Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ category

Not so quick update

April 26, 2010

As I imagined things are becoming quite manic now. There are deadlines and things to remember all over the place. But, alas, this is the way of anything that has a specific pressured end such as the project.

Now I have a couple of books I’d like to mention which I was supposed to have done some time ago. Actually one of them I might have already mentioned…but I’m not sure so I’ll mention it anyway (you know, just in case).

The first is ‘Polyhedron Models’ by Magnus J Wenninger. It  contains some very striking,  but kinda complicated models of…yep you guessed it – polyhedrons. For those who don’t know what these are have a look at some of the images below. They look a little similar to the model I made a while back (Icosahedron).

A polyhedron (plural polyhedra or polyhedrons) is a geometric solid in three dimensions with flat faces and straight edges.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyhedron

Page 21 from M J Wenninger's Polyedron Models

Page 21 from M J Wenninger's Polyedron Models

Polyhedron Models illustrates how the shapes look when flat and then once constructed to their full 3D form. However, I think most of these are beyond my capability to attempt (at the moment at least) but there are some simple ones at the beginning of the book and seem less scary as the associated mathematical formulas aren’t so daunting either. Not to mention some of the names. And you’ve just got to love some of the names – e.g. Quasirhombicuboctahedron which looks something like this:

Quasirhombicuboctahedron

Quasirhombicuboctahedron - from pg 132 of M J Wenninger's Polyheron Models

And the rhombitruncatedicosidodecahedron:

Rhombitruncatedicosidodecahedron

Rhombitruncatedicosidodecahedron - from pg 30 of M J Wenninger's Polyhedron Models

I did a search on the author and found some fascinating imagea of his coloured paper creations:

3D models of 4D polytopes

3D models of 4D polytopes - by Magnus J Wenninger

Polyhedron from set number 5 - by Magnus J Wenninger

Polyhedron from set number 5 - by Magnus J Wenninger. This one would probably look brilliant if carved from stone, although I can't imagine how it could be done.

Oh and it says on this site that he is a monk. I wonder how much that has played into or influenced his interest in this kind of geometry. Have a look at his web site for more stunning photographs and more on his writing too.

On to the second book. This one is ‘Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art’ by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman. Now I heard about this book some time ago but kinda forgot about it then realised it wasn’t newly available and then recently decided to just get a second-hand copy via the net. But it’s totally worth it. If I had this book maybe a yr and a half ago I think I might have done a lot more pattern work. It was Richard Henry (teacher for the pattern-making workshop) who recommended this book to me not so long ago and I can see that it is an immensely useful, practical and encouragingly inspiring one to have. Yes a lot of superlatives but they were all intentional.

Now Issam El-Said died at the age of 50 in 1988 before he was able to finish his PhD. But in the time that he was practising his art and already doing much research into the area of geometry he managed to create some beautiful pieces and publish very informative and educational writing. His work (both academic and artistic) is still valued today and this book is only one example.

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

Hardback cover of Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art

Hardback cover of Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art by Issam El-Said and Ayșe Parman

The cover itself (hardback version) has gold calligraphy on the front (under the paper cover) which is a nice touch. And then inside there are photographs of geometric patterns from real architectural sources around the world. Besides these photos are diagrams of how those patterns have been constructed. Like really simple ways to construct them!

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art - pg 47

Page 47 from Geometric concepts in Islamic Art

Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art pg 91

Page 91 from Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art

I’ve realised that with some patterns there are a couple of ways to approach them, one being to create the foundation grid and build that up with a few layers of sub grids. This is mostly useful for when the grids might be used in multiple ways to create a pattern of maybe semi-regular tiling rather than just regular tiling. Well that’s the impression I got anyway. But the construction diagrams in this book cut a lot of the process out and show you how to get  to the final main pattern in the quickest way possible.

Unfortunately, I won’t have much time before the end of the project to try out more of these patterns.

