Posted tagged ‘contemporary’

A new phase

October 24, 2013

It’s been great to see the amount of visitors that have browsed on this site and the supporting comments I have received.

For those who have been following this blog for a while I wanted to provide an update. I am now embarking on further research at the University of Kent! It’s going to be a challenge, that is for sure, but the interesting subjects I’ll be covering will hopefully drive me to complete the study with success InshaAllah (God willing).

If anyone is interested to see the areas I look into, the artists I discover, and the artworks I discuss in relation to my research, then please do visit my new blog: www.islamicdigitalarts.com

It’s still early days but hopefully there’ll be some interesting and meaty content coming very soon. Keep your eyes open! And if you come across anything you feel is worth mentioning then please do get in touch via my contact page: www.islamicdigitalarts.com/contact/

Thanks!

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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

Gender, War and Chadors – by Canvas magazine at the British Museum

October 20, 2009

This panel discussion on the topic of ‘Gender, War and Chadors’ in relation to Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, took place on Monday 12th October.

The panel consisted of three professionals with relevant experience and interest in this genre of art: Saleh Barakat (Curator and Gallerist, Lebanon), Rose Issa ( Independent Curator, Lebanon and Iran) and Dr Venetia Porter (Senior Curator of Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern Art at The British Museum). This panel was moderated by Dr Anthony Downey (Programme Director, MA in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art).

For official information andbackground into on the panellists please view this link from the Canvas Magazine site: http://www.canvasonline.com/gwac2.htm

The audience was an interesting mix of curators, researchers, critics and artists.

The talk lasted an hour and addressed issues that have cropped up for me during my research in the last year. Some of the issues mentioned were the lack of investments in Middle Eastern Art, it’s identity and how it is different to Islamic Art, why it is not considered as contemporary art when it should be and why it is usually grouped as ‘Middle-Eastern’ and sometimes ‘Islamic’ art when this is sometimes clearly a confining label or even a mistaken label for the work in question.

Here are a few notes I took. Some of this may be direct quotes or my own extension of what was said by one of the panellists:

– Defining the Middle-East as a region is becoming the subject being discussed rather than the work itself. It seems to be a Western pre-occupation. Whereas people within the Middle-Easter don’t think about it that much and sometimes not at all.

– There seems to be a problem with the local and regional infrastructure in the Middle-East which is causing a slow movement of work and communication. The knowledge is not travelling. Whether this is in terms of publishing work/writings or in trying to set up an exhibition – it takes much longer and much more effort compared to London and other European or US cities.

– Middle-Eastern art is not being taught anywhere as a comprehensive subject. You can learn the European classics anywhere, but there is no recognised institution where you could say straight off your head, for example for  ‘where a PhD in Middle-Eastern art’ should be completed, there certainly is nowhere to do this in the Middle-East. Dr Venetia Porter said that she is approached by many students asking where she would recommend they continue further studies in this subject. SOAS was mentioned as a good place as it covers the languages and culture studies.

Once the talk was finished I managed to grab some apple juice, munch some olives and a few minutes of Dr Venetia Porter’s time. A very nice and friendly lady, she was very encouraging about further studies in the contemporary Islamic art field. I mentioned my project for the Visual Arts MA I am doing and she was glad to hear that I had found a way to combine contemporary art practice with traditional creative methods from the Islamic world. As she had mentioned the lack of postgraduate courses that suit this area I was able to say that this is my way of dealing with that problem. As it happens I think my situation could not be more ideal. I have managed to set the objectives of my project to suit both the learning outcomes of the course syllabus as well as my own goals of producing contemporary Islamic art.

I departed with a smile on my face and the encouragement from Dr Venetia Porter spurring me on.

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/

Abstract writing and essay discussion

June 30, 2009

The deadline for handing in the Abstract for the essay was on Monday (22/06).

I have to say I haven’t procrastinated as much since needing to do revision for my final yr at uni. Choosing a title for the essay was very difficult so I decided to stick to something simple and to the point for now and then refine it later to make it more relevant to how my essay shapes out.

So the Title (for now) is Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art – can it be defined?

