Posted tagged ‘art’

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.

Electronic circuits, Arduino and others

May 27, 2009

It must seem like I’ve been quiet recently but I have been doing stuff. ‘Stuff’ is probably the best word to use here because it is encompasses quite a varied group of ‘things’ as a description.

Here’s a break down of my recent activities:

Reading Digital Arts, by Christiane Paul: I was actually supposed to have done this at the start of the academic year as it was listed as ‘recommended reading’ but no one really does that right?

More Pattern making: some were failures – I started giving in and doing my own thing again but I pulled back and said ‘No Sara you must follow the rules’ so I went back to using my handy Islamic Design book and did some new patterns.

Remember doing this in school?

Remember doing this in school?

This one had potential but then I didn't like the way it was going

This one had potential but then I didn't like the way it was going

Another naughty pattern

Another naughty pattern

It’s always frustrating trying to get the lines, angles and circles in the right places but I persevered. Now I have some new patterns to work with to create some more laser cut panels. I want to do more complicated patterns to really experiment with light and shadow effects.

Back to following the rules

Back to following the rules

Underlying grid is easy to see in this image which looks quite interesting as a whole

Underlying grid is easy to see in this image which looks quite interesting as a whole

Hand cut pattern in black card

Hand cut pattern in black card

I’m pleased with this (above image) – even though it looks quite simple it took a while to get to that stage. The star shaped flowers are not accurate at all but I’ll be fixing that up when I make a digital version using Photoshop and Illustrator. I will probably add more detail to the larger shapes though, as I think details look better when enlarged with a light source on a wall – almost like a projection.Using this hand cut method allows me to get a rough idea of what the laser cut design will look like in mdf.

Visiting the Library: I rarely go to the library anymore. Not because I don’t like reading or even just looking at the pictures in books but because I prefer to have my own copies. That way I know I won’t find any unusual stains in between the pages, nor will I have to worry about returning it in time in order to avoid a fine. Anyway so back to the story at hand – I decided that forking out £26 for ‘Physical Computing’ by Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe, was slightly beyond my current budget and it would make sense to just go and borrow it. So off I went to LCC and I’m glad to say no stains have been discovered as yet.

I’ll write a review on both books at some point.

Electronics/Arduino board workshop: Leon, a current Camberwell PhD student was doing this workshop for us last Wednesday (20th May). A brief overview of how it works was provided, as well as some useful links (http://www.arduino.cc/). I spent a good amount of time trying to familiarise myself with the different parts of the boards whilst putting together a set for infra-red detecion. Had to look up different types of resistors, transistors, and all those kinds of bits and bobs to make sure I was putting the right ones in the right places.

Arduino board image from arduino.cc

Arduino board image from http://www.arduino.cc

We then moved on to testing Isaac’s (fellow student: http://www.isaac.alg-a.org/) motor circuit which had a light sensitive resistor attached to it. This set was programmed to turn on an LED and start a motor faster or slower according to the light detected by it. The code looks quite similar to PHP and other complicated programming languages that I really need to start learning at some point. Or maybe I think they are complicated because getting to know it better is something I keep putting off and is almost my excuse for delaying the process?

Getting to know a circuit

Getting to know a circuit

My fear of learning this new but potentially hard stuff is not greater than my wanting to complete my project to a high standard.

With the good comes the bad

April 24, 2009

…ok maybe not always but sometimes and certainly in this case. We’ve had half the carpet put in the house now; this includes my room and the two loft rooms that we added a few months ago.

It means I can finally move my stuff from storage back into my room and stop living out of bags. The down side is that I actually liked living up in the loft with the sun shining through the skylights. It meant that I was able to work with natural light for longer and also because there was no carpet I could do as much spray painted canvas art as I liked without worrying where it might disperse.

laser cut mdf stencil

laser cut mdf stencil

Using the MDF stencil that I had laser cut from my pattern a few weeks ago (above), I’ve created a new canvas piece. It’s been a bit difficult to decide when the painting is finished because it has a layered effect and I could just keep going but there’s always a risk that the next layer might make it look less pleasing to me.

I’ve stopped it here – I received some good feedback from family and friends so far:

16x16 canvas

16x16 canvas

Canvas close-up

Canvas close-up

The painting has a sort of pastelly/chalky effect with the spraying having gone a bit blurry at the edges of the patterns but this also allowed for a gradient fade effect where I’ve got two colours merging. I added white beneath the blue as an outline shadow effect to make the blue standout more clearly against the green. I think the bright colours work well together here. Originally it was just white on green and it looked too stark. So then I added the blues and yellows and I think it looks much better like that.