Back to El-Said – here’s a link to web site (http://www.issam-el-said.co.uk/index2.html) in which you can read up about his history and achievements as well as find examples of his art work. Here’s one of my favourites (note the combination of Arabic calligraphy and geometry):

Allah, Mohammed (Hexagon) detail Limited edition etching 30x30cm by Issam El-Said

Allah, Mohammed (Hexagon) detail Limited edition etching 30x30cm by Issam El-Said. Image from: http://www.issam-el-said.co.uk/16253.html

Change of topic now. I’d like to mention the plug my work got on the Eastern Soul blog: http://www.easternsoul.net/2010/04/two-visual-artists-with-eastern-soul/ It’s nice to have your work appreciated 🙂

The Eastern Soul blog has been created in order to showcase artists and individuals involved in the creative arts who have added a bit of their own Eastern touch. There should be some interesting features on the blog in the coming months…

And finally on to my project developments. These aren’t going as fast as I’l like them to be. I’ve finished the pattern I was working on recently – it looks quite nice on paper and I’m about to move onto making a mirror card prototype of a sculpture using it (God willing). Here’s an image illustrating the stages of creating it:

various stages of creating 12 point star pattern using Daud Sutton's Islamic Design.

Various stages of creating a 12 point star pattern using an example from Daud Sutton's 'Islamic Design'.

I’m now trying to digitise this pattern but have faced a few errors and need to think of an alternative approach to my current one. However, I’ve been mucking about with what I have so far and for those of you who like a bit of colour:

Pat7_Splash courtesy of Sara Choudhrey :)

Pat7_Splash

And finally, we have the date for our symposium (in which all students have to do a 5 min presentation of their project) which is to be on May 5th.

The areas we have been told to cover include:

– Project overview
– Key developments during your time on the course
– Key contextual discoveries
– Post MA developments

I feel comfortable with the topics in general although the 3rd one might be a bit lengthy. We’ll need to include imagery and can either present in person or through a video/podcast. Unfortunately, I will be away the week it is due so will have less time to prepare it the way I would like to. I may have to stick to a good old powerpoint presentation – eww. Maybe I’ll try something in Flash. We’ll see.

Kinetica Art Fair 2010

February 15, 2010

If anyone went to the Kinetica Art Fair last week, I’m sure they would have been as excited as I was. One thing to note for next time – don’t stand still for too long as something will either wheel itself into you or will prod you in the back. Things were moving of their own accord (from all appearances). There were mobile-like metal structures that expanded (one of which nearly knocked me out) and there were glass and metal balls chasing each other or sticking to objects using magnets.

Most of the work required knowledge of electronics, engineering and many other hands-on crafting and technical skills to create.

Here are a few photos I took on the day (on my mobile so quality isn’t that great):

Kinetic sculpture by Hans Kooi

Kinetic sculpture by Hans Kooi

Kinetic sculptures by Hans Kooi

Kinetic sculptures by Hans Kooi

These sculptures looked amazing. Thin wire was used along with magnets both repelling and attracting pieces. This allowed for the work to look like it was floating in mid-air and also kept in place by invisible forces. It must have taken a lot of time and effort to get these as accurately placed as they were. For much better images and more of Hans Kooi’s kinetic sculptures have a look at his site: http://www.hanskooi.com/

Further sculptural work was exhibited by Davide Angheleddu who uses the laser sintering of nylon powder to create these beautiful sculptures of components from marine plankton:

Sculptures by Davide Angheleddu including Iris (the larger of the two)

Sculptures by Davide Angheleddu including Iris (the larger of the two)

Sculptures by Davide Angheleddu including Screw (far right)

Sculptures by Davide Angheleddu including Screw (far right)

For more images and information on Angheleddu’s work see his site: http://www.davideangheleddu.com/

An inspiring piece for me personally was the Moiresphere by Dianne Harris (founding director, and curator of Kinetica Museum). I tried to take photos that illustrated the construction of this piece and it actually looks more complicated in the images. There was a spinning object in the centre surrounded by mirrors on all sides including triangular shaped ones to fill the corners of the box in which it all sat. This created the illusion that there were many spinning parts and at some angles made it look like many more were to be found in hidden crevices.

Moiresphere by Dianne Harris

Looking in to the Moiresphere by Dianne Harris 2010

Moiresphere by Dianne Harris

Moiresphere by Dianne Harris

This reminded me of some of the other art works I have come across in the past that utilise the reflected kaleidoscope effect. It works every time and makes for a curiosity the audience is eager to explore and understand. I am hoping to get this kind of effect from my own work.

