Posted tagged ‘Arabic calligraphy’

Emerald Art and Photography Exhibition

August 20, 2009

Last week (08-08-09) I attended the Emerald Art and Photography Exhibition at the County Hall Gallery in London.  There was to be the unveiling of the winner of a recent photography competition, and the ‘world debut exhibition’ of selective Islamic Artists. So I forked out the £35 knowing that these kind of ‘Islamic Art’ events don’t come round that often.

It was quite a formal and smart atmosphere and I just got straight into examining the art work. The work on display was being presented through the Elevation Arts Agency based in London. They explained that they were very much interested in promoting contemporary yet unique Islamic Art from here in the UK where a new generation of young Muslim artists are emerging.

All photographic entries for the competition were on display in the corridors and these were available as prints with donations going to charity. There were entries from across the globe and covering all forms of subjects, conveying varied cultures, traditions and landscapes.

From the main art work on show the first piece I noticed was by a female Moroccan artist named Wadia Boutaba.  Her use of vibrant colours to paint scenes of Morocco’s busy streets are eye catching and ask to immerse the viewer.  She also paints scenes of families, people interacting and entertaining. What is interesting is that some of these paintings depict figures with no faces and yet others clearly have full facial features.  I originally assumed all her work was sensitive to perhaps the Islamic ruling of not showing human figures and some artists choose not to have faces but just the body of the figure for this reason.  But having seen her other pieces I can only guess the variation is to appeal to a wider audience.  Unfortunately Wadia  Boutaba is currently in Morocco and so I was unable to ask her directly.  Feel free to have a look at some more of her work here: http://www.imagekind.com/MemberProfile.aspx?MID=71dbf57a-415a-49ff-a14c-522ad153780c

Here is a selection of Wadia’s work that was on show that night:

Painting by Wadia Boutaba

The Band by Wadia Boutaba

Moroccon City Colours by Wadia Boutaba

Moroccon City Colours by Wadia Boutaba

Gnawa by Wadia Boutaba

Gnawa by Wadia Boutaba

A Mother's Love by Wadia Boutaba

A Mother’s Love by Wadia Boutaba

The other featured artist, was Scotsman Grant Birse. His amazing work was a collection carvings in framed wood, vases and fine furniture. I was able to speak to Birse myself and learnt that his skills were self-taught. Looking at his work this was an extraordinary thing to hear as a lot of his pieces are intricately engraved or carved with Islamic Calligraphic phrases in geometric forms. Birse uses a combination of Kufic and Nastaliq calligraphy and does so in a unique form of presentation. His engravings are reminiscent of the wooden panelling found in some of the great mosques around the world.

Birse describes himself as an ‘Islamic Artist’ and tells me he became a Muslim five years ago. This gives him a unique position in terms of an artist that has originally grown up in very much a Western society and yet has engaged with and adopted ideals that go beyond boundaries or borders. His work has spiritual significance as it enthuses his beliefs. Words such as ‘Allah’ swt and ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of God) very much feature in his pieces.

You can visit his web site here: http://www.artworkinwood.com/

Here are some images of Birse’s work:

Hikma by Grant Birse - www.artworkinwood.com

HIKMAT by Grant Birse, carved in Walnut with Gold leaf (Qur’an 2- 269)

Art in wood by Grant Birse - www.artworkinwood.com

LOVE by Grant Birse – carved in Elm wood, “Eshq”. Contemporary composition based on Nastaliq style calligraphy.

grant_birse3a

CREATION by Grant Birse – carved in Elm wood with a circular centrepiece composition of Suratul Ikhlas (Qur’an 112).

Detail of Carving by Grant Birse

Detail of CREATION by Grant Birse

Both artists have very different backgrounds and it represents something more than just who they are and what they believe in. It is an indication of the interaction that is happening between the East and West in the current Islamic Art scene. It shows that unlike in the past (from the 7th to 19th centuries) where the crafts produced in the Islamic world were defined by the ruler of that period and their geographic location, the artwork is now defined by the broader label of Islamic Art and expands beyond the geography. An artist can make a name and place for themselves within a developing and now better recognised art scene.