So yeh now I’m in a bit of a pickle because I want to do more of these but other than doing it on the pavement outside my home (clearly not ideal) there aren’t many more options. At uni there are limited rooms and although I could use the old play-ground or parking area I wouldn’t want to ship all my things there – I would need a minivan! Even then it would be useless as I’m only ever in once a week and would be left doing tiny bits at a time.

Ergh…

Before, during and after (pt3): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

April 17, 2009

This post is a continuation of the previous two parts:
Before, during and after – Part one
Before, during and after – Part two

After After much contemplation I wonder if ‘Unveiled’ was a deliberate choice of name intended to provoke feelings of negativity? The use of the word ‘unveiled’ means that something is usually bought to everyone’s attention – something that might have been hidden behind the veil? Posters using images from Shadi Ghadrian’s ‘Like Everyday Series’ seem to give the impression that the content of the exhibition is largely related to a Muslim’s way of life and therefore a truth is being uncovered.

As it is Muslim women that wear the veil, this is a direct link of association. However, unknown to the general public, not all women wearing a veil did so just because they were made to, or, as everyone is led to believe, because they are oppressed. The women in this country are a great example – they have no social, local or political pressure to do so. If anything, it is going against the social norm to do so and they are facing up to society’s criticism. So when someone then sees that poster of a large hijab (scarf) and only an iron, pan or knife in the middle where the face should be, what are they likely to think? That a Muslim woman has no identity and is only distinguished by her domesticity?

As a young Muslim living in this country I think it is so important to educate others and give them the opportunity to discover new things. There were a few items in this show that were great to see. Others I personally would have left out. If I could question one thing about the exhibition it would be if there was any thought about how the public would be educated about the cultures and roots of the artists and if that was done fairly? Art is a great form of communication and if we could use that to spread some understanding and not ridicule or scrutiny then it would be very useful to forming an open-minded society.

I wonder at the motivations of the artists I’ve discussed above and Andy suggested I try and contact them. This is not going to be an easy task but I think I’ll give it a shot. You never know – the stuff in the brochure might just have been written to provoke reactions and encourage visits to the exhibition?

I’ll keep you posted of any replies I get.

This whole exhibition has provoked many thoughts with me, and because of the many contradictory aspects of individual works, it has led me to question my own agenda in being an artist and my own reasoning behind what I produce. Does my work have to be Islamic? If I am Islamic, will my work not automatically be Islamic too?

Below are further images from the exhibition:

Before, during and after (pt1): Unveiled – Saatchi Gallery

April 14, 2009

I’ve spent so long writing this post and procrastinating over it too – it’s been in my draft posts section for almost a month and for some reason it has conjured a lot of questions in my mind. At the same time I’ve been discussing these in the last two tutorials with John and in informal and brief chats with Andy and even a couple of my peers. The visit to the Saatchi gallery basically coincided with my personal exploration of what Islamic Art is. I think this is one topic I’ll be addressing continuously throughout my MA.

This has led me to question whether I need to make sure I just stick to what I know to be Islamic Art? But then seeing what other artists out there call Islamic Art is necessary – after all this is where I will be placing my own work, amongst today’s Islamic artists.

There have been many other issues related to all this and my personal beliefs that have kept me from being able to complete this post in the usual hour or so that I would take. I think it’s mainly due to the array of work in this exhibition but I will try and explain how seeing the work triggered certain thoughts for me.
Btw – Due to how lengthy this text has become I will divide it in to three separate posts to make it easier to digest.

Before I went to this exhibition I thought I’d read up on it first. I don’t usually like having my first impressions influenced by reviews and other people’s opinions but this time I wanted to know more about the work and the artists in order to determine if it was worth going to – for some reason I had doubts. This could be because recently work from the Middle East has been more ‘out there’ and of a European/Western influence rather than something connected to its own roots as is evident in more traditional Middle Eastern art. I think there is something special about the traditional styles that have dispersed in more contemporary work. But this is just my opinion as is everything I say in this blog of course (except where I’ve quoted). I would like to take this opportunity to remind my readers that many of my posts are heavily opinionated and are no reflection of any other individuals or groups.

Having seen a couple images and articles about the exhibition I almost disregarded it. I thought ‘well none of this looks Islamic so how is it relevant?’ Well yeh that sounds really narrow minded because although it might not fit my definition of ‘Islamic Art’ it doesn’t mean it isn’t – right? And even then it isn’t being labelled as Islamic art so why should I object to the content. The cultural background could be relevant as they come from Islamic countries.