Another example of engaging the audience was apparent in many of the pieces where the visitor was encouraged and actually compelled to create the events. In the Hydro-Acoustic Big Bang Filter (below) you had to place your hand over a sensor in order to get the water in the tubes to rise and to create the sound. Here’s a quick explanation from their own site:

“The sound used in the installation is an audio manifestation of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB),widely believed by cosmologists and astrophysicists to be residual radiation from the Big Bang itself, some 14 Billion years ago.” (Excerpt from http://www.interactive-agents.com/kinetica_info.html)

The Hydro-Acoustic Big Bang Filter by Interactive-Agents, Robin McGinley

The Hydro-Acoustic Big Bang Filter by Interactive-Agents, Robin McGinley

Another piece which has been photographed and used a lot for the show catalogue as well as on the web site is the Homos Luminosos by Rosaline de Thelin. This was created using many fibre-optic wires which were scratched in order to have the light catch at different points within the wire. These were then placed together to create the outline of a human figure. Her work is made up of three of these figures hung to look like supernatural spirits floating just above the ground.

Homos Luminosos by Rosaline de Thelin

Homos Luminosos by Rosaline de Thelin

There were also some very simple constructions tht were very eye-catching. Liquid Athletes was designed and created by Nimra Javaid along with a group of students from Thames Valley University.

Liquid Athletes by Nimra Javaid

Liquid Athletes by Nimra Javaid

It was created using overhead projectors (the kind we used to have at school before the latest ones were installed), coloured plastic, and some tubing to allow for the water to be dropped into bowls in time to a human heart rate.

A really cool thing about the Kinetica Art Fair was that the artists were mostly around, either keeping people interacting with their work, demonstrating it, or just ready to answer any questions. One of these friendly artists was Hugh Turvey who was very willing to speak about his work, future project plans and eager for feedback too.

Various pieces by Hugh Turvey

Various pieces by Hugh Turvey

More photography by Hugh Turvey

More photography by Hugh Turvey

The added touch of colour to Turvey’s X-ray photography provides the element of heat or energy inside the objects indicating either movement and growth. It works well in plants, human body parts as well as mechanical objects like the motorbike which can be viewed on his site: http://www.gustoimages.com/portfolio/x-ray/

My final image is of Waves by Paul Friedlander. He’s widely known for his work producing Kinetic light sculptures created with a knowledge of physics. I’m not going to even attempt to summarise this so please have a look at his site where you can find a wealth of information and examples of his work: http://www.paulfriedlander.com/

Waves by Paul Friedlander

Waves by Paul Friedlander

The above image came out quite nicely but will never do justice to the live movement of the waves which you’ll have to try and see for yourself at one of his next events. The colours are beautiful and set against the dark background with minimal lighting really help them to stand out. They looked almost like spinning ropes twining around each other but never becoming tangled. ‘Mesmerizing’ would be the best word to describe it.

I came out of the fair with a real buzz 🙂

Material matter

December 15, 2009

Here is some very interesting, beautiful and inspiring work from various artists around the world. You’ll notice their work is very hands on and they utilise materials which require skills of labour not just thought and planning.

Firstly, this link was sent to me by Isaac (fellow student from MA: http://diminutos.wordpress.com/).  The following images are just a few of the pieces created by Cal Lane who I believe is still based out in Putnam Valley, New York, United States.

Shovels by Cal Lane

Patterns plasma-cut into steel shovels by Cal Lane. Image taken from http://www.callane.com/works.html

Wheelbarrow by Cal Lane

Plasma-cut steel wheelbarrow (2007) by Cal Lane. Image taken from http://www.callane.com/

Cal Lane

Large piece by Cal Lane. Image taken from http://www.callane.com/

Although Cal has chosen industrial purpose objects, they were redundant till she took them on for her work. So oil cans and large barrels now become her medium for art. In high contrast to the very masculine and rough materials and surfaces she works with, Cal applies very feminine and elaborate patterns, cutting them out to look as if she has just embroidered lace.

The dark colours and rusty look and effect of these materials creates another aspect to her work which reminds me of henna/mehndi. This is a natural dye which when applied and left to dry leaves a dark orange stain to the skin. This is usually applied with ornate patterns to the hands and feet on special occasions in the Indian-subcontinent and Arab nations:

Traditional Indian style Henna/mehndi applied to a hand. Image taken from http://redanna.blogspot.com/2009/03/henna.html

To read more about Cal Lane and how she makes these amazing pieces please visit her web site where you’ll find loads more exhibition work, background info and reviews: http://www.callane.com/

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Colourful blasts of geometric sculptures by Jen Stark, another discovery but this time from browsing through google images. The below are just a few sample of her vast work which also includes a couple of animations and drawings.

