic Calligraphy

Proportioned alphabet in Arabic calligraphy

Proportioned alphabet in Arabic calligraphy - Image from (last accessed 15/09/09 01:18)

Kaf ha ya ayn sad, by Osman Waqialla

Kaf ha ya ayn sad, by Osman Waqialla - Ink and gold on vellum laid down on cream coloured paper, 1980 (Image from,_kaf_ha_ya_ayn.aspx, last accessed 031109, 23:23)

Fine Art

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia

Ghost by Kader Attia


Geometry and pattern-making

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton, pg 8

Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton

Figure 13 - Illustration from Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry, Daud Sutton, pg 9

Desert Rose by Zarah Hussain

Desert Rose by Zarah Hussain, Hand-ground watercolour on Khadi paper, 50cm x 50cm (2004) - Image from (last accessed 041109, 00:32)

Still image from Beauty of abstraction installation by Zarah Hussain

Still image from Beauty of abstraction installation by Zarah Hussain (Image from (last accessed 041109, 00:40)

Digital art

Digital print of canvas art by Sara Choudhrey

Digital print of canvas art by Sara Choudhrey

Space, shape and light by Sara Choudhrey

Figure 18 - Space, shape and light by Sara Choudhrey

Image from Reflective Light series - Sara Choudhrey

Light projection with reflective layer - Sara Choudhrey

Gold pattern cut-out

Gold reflections - Sara Choudhrey

Layering reflective sheets

Layering reflective sheets - Sara Choudhrey

Ripples - Sara Choudhrey

Ripples - Sara Choudhrey


Light projection with reflective sheets - Sara Choudhrey

Essay is done – or is it?

September 28, 2009

I think I’ve finished my essay but I have this uneasy feeling that it could be better. Actually I know it could be  but I’ve already done wayyy too much and I am in danger of turning it into a book, maybe not a bestseller but still a book.

Admittedly the first couple of thousands of words are mostly to do with historical background, the rise of Islamic art and its early influences. This is the part that I’m not sure about in terms of writing style. I seem to find it easier to do descriptive and analytical writing rather than structuring historical facts in an interesting way. I know what’s it’s like to be bored from reading things and I wouldn’t want to be the cause of it for someone else.

The rest of the essay is focussed on the rise or emergence of contemporary art in the Middle East and the rest of the world. I have divided Islamic art into four categories and then go on to discuss the work of four artists/practitioners, each of whom fits one of the categories.

I would love to get the essay proof-read by someone but not only is there not much time (it’s due tomorrow I think) but I also know that it’s a lot to ask of someone. Too late now anyway.

Anyway, although it was hard to get off the ground at first, once I knew what I was doing I really enjoyed conducting research for this paper. I could happily continue in this subject and explanding my ideas for the rest of the year whilst producing the practical side of the projects outcome.

Tutorial – 23/09/09

September 28, 2009

Camberwell College of Arts

MA Visual Arts Course (Digital Arts)

23rd September 2009


Issues discussed/Subject:

– Still wondering about the suitability of the title of my essay

– Andy had a quick look at my renewed abstract and was pleased with the questions raised in this, especially that of whether common perceptions of Islamic Art being bound by the religion are true.

We also discussed how it could be slightly restructured to allow for the conclusion to suggest what I will prove by the end of the paper.

– Discussed practical issues related with exhibiting my art work later in the year. Electronic aspects such as lighting solutions and the kind of sensors I could use in a safe way to meet my needs.

– Discussed the importance of light in different cultures – spiritual relevance in its use

Actual notes taken in tutorial:

In regards to abstract: move last questions up a bit – possibly add on to the first about assumptions and remove very last question.

Is the the didgital era bringing in more to the Islamic art scene? Add to the first question about assumptions: ‘as the digital era is maturing, is this really the case?’

Conclude with ‘this paper will set out to prove/illustrate the relationship between Islamic Art and theological thinking…’?

In the last paragraph expand on what may be concluded from studying the subject and in trying to find the answers – although it is not always the case that an answer is found, or that it was found to be what you thought it would.

Eletronics and hardware – use of sensors that will be usable in the kind of installation that I would like to construct: PIR motion sensor lights. Need to look into which products are available, pricing, set-up and safety/compatibility. Can they be plugged straight into a regular socket?

Consider the sculptural aspects – what will they look like? 3d shapes – of what kind?

How will the light source affect the patterns cast from or projected by the sculpture? There will be some distortion but this will be a play on space and physical perception. The viewers interaction with the space will also have an affect on this.

|-> how does this effect the concept of geometry and related themes?

The distortion can be said to be related to human sense of order being disturbed – the patterns becoming irregular after actually being constructed and displayed on a flat surface as being very much regular and ordered. Move closer to the light source – does the pattern change? in what way? does this relate to a person moving closer to something in a spiritual sense?

Light means a lot to people in different ways but has a very significant role in most cultures and religions and so seems apt to use this in this installation to encourage people to explore the patterns as well as it’s symbolism.

Abstract writing and essay discussion

June 30, 2009

The deadline for handing in the Abstract for the essay was on Monday (22/06).