I have to admit I struggled to do this as I kept wanting to include so much information without as many words. I ended up with about 3 drafts and still was not very happy with what I had. Some of it didn’t even make sense:

Islamic art encompasses many artworks that were produced within Islamic dynasties of centuries old and stems right the way through these to today’s work produced by artists currently living and working across the globe. One may assume that the link that binds these works is the faith of Islam. Is this a correct assumption? The definition of Islamic Art has been disputed by many as it is believed by some to be broad and with significant historical background to take in to consideration.

It also takes into account the emigration of people from one land to another (sometimes to and other times away from Muslim lands). Have they been restricted by their own society? If they are not practising the religion of Islam, are they Muslims that can be relied on to paint a picture of the cultural scene at that moment?

The evolution of design and aesthetics, tastes, technology and materials are also an important aspect that shaped the current Middle Eastern and Islamic Art scene not to mention historical events such as September 11th. Are we trying to understand the East? Do we get a realistic picture?

A very recent exhibition held at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2009) ‘Unveiled: New art from the Middle East’ brings together such examples of varied artworks. Similar collections for public view have been gathered in New York’s Modern Art Museum and in the Louvre, France. By comparing the array of subject matters addressed in the artworks we can gauge that certain topics such as political divisions, social unrest, religious conflicts and freedom of speech are prominent and therefore of high importance.

These are, however, negative aspects that have been highlighted for almost a decade now as the media has increased the reporting on the various ‘wars on terror’. Is this a means of communicating and informing the West of Middle Eastern ideology? Is it succeeding? Which artworks are of a positive and more inclusive nature?

Following the rule that art is a representation of public sentiment, is it fair to say that the art work on show in current exhibitions of Contemporary Middle Eastern Art is within the correct context to be termed as Islamic or Middle Eastern? If it is not accepted within the boundaries of the social rules from which it derives, is it feasible to draw a true picture of the culture and themes they are said to represent?

I then sent an email to a friend/peer with the following to explain what I was trying to say in my abstract and I think it came out better than the actual thing:

In layman’s terms I guess I’m trying to say that people living outside of Islamic borders (physical or not) are producing the artwork that is termed ‘Islamic’ yet their only link to Islam is sometimes their origins. This could then be argued from various p.o.v’s – it’ just that I need it to be presented as more of a question than a statement so that I can argue the different views.

I also want to bring in the idea that their rebellion against their homelands restrictions is the reason they left those places and that those restrictions are what their work may sometimes centre on. This is certainly the impression given through the exhibitions that are around at the moment – negative stuff seems to pull in the crowds?

In some cases they may be going against the acceptable social behaviour/beliefs and perhaps can’t be termed as ‘Islamic or Middle Eastern’ because it’s not a majority view? As in not truly representing the cultures and lives of the Muslims but only a snapshot of certain aspects. Once again if I make this more of a question I can give different views.

The angle I was going to take was one of the West trying to understand the East. In the essay itself I’d like to mention very briefly the events since Sep 11th and how they’ve shaped the Islamic art and Middle East art movement to become more globalised but still centred on topics such as politics and war.

I knew I’d get some useful feedback from Andy and the other part-timers (Esmeralda, Rupert and Isaac) who were also discussing their essays. So even though I wasn’t happy with what they’d be reading (as in my hand-in) I knew it was a necessary step in order to make progress.

In regards to the title – this was said to be fine. I could make it more specific to the content I was writing by adding an additional line in the style of a slogan of some sort.

The first paragraph was ok too but could do with a definition of Islamic Art – perhaps as a quote.

Actual notes I took:

Look on wiki for tips on ‘how to write a research question’
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Can the work be defined by curatorial agenda?

Near the start of the essay mention certain practitioners that are challenging or engaging with the assumption (mentioned in current draft). Some may say their work is more than ‘belief’ or other angles to their creative process – this is a key element and could prove to be very interesting. There is a distinction between reflecting the faith or the creative process (?)

——————————————-

Stay away from media as a subject area – e.g. much has already been said about Sep 11th and it could veer off into other directions so best to stay clear of it.