Then I found this article and it convinced me to take a look: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/unveiled-new-art-from-the-middle-east-saatchi-gallery-london-1522227.html

Unveiled is an exhibition of contemporary Middle Eastern art, Rahbar being Iranian. Or rather, like her flag, not quite. Born in Tehran in 1976, she has been in exile in Britain and America for most of her life, which means she is both a victim of Western domination and complicit in it. She is not alone in this. Only eight of the 19 artists in this show actually live in the Middle East, and only two of the seven women. (For them, presumably, “unveiled” has a more specific meaning.) The rest – notionally Algerian, Lebanese, Iraqi or Palestinian – make their art in Paris or Berlin or New York.

Some very relevant points were made in this article – touching on issues I’ve considered myself. I wonder if, like these artists I am greatly influenced by the pulls of two different cultures. My parents are Pakistani but I was born and bought up her and have lived here in London my whole life. And yet I don’t see those things as being what defines me. I don’t feel that I need to belong to any of those places – as long as I’m not rejected from either 😐 And more importantly I don’t think anyone has the right to say one way or the other.

Hidden Geometry

January 28, 2009

I attended my second class of Arabic Calligraphy using Naskh Script yesterday. I signed up for these evening classes many months ago and have been looking forward to this opportunity for well over a year. The class is run by Mustafa Jafar, author of Arabic Calligraphy: Naskh style for beginners (Paperback):

Image taken from http://www.amazon.co.uk

Mustafa is himself an artist and examples of his work can be seen at http://arabigraphy.com

'Light upon Light' by Mustafa Jafar

'Light upon Light' by Mustafa Jafar

Anyway so in yesterday’s class we learnt to draw the first half of the Arabic letters using a traditional reed pen (looks a bit like bamboo but cut to a sharp nib on one end) and ink.

This interest in Arabic calligraphy was a personal one as well as a relevant one in terms of my project.

I will post a more detailed entry when I have gathered more informative details about the history and development of Arabic calligraphy. However in brief  I have these notes:

From its simple and primitive early examples of the 5th and 6th century A.D., the Arabic alphabet developed rapidly after the rise of Islam in the 7th century into a beautiful form of art.
http://www.sakkal.com/ArtArabicCalligraphy.html

– Arabic as a written language was used by few.

– Those who did use it were professional scribes and usually worked to produce important documents for legal and state offices.

– When the Qur’an was revealed and after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him ) to whom it was revealed, it became necessary to record the revelations. These were written and illuminated (decorated with intricate borders etc) to emphasise the beauty of the word of God.

– It is also important to note that the Qur’an never was and never is illustrated with imagery portraying humans or animals. This is because there are strict rules about the idea of recreating/reproducing the creation of God who is the only One who can create such things. It is also in order to prevent idolatry – which people can easily fall into if they are not careful. The biggest sin in Islam is Shirk which is to obey/worship/sacrifice for anyone or instead of God.

– Arabic as a written form became  standardised some time after the early centuries of Islam’s expansion and dominance.  One form was used for secular writings (the cursive script) and the other for sacred documents such as the Qur’an.

– The style of calligraphy used for the Qur’an also developed but always to a very high standard. It was imperative that the person copying the words got them 100% right and therefore they would train for many yrs under the masters of the pen before starting their own copies. There was no room for error. The Qur’an has remained unchanged since the day it was first recorded.

The significance of calligraphy? As it is used in so many forms of Islamic art and decoration and truly does look beautiful. It plays a large part in my project research. It is significant not only because of the words within the writing (usually excerpts or verses from the Qur’an) but also because of the visual effect they produce. So even if you didn’t know the words or know that it was a verse to be read and understood you could still appreciate the aesthetics of the calligraphy.

The words themselves being the words from God mean that not only do they carry an important message for mankind but they deserve to be elevated.

——————-

In the class today with Mustafa Jafar, we learnt about the proportions of the letters. These proportions govern the size of the letters in accordance to each other and although not apparent to the viewer they produce the accuracy that leads to the perfection of the overall piece of writing. Whilst demonstrating the use of the dots within the alphabet as measurements for the letters, Mustafa used the phrase ‘hidden geometry’. A light bulb turned on in my head. I already knew about the proportions and accuracy required to make the calligraphy what it is, but I never connected it with geometry before. I wonder why? I guess I wasn’t thinking outside the box. It’s not just about lines and shapes the way I know them.

You will see in the image below that the height, width and empty space produced within and around the letters are all in proportion according to the dots. So no matter what size dots you start with you should have a certain number of dots making up the length and a certain number making up the breadth for each one:

This image is taken from: http://www.sakkal.com/ArtArabicCalligraphy.html where you can also find much better explanations about the history and development of Arabic in its written form.