Spectral Zenith by Jen Stark. Image taken from http://www.jenstark.com/sculpture/

I’m not sure I need to spend much time explaining why I like them so much. But I must mention that they are made using paper. Yes, I know, they are cool simply based on the fact that they are hand and crafted to create and produce extraordinary shapes and designs.

The use of colour is great and something I feel I cannot dwell on too much for my own work just yet. But perhaps for a future project I will be gladly looking to her work for inspiration on colour coordination.

Radial Reverie by Jen Stark

Transfixed by Jen Stark

Eureka by Jen Stark

Eureka by Jen Stark - a monochromatic piece

I cannot recommend enough that you should have a look through Jen’s site at ALL her work not just some of it. You will be amazed: http://www.jenstark.com/sculpture/?page=sculpture

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And finally – I accidently came across Sahand Hesamiyan‘s work whilst browsing through some Iran based art sites.

My favourite pieces of Sahand’s are the ones I’ve chosen to display below. This is because they have been created with an underlying structure of geometric shapes that when contemplated further can be identified as those that appear in traditional Islamic patterns.

Untitled, composite and brass (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from http://www.sahandhesamiyan.com/

Shams Ι (Sun Ι), Black Oxidised steel (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from http://www.sahandhesamiyan.com/

Eastern Sun, composite and Aluminium (2007) by Sahand Hesamiyan. Image taken from http://www.sahandhesamiyan.com/

I got in touch with Sahand and he has very kindly replied to my enquiries about his work methodology. I sent him a few interview type questions and he directed me to this statement which he did as part of the Magic of Persia – Contemporary Art Prize 2009 of which he was a finalist: http://www.mopcap.com/finalists/statement/98

He mentions some great points about why he has chosen to focus on a sculptural presentation of these shapes which are familiar and close to the people of Iran where he is from. Here is a point he makes which I think is very significant:

The aim is to understand geometry as sculpture, which in traditional arts have always been trapped on the surface and didn’t have the possibility of presentation in the shape of independent sculpture.

I feel as if I can really relate to his aims as we both make use of shapes and forms which are closely connected to traditional Islamic patterns and yet we present them in work which is unusual for the Islamic Art scene.  I hope I do achieve my goals as well as or close to how Sahand Hesamiyan has. I find his work very inspiring and it’s great to see that he has considered the historical relevance of his work from a cultural perspective.

Have a look through more of Sahand’s work on his web site where you’ll find a range of installation and sculptural pieces and some interesting photos of how he constructs his larger pieces: http://www.sahandhesamiyan.com/html/selectwork/sculpture/eastsun/eastsuna.html

Further experimentation

November 8, 2009

Guess what?! For those who haven’t heard, we didn’t get to do our presentations in the end. Just a few minutes before we were about to start we were asked to evacuate the building because of a suspected gas leak. I swear it wasn’t a set-up 🙂

I wasn’t as prepared for my presentation as I would have liked to have been anyway (having been ill the night before) so maybe it was fate. We were not able to get back into the building for the rest of the day so I went home to finish my large reflective sheet cut-out.

Here are the pictures of the final stages of this:

Partially cut reflective card

Partially cut reflective card

cut-out pattern

Cutting completed - my A4 cutting mat looking very small in comparison to the A2 card

Layering reflective sheets

Here I layered the cut sheet on a regular sheet of reflective card - already the effect of the lighting can be seen on the wall next to it. I also like the fact that it looks like the reflection is coming from a pool of water

Projection with reflected light

By slightly curving the sheets the projected pattern forms wave-like shapes and also reflects the light at sharper angles. The layering combines the reflection of both the cut-out pattern as well as the blank sheet beneath

Layered projection

This time I placed the top sheet facing down - the effect creates a more solid pattern as this blocks the reflection from the bottom layer

I’m really pleased with how these reflected patterns have projected. My next mission is to find a way to animate the projection – if I can. The curved shape reminds me of waves or ripples and if I can get the sheet/s to move in a similar way then that would be really cool. I can just imagine some kind of handle that you would turn in a circle to get the wave into motion but I have no idea how I would build it. I guess its to do with mechanics and carpentry? I can imagine it being like an old wooden toy. However, it’s not a digital solution which is what I would prefer, but does it matter?

