Posted tagged ‘calligraphy’

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.

Advertisements

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 🙂

Arabic Calligraphy – final curtain

April 20, 2009

I recently completed the Arabic Calligraphy Naskh script classes I was attending. These have been really insprirational, productive and enjoyable.

Mustafa Jafar did a great job of sharing the technique of traditional calligraphy using reed pens and ink and also a couple of inside tips for doing larger peices which became very handy for our final pieces. He also showed us many historial examples over the weeks of Islamic calligraphy and illumination (both secular and religious) from the famous eras of the Ottomans, Persians, Mughals, etc.

In our last class we were to present our final pieces and the only requirement was that we use the line provided by Mustafa and recreate it in our own way. Therefore there was a great emphasis on presentation and creativity through this.

I think we all got a bit competitive too with these final pieces but in a healthy and humourous way, or maybe it was just me and my sister trying to outdo eachother? Anyway as a result of this we ended up doing multiple pieces. Below are images of my three  (the second one Habibah my 9 yr old sister helped to decorate) 🙂

dsc00876

dsc00875

dsc00874

And here are images of the rest of the class’s work and Mustafa discussing each one and also encouraging us to pursue calligraphy further and also explore and experiment different ways of using it.

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.

Word into Art – Dubai 2008 (pt 2)

October 16, 2008

Continuing from the previous post, I have a few more artists I’d like to comment on. Here is ‘Allah’ by Samir Al Sayegh:

Allah by Samir Al Sayegh

This work actually reminds me of a kameez (traditional Pakistani shirt) I used to have. The print was almost identical and in black and white (which are the colours I have favoured in my own work in the past – see link to Examples of my work on the right).

So what I like about this is the fact that you can’t tell straight off that it is produced with the word ‘Allah’ which means God in Arabic, repeated all over but rotated in places to create a pattern. The word is written in a stylised Arabic text, making it look blocky and geometric.

Artist and poet Samir al-Sayegh has been exploring the possibilities of Arabic calligraphy for many years. In this black-and-white composition he has turned the word ‘Allah’ into geometric shapes.

http://virtualgallery.birzeit.edu/p/ps?url=exhibition/BMsacred/tour012

Word into Art – Dubai 2008 (pt 1)

October 13, 2008

I was reminded of an exhibition I went to whilst in Dubai earlier this year. It was the Word into Art exhibition that had been on in the British Museum back in 2006. I was very glad to have been able to catch the one in Dubai and I was not disappointed when I got there.

I’ve shown some of the images below of the artworks that I found of interest and to my liking.

Kamal Boullata

Ana Al-Haqq - I am the Truth by Kamal Boullata

http://virtualgallery.birzeit.edu/media/photos/vw_115629/Kamal+Boulata+3?w=225

Nur ala nur by Kamal Boullata

http://virtualgallery.birzeit.edu/p/ps?url=exhibition/BMsacred/tour011

Read more on this piece here

I like the way the symmetrical layout and break down of larger square, with rotated smaller squares, has been combined with the kufic arabic calligraphy. The subject matter is the meaning of Nur – light in arabic. It is very symbolic and has many connotations in spirituality and religion – not just Islam but Christianity too.

A bit about the artist:

“Kamal Boullata :- PALESTINE
Born in Jerusalem in 1942. Works and lives in Washington, Morroco and Paris.
Boullata recalls sitting for hours on end as a small boy in front of the Dome of the Rock, engrossed in sketching its innumerable and unfathomable geometric patterns and calligraphic engravings. Those patterns he saw as a child still echo endlessly throughout his adult work. I keep reminding my self that Jerusalem is not behind me, it is constantly ahead of me. From an interview with the Artist”

http://www.daratalfunun.org/main/resourc/exhibit/bollata/bollata.html

Ahmed Moustafa

Moustafa uses traditional calligraphy to form the artwork and uses the old and classical decorative technique of repeating more text over the first layer but mirrored upside down. Therefore you are required to turn the work upside down in order to read the next line.

Where two oceans meet by Ahmed Moustafa

http://www.fenoon.com/portfolio/pages/0001p1.html

Sometimes the text is a mirrored version but flipped horizontally to add an almost mish mash type effect. The technique is used slightly differently below and looks particularly effective in this piece which produces a great symetrical design using the arabic names of Allah (God) – which represent his attributes as named in the holy Qur’an:

The attributes of divine perfection by Ahmed Moustafa

For more info on this piece click here: http://virtualgallery.birzeit.edu/p/ps?url=exhibition/BMsacred/tour008