Posted tagged ‘Islamic art’

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!

Update – nearing the end

July 12, 2010

So the MA degree (end of yr) show opens this week, which houses all the pathways including ourselves – Digital Arts. Our work was assessed last week and the external examiner was in today asking us about our experience of the course.

Now its all about those final tweaks for the private view tomorrow and the general opening until Saturday. We’ve all signed up for shifts of invigilating and I’ve used up some more of my holidays from work for this. And it leaves me with very little annual leave left for the rest of the yr. That’s a big shame but it was necessary. And then we have our results coming out on the 20th! It’s quite soon compared to how long students usually have to wait for their undergrad results or for A-levels or GCSE results. But even then I would rather know now than in a week and half’s time.

I’m also trying to mentally prepare myself for all sorts of outcomes. For example I am contemplating where my threshold for satisfaction in achievement is so that I can determine what marks I would need to achieve in order to be happy with my grade. But at the same time I don’t want to think about it at all in case I don’t get it and then feel really sad. Hmm but then again is it the marks that I should be happy about or the body of work? The work was definitely an achievement regardless of any one else’s opinion. I went for something quite ambitious and now that I think about it, I didn’t have to go all out but I did and I’m hoping that was perceived as a very strong point rather than a foolish or over-ambitious one. Only time will tell!!

On the up-side, I managed to get three prints ready in time for the show opening too. These were of photos taken in Unit2 and highlight the significance of my newly developed practice. I think they are worth some focus in their own right and have received a lot of positive feedback. Having taken that on board and with there being some spare wall space in the lighter room of the show I thought, why not?

Mounted A2 prints of photographs taken during project development

From left to right: Electric, Wave and Citylight all photographs taken during Unit2 development

The one on the far left is actually one I took last week – you might recognise it being similar to that in the previous post. I’m now very strongly contemplating ways in which to customise my Processing and OpenCV code in order to achieve coloured feed to project in order to create results similar to the images above. I think I might spend a couple of months after the MA just trying to improve the manipulation of lighting and adding in the element of colour. Simply by projecting my desktop screen  has created interesting reflections and shadows so it’s worth looking into for even better results.

Well I’d better be off – tomorrow is an early start. I’m now aiming to just look forward to the Private view where good friends and practitioners who I’ve come to know through the project will make for good company.

Oh so busy

November 29, 2009

Unit 1 assessment is due on December 8th. I’ve started a draft for the curation page for this. So far it’s going ok. There’s a lot that needs to be said but I can’t make it too lengthy so need to word things wisely and use the space efficiently with only those posts linked in it that will best illustrate my progress and developments.

Oh and it’s Eid – so obviously I am planning to take it easy for a couple of days.

I am currently in the middle of making the larger Icosahedron. I’ve had to rack my brain about what pattern will work the best and in the end after spending ages over-complicating things for myself I decided to just do a very simple one for now. Then if/when this turns out ok I can concentrate on trying a more complex one.

Icosahedron prep

Using the Icosahedron template I downloaded...

I created a larger version on some really thick card. Its A2 and will hopefully hold together much better than ordinary paper or card

...I created a larger version on some very thick card. Can't remember the GSM but believe me this stuff good make a shelter. Each face (triangle) is aprox. 13 cms on each side.

On another note:

The Saturday workshops are now down to the last two sessions. We have chosen our final mediums for applying our patterns to. Adam Williamson and Lateefa Spiker (see examples of her work here: http://www.lateefaspiker.com) demonstrated the many practices we could employ for our work. Amongst these were ceramic tiles, plaster sculptures, stone carving, veneer marquetry (I think that’s what it’s called), and gilding or painting on glass. The following images were taken in the workshop and some of the work is from current or past students. I do not have their names and so cannot state what belongs to who but just be aware that it is the work of students attending the workshop and applying patterns that have been taught by both Richard Henry and Adam Williamson (you can find out more about the classes here: http://www.adamwilliamson.com/42.html)

Plaster casting

Plaster moulding and carving

Stone carving examples

More stone carving

More stone carving

Stone carving by Adam Williamson

Carving of arabesque design in stone by Adam Williamson

cutting veneer

Cutting veneer using templates

Veneer marquetry

Veneer marquetry

Tile making

Tile making and a semi-glazed example

Tile making 2

More tile making

Examples of wood carving

Examples of wood carving

An icosahedron!

An Icosahedron! This one is made from MDF, the pieces cut at an angle to allow the to slot together nice and clean

Zilij tiles

Zellij tiles. I can't imagine how a beginner would achieve breaking the tiles using the chisel and hammer to 'smash/cut' the individual shapes from each piece that would then fit together to create the pattern. Very hard work.

I couldn’t decide which to go for, as there were so many options. But with only a few hours on three Saturdays, I felt as if whatever I chose I would have to rush it. So I thought let me just go for something I may not get another chance to do for a while – stone carving! lol I don’t even know if my biceps are up to it but I’m going to give it my best. So I chose the weave pattern I did a few weeks ago (see here) and so far have transferred it on to a chunk of stone. This is some lovely soft stone that is relatively easy to carve and has a smooth surface and a slightly creamy colouring. It looks really nice so I’m hoping I do a good job of it.