In my workshop this morning we looked into Arabesque, Islimi, biomorphic patterns. These terms are only slightly different in meaning but can generally refer to the same type of floral nature representative patterns. Adam Williamson (see his web site for an idea of his vast skills in this art, including hand-carved stone and murals :  http://www.adamwilliamson.com/)  is teaching this part of the short course. He  showed us a few slides of wave formations and diagrams that illustrate the movement of water behaving like a spinning spiral and the same can be seen in a vortex. He also showed us this video of Reuben Margolin who builds kinetic sculptures that recreate natural movements found in waves and even caterpillars: Maker profile of Reuben Margolin

Just a coincidence?

Nb: one of the first machines shown in the clip is the handle being turned to make the wave motion – that’s exactly what I was thinking!

Reuben Margolin - Kinetic sculptor

Still from video by Make Television on Reuben Margolin's Kinetic sculptures. Here you can see the wave in motion being turned using wooden handles

How am I going to make that? lol I think it would be a tad bit too ambitious to even go there. But I do need to keep thinking and experimenting to find alternative solutions…

Charles Avery and presentation prep

November 3, 2009

My presentation prep is as of yet nonexistent. However, I have decided that I could not bear to put anyone through me reading out the essay. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.

So what I need to do is highlight those points that I feel are most significant and important, make a page with all the images so that I can show those as I speak, and sort out a better organisation of the content. I looked through my essay earlier and realised I could have perhaps re-organised it for better reading. But then again that’s what happens when you keep going back and looking at the work you’ve already submitted and it being too late to make changes. ‘Tis not good for one’s stress levels.

The presentation is on Wednesday so an update will be up by the end of the week (IA).

Now to the work of Charles Avery. A kind friend from my saturday workshop sent me the link to the ‘Walking in my Mind’ exhibition site: http://walkinginmymind.southbankcentre.co.uk/html/exhibition as she found it very interesting to see some of the art works.

One of the artworks was the Untitled installation by Charles Avery which is very unusual and I couldn’t possibly explain it so here are the words from the exhibition site  (http://walkinginmymind.southbankcentre.co.uk/html/artists/view/charles):

Charles Avery creates drawings, charts, sculptures and texts that combine to form installations. Since 2004, his work has focused on a single, epic project, The Islanders, an encyclopaedic investigation of an imaginary island and everything it contains – its people, customs, mythology, topography, human history and bizarre natural history – as seen through the eyes of an anonymous explorer.

The image that caught my eye was that of the Eternity Chamber:

Eternity Chamber by Charles Avery

Untitled (Eternity Chamber), 2007 - by Charles Avery (Image taken from http://walkinginmymind.southbankcentre.co.uk web site)

Now, I’m sure if you have seen my recent posts you will recognise this set-up. It looks like that human kaleidoscope image with the kids playing around inside (see post Excitement begins). I like how the pattern has been placed above and below the mirrors to create the eternity of colourful triangles using a geometric grid. This is very close to an idea I was contemplating to create, except with my own patterns which have more detail and will possibly look much more complex when mirrored in such a way. I would also probably create it at a much smaller scale. But I still need to figure out how to build the thing! It’s cool to see this and the use of colours is something to consider.

So far I have kept my work black and white and I think I will continue to do so as the effect of light and shadows is very important. These effects are more visible in high contrasting colours such as black and white. But if I have time I might dabble in some coloured pieces – see how they look.

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 http://www.musliminventionsthailand.com

Muqarnas at the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Image from http://www.musliminventionsthailand.com

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.

Jameel Prize 2009 – V&A

September 30, 2009

N.B – I started writing this post on 23 August 09 but due to the essay, finishing and publishing this was delayed.

Surfing the net I discovered that the V&A had opened a small gallery with work on display from the finalists of it’s Jameel Prize 2009. You may have heard of the famous Jameel Gallery which holds some of the world’s most famous Islamic artefacts. This prize is supported by the same guy who commissioned the Jameel gallery:

The Jameel Prize is a new international art prize launched by the V&A and supported by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel. The Prize will be awarded to a contemporary artist or designer for work inspired by Islamic traditions of craft and design. (Taken from V&A’s site: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/jameel_prize/index.html)

So on Wednesday (19-08-09) I went along to take a closer look.

Firstly we come across some of the other nominated work. The most eye-catching being Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj.