Therefore the use of geometry comes about using this dot as a unit for measurement and it producing a proportionally accurate letter, leading to a proportionally accurate piece of writing.

Mustafa insists that Calligraphy is a form of art, not writing. I very much agree, except where it comes to the Qur’an. In the Qur’an it is both and more.

Non-stop yapping

January 25, 2009

I had my second tutorial on Wednesday (21st Jan). It was with the Online students’ tutor, Jonathan, who I have met only once before.

I usually find it had to give an overview of my project whilst conveying every aspect of my research and ideas for the outcome, and all the influences that come into play, and my background, and why I chose the subject in the first place. But Jonathan seemed to ask all the right questions and even though I felt like I was chattering on the whole time I also realised that he actually understood what I was saying and what I meant! It was great because it allowed me to answer some of my own questions that I had kinda left at the back of my mind to linger I guess.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember everything from the 45 mins tutorial so I wrote it out in my note book a few mins later – I treat that notebook as more of a journal because I can jot down ideas and thoughts as they come to me on public transport. There is also the knowledge that no one will see the silly things I write in there either – and believe me I come up with some crazy ideas sometimes which I know I could never do in a million yrs!

Anyway, here is the content of that entry word for word (minus the silly bits) and I warn you now it jumps about a bit and can be totally random at times:

“covered many things – was useful to discuss an overview of the project.
The questions asked by J enabled me to see the project from a high level view.

Interestingly J raised the question of Infinity after seeing on my blog that I head read up and seen documentaries by Marcus du Sautoy.

J asked how I would use the idea of Infinity in my work and if it had a place in Islamic Art. The answer was yes it does in a symbolic form – the idea of an ever-existent God can be said to be represented through the everlasting forms and shapes that can be created from geometric and symmetrical patterns. How I would use the concept of Infinity – well I’m not sure. It becomes quite philosophical and would certainly not be a clear and easy idea to convey to an audience. I guess I have not looked into it as much as I could and this is what J suggests I do – add some depth to the background of the subject area. Add that extra bit of meaning behind the work. I agree and will definitely look into it soon.

J also suggested I set myself short term goals and a timetable so that I have targets to work towards. He said my current level of work is fine but the use of the timetables could prove to be handy especially when things don’t work to plan and you can look back at how to organise and allocate time to certain things. I had actually thought about doing this before but wasn’t sure how to break down my time. Being part-time is like being in this other dimension sometimes (can’t imagine what it’s like for the online students!). I mentioned that with my attendance being only once a week and not having many deadlines meant that my project goals weren’t really concrete.

J says that doing a fort-nightly structure could work better for me and then even if things change I can change the week ahead’s targets because I can use the one day of attendance as a marker for seeing what progress is made before the next week commences.

I will be going away on holiday (God willing) in a few weeks for a few days in mid Feb (Muscat and Dubai 🙂 ) I want to have something significant done by then in terms of practical work.

J liked my project idea and the way in which I wrote my posts. The positive feedback is good motivation to keep going. The interest he showed in my prototype idea was another motivation to start practical work sooner rather than later. He mentioned active research and how useful this can be for artists.

We discussed the issue of time – using the two years of my course to my advantage by learning from failures and successes.

I ended up explaining the historical, religious and artistic relevance of my research and approach to this project. It felt a bit unusual going into this much detail about things which I usually am careful to address. I find that the average (non-religious?) person doesn’t understand why someone would be driven to certain extents by their religious beliefs. I have experienced this on many occasions and even with peers I feel I have to explain what my religious motivations are so that they have a better understanding of it – but it’s just not something they are familiar with. Ok it’s hard to explain what I mean.

It was refreshing that J was very open to what I was expressing and asked me questions that gave me the impression that he was very interested in hearing more and gaining a better understanding of where I was coming from. it also made it easier for me to discuss ideas and the things that influenced these ideas and then the way they would be implemented.

I will be creating a page on which will sit my mini timetables. They will be broken down by months and should ideally be updated every two weeks. It would be cool to have a dynamic calendar of some sort – similar to the one used on the MA Digital Arts wiki site. Should look in the current list of widgets and plug-ins available on WordPress to see if they have anything that will fit the bill.
————————-
Equipment needed for prototype:

– soldering iron?
– white super bright 5mm LEDs (100pcs) aprox. £7.50
– equipment wire at least 2m of each black and red
– two boards (mark grids out in pencil and allocate spaces beforehand)”

I hope the above conveys how useful that tutorial turned out to be. I hope I am able to fulfil my short term goals as a means to fulfilling the long term ones.