Carving by Grant Virse

AL – HAMD by Grant Birse – “Al-hamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen”, Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds – carved in Elm wood.

Detail of Carving by Grant Birse

Detail of AL – HAMD. The style is an abstract composition in Naskhi style calligraphy.

Carved vase by Grant Birse

AHAD VASE by Grant Birse, turned vase in Burr Elm carved with Suratul Ikhlas (Qur’an 112)

I think it’s really important to have more events that focus on showcasing Islamic Arts. There isn’t really a forum for discussion about these topics – well not one that I know of. There is, however, loads out there about the history of Islamic Art. And loads about the timeline of Islamic/Arabic Calligraphy. And Middle-Eastern art is making a name for itself too but the ambiguity that this invites is something that I feel still needs to be addressed.

I think it’s still early days for contemporary Islamic Art to be seen as a straightforward obvious label. But I still have hope 🙂

Tutorial – notes and ideas stemmed

June 8, 2009

Date of tutorial: 03/06/09

Tutor: Jonathan Kearney

It’s been a while since my last tutorial so it’s interesting to see my blog posts being looked at from the perspective of someone who visits after a while and basically catches up with what I’ve been doing.

Jonathan asked about my recent activities and I gave him an overall summary similar to the update in my previous post. He then asked me about various subjects such as Arabic calligraphy and whether this can be used in m project. Something you may be aware I have considered a while back. He suggested I experiment even if it doesn’t go to plan. At least that way I can learn from the experience and progress through it knowing I gave it a shot. I guess by giving all your ideas a chance to formulate and be tried out means there’s less chance of regret later.

Jonathan also reminded me to check out his write-up on the uni wiki about reflective blog writing and showed me some of the bullet points that would be good for me to use in assessing my older posts. The intention would be for me to question myself about how/what I was thinking at the time of writing the post and compare that to how/what I’m thinking/feeling now. Have I changed my views on certain subjects? Do I feel the same about them?

We also discussed the requirements for the essay which although not due till September is still something I need to start focussing on. It’s a 5,000 word essay about contextualising my project. I think I had difficulty in understanding what exactly this meant when I first started this course. And people use the word ‘contextualising’ aaaall the time at uni (no exaggeration). I think it’s one of those words that means a lot and does a good job in getting a point across but is sometimes used to fill gaps in explaining an artist’s thoughts on their own work and where it fits. So it’s handy and vague enough to be used all over the place.

My understanding (now that I’ve also discussed it with Johnathan) is that it’s about looking at what’s going on in the world or the circle of work around you and seeing where you or your work belongs. This could be from any perspective really and can sometimes be very subjective but where (like in this essay) you have to address it for formal writing you need to be quite objective. You also need to acknowledge that there might not be an allocated slot waiting for you to park yourself and your work in. Or there might be one but it’s over crowded. Or what if you have to make your own patch of grass in the field? Whatever you do you have to back it up. And so I need to think of a relevant subject to discuss.

I could do something that looks at contemporary middle eastern art – especially as I did the lengthy posts about the Unveiled exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. But I think I’ve drained myself on that subject. There really are so many possibilities and subjects I could cover so I’m going to give myself a few days to really think about it.

Our mini deadline is for June 22nd by which time we must provide our tutors with a title, abstract and bibliography. I better get my skates on.

So overall we had a good discussion about project ideas that I can experiment with and subjects I could consider for my writing. Below I have typed out the actual notes I took during the tutorial:

Maybe write a reflective summary on each point discussed previously in for example the Saatchi post.

Or for example after completing one task think about it at a deeper level – How did I feel about this? Did it fulfill it’s goal? Was I frustrated? If yes then why? If not then why not? Does it mean enough to me?

Refer to content on wiki about reflective blog writing

Possibilities of using Arabic calligraphy in my work – why not experiment?

Digital surface has no limit in terms of scale so could zoom in on detailed work

Using existing ideas of fragmented parts making a whole, how about words within words within words so that as you keep zooming they appear just as the first word did to start with. Would this then be only calligraphic text or normal arabic writing? Both are very different – maybe they could be combined?