It appeared that the corner of a cafe had been cut out from some foreign arab town and planted in the middle of the gallery. The vibrant colours made it stand out and the combination of prints on different textures encouraged an exploration of the ‘environment’. On close inspection I noted the Louis Vuitton covers on the seats sewn to the top of tin containers. As with every other object in this ‘salon’, the seats, tables shelf unit, all were made from everyday items. Most of which are heavily branded. It reminds me of Pakistan where, for some reason, nearly every bit of outside space is covered with advertisement and branding of popular products such as Coca-cola and Pepsi.

Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj

Le Salon by Hassan Hajjaj

On the sign next to this peice installation it said ‘Interactive Installation, Multimedia’ I was a bit confused by this because having sat on the seats and moved around the objects I could not see nor hear anything happening in response to my movements. Later it came to me that perhaps what was meant by ‘multimedia’ was the traditional concept of multiple mediums in use. And the ‘interactive’ element was perhaps the fact that you are able to sit within the environment created by the work and are able to move some of the objects around.

Having studied a BSc in Multimedia I had developed my own understanding and opinion of what Multimedia is but only after coming across varied definitions and interpretations from researchers and practitioners alike. From what I have read and seen most people would regard multimedia to consist of either digital or electronic content that responds to an action. Therefore it is reactive to it’s surroundings or to something that is done to it.

In this example I believe that the term multimedia was referring to the combined elements of print, graphics, photography, textiles and crafts that were used. Nevertheless, I think it fulfilled the interactive purpose it was intended for as, visitors felt able to sit and take pictures on the provided seating.

Next was a large piece that was very familiar to me. I had seen it at the Word into Art exhibition in Dubai a few years ago. Ana by Susan Hefuna is a wooden structure made from pieces that form a pattern in its structure. Seeing from my picture this peice also plays with the light and dark with shadows being cast by the breaks in the patterns formed by the joint pieces. The combination of arabic text and pattern make this a memorable artwork for me.

Ana by Susan Hefuna

Ana by Susan Hefuna

Moving round the gallery there is a selection of different mediums in use and all with different themes too. It gives a clear impression that there are artists who are using their specialist areas of skill allowing them to create their artforms in unique styles.

A great example of this is the work of Sevan Biçakçi a Turkish Jewellery Designer. In this collection we have 5 rings which look very ornate from the regular viewing distance. However, on closer inspection (and you can only really get so close because these have been encased behind a glass enclosure) you can see that the large gem/stones that form the centre-piece of each ring actually holds something within. One looks to be the famous mosques of Istanbul, the colourful domes being the notables features of the buildings. The rings are quite large but it still must have been a painstaking process to create the miniature scenes on an within the rings.

Two of the five rings at the V&A by Sevan Bicakci

Two of the five rings at the V&A by Sevan Bicakci - Image from Nafas art magazine: http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2009/jameel_prize_2009/images/07_sevan_bicakci

Another of the rings looks to be painted with the tiniest of mosaic murals – and if you look closely you can make out the image of a figure within this. The accuracy and detail is quite amazing and makes this entry more fun to gaze at just because you’ll be trying to spot something new. For detailed images and more information about Sevan Biçakçi you can visit his website at http://www.sevanbicakci.com/

The next entry was a recognisable name from the stylistic features of the medium you may also recognise a familiarity in it (see older post in which Abbas’s ‘Paper plates’ were mentioned: https://qunud.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/routes-waterhouse-dodd/). Hamra Abbas’ ‘Please do not step’ was stuck to the floor with an angular pesperctive to give the impression it was projected from above. It was position between the two rooms that make up the gallery and so it was impossible to pass through without stepping on the words spelt out by tiny peices of paper.

Please Do Not Step by Hamra Abbas

Please Do Not Step by Hamra Abbas

The words were constructed with Islamic patterns made from the tuck together pieces of paper, linked to form geometric shapes. On these papers were the words ‘Please Do Not Step: Loss of a Magnificent Story.’ repeated continuously. Looking on Abbas’s web site you can see that she has actually used the same method and medium in her other works and these have been presented in galleries in different ways. I still like the idea of all the small pieces being used to create a larger overall work.

Next to be mentioned is Seher Shah’s Jihad Pop. This is a massive wall piece framed behind glass but completed as a print on a very large paper. The detail is immense and the content slightly overwhelming. Taking the work in as a whole is almost impossible as you cannot see all the details from one vantage point. You can however, appreciate the work that has gone into it. You can also gauge that there are a few different topics being expressed within the peice. Firstly there is the perspective provided by architectural elements. There is then the geometric shapes that come through from this and the obvious cube formations which having been coloured black are reminiscent of the Kaaba (place of Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca and the direction to where we face when praying). Then there are all the smaller petal like shapes that conjoined look like a swarm clouding around different parts of the image.

