Posted tagged ‘beauty’

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:




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

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 🙂

Bathsheba Grossman

October 16, 2008

I’ve just found a great site and some great artwork. It encompasses a large idea I had of producing some of my own designs in some kind of 3d form, as well as the theories on which my research is based. It also relates back to the image in one of my earlier posts where I mentioned the ideas of Donald (H.S.M) Coxeter and showed how a hypercube could be evolved to a higher dimension of shape.

600 Cell by Bathsheba Grossman

600 cell –

Snub 24 cell by Bathsheba Grossman

Snub 24 Cell –

Grossman also mentions the subject areas that I am interested in exploring in my research and which will link to geometry.

Grossman says:

I’m an artist exploring the region between art and mathematics, and this is my gallery and storefront. My work is about life in three dimensions: working with symmetry and balance, getting from a zero point to infinity, and always finding beauty in geometry.

That’s to say, I like to think about shapes, and occasionally I think up a new one, and usually they come out very symmetrical.

I highly recommend visiting the site Grossman explains that her motivations for creating the metal based sculptures are far from commercial and she simply prices her work in order to make it available to anyone and not just those with large amounts of money. She also explains her working process, conveys her working space through images and descriptions and allows visitors to her site use of her 3d-print images for furthering their own practice in creating similar work.

Grossman tells us of her efforts to find a suitable solution for creating her work and does so in a very open manner. The site is written and maintained in her own words and not through a third party. All these elements combine to give a very friendly perception of her personality and her work and just a strangely comforting good vibe about her intentions.

Regardless of all this, I think the work is remarkable. The 3d forms allow for different angles and views of the pieces, each time making them look a little different, and also for the effect of light and dimness to show the deeper cutouts and interlacing of sections. This adds to the look and feel of the sculptures and the complexity makes them look like inverted mazes that you’d want to shrink yourselves into in order to explore.

Hmm perhaps a maze is something I can work with? Will develop this idea later me thinks.

It’s not easy making a connection

October 6, 2008

I’ve been trying to anchor my thoughts – they really are flying everywhere. Ok so I said i was going to look into the different types of geometry but then I became sidetracked by one kind – Islamic geometry and it’s possible symbolism. I think there are some very important relationships that can be drawn from the accuracy and detail and near perfection of the patterns that are created in Islamic and even non islamic but similar geometry.

One such relationship is that of the divine creation and the indications of this that are found in nature. It can be argued that the artists of the early Islamic art movement were trying to portray the perfection of God’s creation through the use of geometry and without the use of imagery showing any living beings (reasons for doing this will be discussed in future – or you can nudge me to tell you sooner – any feedback or questions are appreciated). This is a plausible point as symmetry and geometry can be found in nature all around us including our very own bodies.

This then closely relates to the idea of the Golden mean. The ancient Greeks placed much importance on this and here is a quick explanation from wikipedia:

In philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.

To the Greek mentality, it was an attribute of beauty. Both ancients and moderns realized that “there is a close association in mathematics between beauty and truth.”

The Greeks believed there to be three concomitants of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, Paideia and politics. They judged life by this mentality.”

Ok so now I’ve lost track of where I was going with this. I want to quickly mention the Golden ratio also known as Phi. As seen in the image below:

The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment.

Ok so back to the point – I am going to concentrate on drawing a connection between the ideas presented in the theory of geometry and symmerty in nature, golden mean and ratio, the divine creation and symbolism that can be found in artistic interpretations of these ideas/theories. Am I taking on too much? well considering that I keep coming up with new topics to look into means that at least my thoughts are developing. Lets just hope they are sinking in and remain relevant to my project.