Is there software that can produce an outline and then fill the shape of the word with other words provided? Maybe it could be created?

The word Allah (swt) repeated within itself has strong metaphorical message.

If it doesn’t work then so be it. You’ll learn something from the experience anyway. Then the reflective questions come into play and you go through the process of fully understanding how that experimentation made a difference to the project as a whole.

It could be interesting to look back at the Saatchi post now and ask myself about what I wrote and why I wrote with focus on certain aspects.

Essay abstract (roughly 200-300 words), title and bibliography are due 22nd June!!

Contextualising – understanding where you stand. Could be saying ‘this is one angle and this is another’

It is important to be objective and know what’s going on around you even if you don’t like it.

Nja Mahdaoui

October 20, 2008

There is this feeling you get sometimes when you see/hear/watch something astounding and it gives you the shiver-me-timbers, as I like to call it. It’s a positive feeling in most cases and it’s like wow this is so amazing/funny/beautiful…or any other superlative you deem fit for the description.

Anyway so I received this giant book of one artist’s work when I attended the Word into Art Exhibition in Dubai. It was so heavy that the thought of carrying it on to the plane to Pakistan (where I headed on to next), keep it in good condition there and then carry it back to London via Dubai two weeks later, on the way back home was quite daunting. But the one reason I went through all that (and no it wasn’t because it was a well printed free book) was because the work of this artist gave me the shiver-me-timbers. Nja Mahdaoui is the name of the Tunisian born artist whose work I am now on about.

I can’t even attempt to describe the beauty of the work and obviously this is very subjective as it appeals to me in many ways and for various reasons. I will try and list these later but first let me show you the work. And because I like so much of it I am not going to limit the amount in this post – prepare yourselves!

All these images are from Mahdaoui’s official site: http://www.nja-mahdaoui.com/index.php

Canvas



Parchments

Airplanes

Yes you read correctly – one way of knowing you’ve made it as an artist is when you’re work is used on a series of airplanes! See this webpage for more images http://www.nja-mahdaoui.com/gb/avion1.php



And now I insist you look around the rest of Mahdaoui’s site to see how his work has been transferred to buildings; stained glass elements of which add a vibrancy to structures that can sometimes be, well, boring. His designs have also been incorporated onto dresses, and by the looks of it, many more mediums which we are promised will be displayed on the site “soon”. These include papyrus, jewellery and tapestries.

Oh yes. Why do I like these works? Here is a quick list which is by no means complete or fully explained:

Colours. Mainly black and white is used (my favourite combination for detailed works of these type). Other colours are from a select palette and mean that the work is consistent and have a sort of organised ruling to them. They also remind me of Piet Mondrian’s choice to use only primary colours in his work (more on him in a day or so).

Block type shapes. These can be especally noted from the contrast to the flowing calligraphy. These shapes are formed not only by the background colours or the flow of the text but also from the way they work as borders to new segments within the layout of the more geometric designs.

Empty space. This is used effectively. Amongst all the detail and condensed text there are some gaps that allow for the design to breath. They emphasise the parts that are filled with the lines of text (thick and thin) and also the different shapes created in the overall composition.

Straight edge and curves. This is great – I love the way the spiralling rose effect is centered within a rotated square in one. Again this is seen where there are circles within squares or overflowing of curves from the calliugraphy spilling onto a backdrop of straight and geometric edges/blocks of smaller concentrated text. Once again I think this contrast just helps to play one off against the other but to highlight the aesthetics of each and not to compete.

Calligraphy. This is a major form of illumination and decoration in Islamic art. An area I am hoping to explore later in my research. But for now I think the above examples really do a great job of showcasing the variety of designs and compositions possible in the art of Arabic Calligraphy which in the Islamic world has become reknowned. It is a fine art in itself and must be practised for years to be mastered.

Feel freel to comment on any aspects you feel should be mentioned that make these works good or perhaps not as good as you think they could be? I’d definately be interested to hear others’ opinions 🙂