Jihad Pop Progression 4 - Interior Courtyard 1 - by Seher Shah

Jihad Pop Progression 4 - Interior Courtyard 1 - by Seher Shah (image from http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2009/jameel_prize_2009/images/14_seher_shah)

After walking from one end to the other a couple of times I then noticed some Arabic within the details around the Kaaba. This was  ‘Bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-raheem’ which translates to ‘In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful’. This is a very well known sentence from the Qur’an which is mentioned at the start of every new chapter. It is also used regularly as an invocation by Muslims on a daily basis before performing any act (mundane or otherwise).

As there are no human figures, or any un-Islamic elements to this work, the inclusion of the above sentence says to me ‘This is Islamic Art’. With a lot of other peices in the gallery there is a link or connection to perhaps an aesthetic familiar in Islamic Art or the cultures connected to Islamic countries. But this work displays the Kaaba as well as holy words from the Qur’an. On top of this, the piece is named Jihad Pop. Jihad is an Arabic term that translates to ‘struggle’, be this internal or external. What struggles is Shah referring to? The ones faced in Islamic countries? Or by Muslims in the West?

There is a slight chaotic nature to the piece and perhaps that was intentional. Is it an indication of how Islam is misunderstood? Or maybe it is the artist’s personal reflection of it?

Regardless of reading too much into the work – I do like this piece a lot. It incorporates many different stylistic features which seem both organic and synthetic at the same time but don’t conflict with eachother.

Now on to the winning piece – 1001 Pages. When I described this to a fellow student/friend at uni she knew why this was significant. The work, on the surface, sounds very similar to what I wanted to create myself at some stage of this project, if not as the final outcome.

1001 Pages by Afruz Amighi

1001 Pages by Afruz Amighi

Some of the similarities are the use of:

  • Light
  • Shadow
  • Patterns
  • Projection

‘1001 Pages’   is made from a thin sheet of white plastic which actually seems like fabric (this sheeting is used for making tents) that has been hand-cut by a stencil burner and hung from the ceiling. It is quite large and so comes down close to ground level.

It greatly reminds me of the windows and archways found in mosques and palaces that have cut-out designs for letting light and air in – similar to what you see in the image below taken at the Grand Mosque in Muscat:

Decorative window - Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

Decorative window - Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

The design that has been cut into the sheet is a combination of geometric shapes, vegetal patterns, birds and arched windows with further patterns within. A light is then projected through the sheet to produce a replica on the wall directly behind. The shadows cast from the patterns and intricate details that have been cut produce a lovely mirror image of light playing with dark. Opposites in colour as well as atmosphere – light contrasted to dark creates some brilliant effects.

Afruz Amighi created her work as a static piece – although with it hanging in midair you wonder if a slight breeze coming through the hall will have an interesting affect on the shadows being cast on the wall.

Detail of 1001 Pages - by Afruz Amighi

Detail of 1001 Pages - by Afruz Amighi (image from http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2009/jameel_prize_2009)

This winning piece is probably an ideal example of where Islamic art has evolved. It is a contemporary piece that utilises current technology but combines hand-crafted skills too with the traditional look of Islamic patterns as used to decorate buildings and ornaments throughout it’s history. The combination of the two allow for the work to also seem timeless but with the added knowledge that geometric patterns go beyond cultural associations because it has a connection with universal aesthetics – i.e. nature and proportion, golden ratio, etc. Then there is the fact that this work could be termed as ‘digital art’ and is moving with the trends – keeping up with the latest form of artistic expression or perhaps just presentation. Whatever the purpose, it doesn’t detract from the look and feel that is generated, if anything it seems approriate to have a projector within a gallery space. And a gallery space which is dedicated to current art work rather than antiques. Islamic Art is alive and thriving!

And to prove this I am aiming to create an installation that is interactive, so hopefully with the incorporation of my chosen design and technical elements the work will be of interest to those viewing it, and possibly fun too. And as we all know this should make it more memorable too.

For more information about the Jameel Prize please visit the official V&A page: http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/jameel_prize/index.html

And for further imagery and reviews please see Nafas Art Magazine’s article: http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2009/jameel_prize_2009/