I have to say I haven’t procrastinated as much since needing to do revision for my final yr at uni. Choosing a title for the essay was very difficult so I decided to stick to something simple and to the point for now and then refine it later to make it more relevant to how my essay shapes out.

So the Title (for now) is Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art – can it be defined?

I have to admit I struggled to do this as I kept wanting to include so much information without as many words. I ended up with about 3 drafts and still was not very happy with what I had. Some of it didn’t even make sense:

Islamic art encompasses many artworks that were produced within Islamic dynasties of centuries old and stems right the way through these to today’s work produced by artists currently living and working across the globe. One may assume that the link that binds these works is the faith of Islam. Is this a correct assumption? The definition of Islamic Art has been disputed by many as it is believed by some to be broad and with significant historical background to take in to consideration.

It also takes into account the emigration of people from one land to another (sometimes to and other times away from Muslim lands). Have they been restricted by their own society? If they are not practising the religion of Islam, are they Muslims that can be relied on to paint a picture of the cultural scene at that moment?

The evolution of design and aesthetics, tastes, technology and materials are also an important aspect that shaped the current Middle Eastern and Islamic Art scene not to mention historical events such as September 11th. Are we trying to understand the East? Do we get a realistic picture?

A very recent exhibition held at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2009) ‘Unveiled: New art from the Middle East’ brings together such examples of varied artworks. Similar collections for public view have been gathered in New York’s Modern Art Museum and in the Louvre, France. By comparing the array of subject matters addressed in the artworks we can gauge that certain topics such as political divisions, social unrest, religious conflicts and freedom of speech are prominent and therefore of high importance.

These are, however, negative aspects that have been highlighted for almost a decade now as the media has increased the reporting on the various ‘wars on terror’. Is this a means of communicating and informing the West of Middle Eastern ideology? Is it succeeding? Which artworks are of a positive and more inclusive nature?

Following the rule that art is a representation of public sentiment, is it fair to say that the art work on show in current exhibitions of Contemporary Middle Eastern Art is within the correct context to be termed as Islamic or Middle Eastern? If it is not accepted within the boundaries of the social rules from which it derives, is it feasible to draw a true picture of the culture and themes they are said to represent?

I then sent an email to a friend/peer with the following to explain what I was trying to say in my abstract and I think it came out better than the actual thing:

In layman’s terms I guess I’m trying to say that people living outside of Islamic borders (physical or not) are producing the artwork that is termed ‘Islamic’ yet their only link to Islam is sometimes their origins. This could then be argued from various p.o.v’s – it’ just that I need it to be presented as more of a question than a statement so that I can argue the different views.

I also want to bring in the idea that their rebellion against their homelands restrictions is the reason they left those places and that those restrictions are what their work may sometimes centre on. This is certainly the impression given through the exhibitions that are around at the moment – negative stuff seems to pull in the crowds?

In some cases they may be going against the acceptable social behaviour/beliefs and perhaps can’t be termed as ‘Islamic or Middle Eastern’ because it’s not a majority view? As in not truly representing the cultures and lives of the Muslims but only a snapshot of certain aspects. Once again if I make this more of a question I can give different views.

The angle I was going to take was one of the West trying to understand the East. In the essay itself I’d like to mention very briefly the events since Sep 11th and how they’ve shaped the Islamic art and Middle East art movement to become more globalised but still centred on topics such as politics and war.

I knew I’d get some useful feedback from Andy and the other part-timers (Esmeralda, Rupert and Isaac) who were also discussing their essays. So even though I wasn’t happy with what they’d be reading (as in my hand-in) I knew it was a necessary step in order to make progress.

In regards to the title – this was said to be fine. I could make it more specific to the content I was writing by adding an additional line in the style of a slogan of some sort.

The first paragraph was ok too but could do with a definition of Islamic Art – perhaps as a quote.

Actual notes I took:

Look on wiki for tips on ‘how to write a research question’
Can the work be defined by curatorial agenda?

Near the start of the essay mention certain practitioners that are challenging or engaging with the assumption (mentioned in current draft). Some may say their work is more than ‘belief’ or other angles to their creative process – this is a key element and could prove to be very interesting. There is a distinction between reflecting the faith or the creative process (?)


Stay away from media as a subject area – e.g. much has already been said about Sep 11th and it could veer off into other directions so best to stay clear of it.


Alhambra is a very good example of where Eastern and Western creative processes merged (various reasons) but techniques of both styles were adopted and embraced by both the locals and foreigners. Focus on the sparks between the East and West.


Using the examples given in the 4th paragraph – specify artists/practitioners who are expressing these things

war and victimisation – is this just a current theme?

Maybe discuss the art scene in the context of culture being embedded in religion and that it cannot be separated.

Can still mention Saatchi’s intentions – knowing that the public is aware of what is going on in the Middle East, they will be more inclined to come to an exhibition that gives an insight to that culture.

So now I know to concentrate on a few particular artists who seem to be making a name for themselves in contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art. I guess I should look into what their motivations are and the subject matters they like to express the most and more importantly their choice of medium.

Once again my to-do list is piling up. I have a feeling I won’t get round to doing the bulk of my tasks till the summer break by which time I’ll probably start panicking about the 2nd year! The pressure will probably do me some good though and hopefully snap me out of the procrastinary stage I seem to be stuck in.