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Alhambra is a very good example of where Eastern and Western creative processes merged (various reasons) but techniques of both styles were adopted and embraced by both the locals and foreigners. Focus on the sparks between the East and West.

—————————–

Using the examples given in the 4th paragraph – specify artists/practitioners who are expressing these things

war and victimisation – is this just a current theme?

Maybe discuss the art scene in the context of culture being embedded in religion and that it cannot be separated.

Can still mention Saatchi’s intentions – knowing that the public is aware of what is going on in the Middle East, they will be more inclined to come to an exhibition that gives an insight to that culture.

So now I know to concentrate on a few particular artists who seem to be making a name for themselves in contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Art. I guess I should look into what their motivations are and the subject matters they like to express the most and more importantly their choice of medium.

Once again my to-do list is piling up. I have a feeling I won’t get round to doing the bulk of my tasks till the summer break by which time I’ll probably start panicking about the 2nd year! The pressure will probably do me some good though and hopefully snap me out of the procrastinary stage I seem to be stuck in.

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.

Don Relyea – Q&A

October 18, 2008


http://www.donrelyea.com/hilberts_2007/15_03.PNG

Well I emailed Don Relyea as I said I would (https://qunud.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/don-relyea-artist/) and very kindly he responded in detail with some very interesting answers and observations:

I really like your work involving the generation of geometric shapes with programming in interactive applets. What would you say triggered your desire to use these types of shapes in your designs?

Since most of my work is created in some kind of programming language, it is natural to describe shapes and forms with math and both 2d and 3d geometry. I have always enjoyed math. From about 1999-2003 I developed severe sleep apnea, this deprived my brain of oxygen and meaningful sleep. Over that time I began to lose the ability to do math, solve complex problems, and even routine programming exercises became extremely difficult.

I thought I was losing my mind. When I figured out what was wrong and started treatment, it was as though I had just emerged from a thick fog into daylight. I immersed myself in math and exploratory programming with a new found zeal. The recovery and subsequent rediscovery of my love for math was the catalyst for the burst of abstract geometric and space-filling curve works.

Considering how much emphasis has been placed on geometry in the past and the desire to create artwork based on exact measurements of shapes (e.g the use of golden ratio), where do you see geometry fitting in contemporary art?

Geometry will always have a place in the world of contemporary art. Successful artists are successful manipulators. Geometry is a great foil for manipulation. Why is it that people are drawn to compositions with certain proportions? When something is out of proportion, why is it so jarring?

I think that a lot of the answers to these questions lie in neuroscience and the way our brains are wired to recognize patterns and forms. There have been a lot of recent studies that show that we have at a minimum 2 brain functions going on at the same time, the executive mind and the habitual mind. The executive mind is what we engage when we encounter something new or need to solve a problem, the habitual mind is our autopilot. This is not a new concept, ancient Zen masters were aware of this. The habitual mind is programmed through repetition to detect patterns and shapes and it keys in on certain proportions like golden ratios, facial symmetry, etc. As an artist you can play with this feature in your viewers brains to evoke a response.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s current exhibit at LACDA titled “Beautiful Mutants” is great example this manipulative technique in action. http://www.lacda.com/exhibits/mothersbaugh.html
In “Bottom Heavy Pug” Mothersbaugh is challenging both the executive and habitual mind simultaneously, the picture looks enough like the original that your habitual mind immediately identifies it as a dog. Your executive mind also immediately recognizes that there is something proportionally awry with the picture. The internal conflict makes the picture memorable and engaging.

Bottom heavy pug by Mark Mothersbaugh

Along the same line of reasoning, works that are geometrically exact are equally engaging. Geometric perfection is actually quite rare in nature and we can recognize when a form is artificially perfect. In “Bottom Heavy Pug” the vertical symmetry is exact, we recognize that this is uncommon and take note.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Don Relyea for taking the time to answer these questions, and with such detail 🙂

There are loads more interesting projects he is working on, so once again I recommend a look at his site. In particular I’ve just noticed this project based on html layouts and table based html structures which actually form interesting imagery when viewed in a browser: the reductionizer.