On top of all this I need to do some final tests with the sculptural pieces for the Unit One assessment. So far I have the reflective work but I want to create a 3D shape version to see if that will work in a similar way to the flat/curved sheets I tried a few weeks ago. I’m hoping the Icosahedron will not take too much longer as that will form the basis for my next set of shapes which will also be using reflective sheets.

I have also decided that after this assessment I will concentrate more on the lighting aspect of the installation. I haven’t looked closely enough at this area and feel there is more room for experimentation. As my current time is being occupied with creating patterns and applying these to different materials I need to set myself a deadline in order to keep that work contained and not spend too long on it. I do really enjoy this part of the work a lot though. So once I have pinpointed the lighting sources with satisfaction, and if I have time I will return to the patterns and materials to hopefully produce some interesting and perhaps more complex constructions.

I am also really intrigued with the possibilities that are emerging with combining 2D and 3D shapes. The work has potential in many subject areas so even this is making me think too much.

Anyway I’ll stop it there for now and get back to finishing that Icosahedron.

Workshop pattern

October 29, 2009

The following images show the stages gone through in order to produce the final cut-out pattern seen at the end of this post. The steps in creating this classic 8-fold rosette tiling were set by Richard Henry in the Saturday workshop.

I completed this partly in the class itself following a worksheet he provided and then finished it off at home. I’m not even quite sure if I tiled the final stages correctly but I have to admit I am quite pleased with how it turned out 🙂

img1

First few stages is getting the overall block shape of the Khattam down (two slightly rotated squares - one atop the other)

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Using the shapes produced within the larger tile walls we found where the octagonal shape is formed, and then the 8-fold rosette within this (dashed lines)

img3

At home I continued by re-producing the rosette in four other squares by tracing the orginal one to retain accuracy

Each stage was done on a new sheet of tracing paper as I like to preserve the stages. This also helps me to remember how I got from one stagee to another if I need to recreate it.

img4

I then created thicker edges by adding two lines on the outer and inner sides of all existing lines that form the rosette petals. This adds a thick border to allow for a weave effect

img5

Using another sheet of tracing paper I went over only the outer and inner lines but weaving each under and over the intersecting lines.

Detail of weaving - was a bit tricky at some points but still fun trying to figure it out

Detail of weave effect - was a bit tricky at some points but I really enjoyed figuring it out

img6

I photocopied the final pattern and cut it out to create a stencil. This is the photocopied cut-out against a black background

img7

I then used the stencil to draw and cut out a black sheet filled completely with the pattern

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And this is the final black cut-out of the full pattern repeat. Can you see the cube that is formed in the centre?

A very busy few days but worth the effort.

Reflective light projection

October 25, 2009

I wonder if the title depicts what I actually mean by it. Well images are always useful in these circumstances. I’ve been to the art shop recently and, as mentioned in a recent previous post, I decided to pursue the idea of using reflections. I found some reflective sheets of card (quite large A1 size) and had one placed on a box in my room lying flat but parallel to the wall. The light in my room was hitting off of the sheet and this was bounced/reflected on to the wall where it was casting some oddly shaped lines.

I then placed a cut-out pattern directly on to the reflective card – that was a good move. The card was slightly curved and as a result the light and pattern was also curved in its projective state on the wall.

Light reflected from card on to wall

Light reflected from card on to wall

I moved the sheet slightly higher and deepened the curve and the results changed too:

Twisted projection of pattern with reflected light

Twisted projection of pattern with reflected light

I was pleased to see how the small changes in the curves and placement of the card could create many variations of patterned shapes. This led to another few sample work ideas for installation pieces. These would probably be stand alone pieces as part of the wider range of work presented.

I then pulled some of the above photos in to Photoshop and experimented with colouring and was able to produce a hightened contrast by darkening the images and layering and rotating them. The light stands out better here and looks like a hologram or a laser display:

Digitally manipulated image from reflective light series

Digitally manipulated image from reflective light series

General Update on activities:
I have also been able to find some 3D geometric template sheets online to cut out and assemble. These are small and tricky to stick together but I managed to get them to hold for a few seconds while I took a couple of images. The really hard part will be figuring out how to apply a pattern to these shapes that has a similar underlying grid to the shapes they are made up from. For example for a dodecahedron there will need to be a construction with a pentagon tiling and for the icosahedron an equilateral triangle.

Flat template of for making a dodecahedron - printed from http://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/dodecahedron-model.html

Flat template of for making a dodecahedron - printed from http://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/dodecahedron-model.html

Dodecahedron

Dodecahedron

An icosahedron prior to assembly - printed from http://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/icosahedron-model.html

An icosahedron prior to assembly - printed from http://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/icosahedron-model.html

Icosahedron - just before it fell apart

Icosahedron - just before it fell apart

I may need to create a large-scale pattern on a large flat sheet first and then outline the template to cut out from this with correct placement and hope it sticks together right. In practice I will probably get it all wrong – still, no harm in trying.

Pattern-making workshop
I’ve joint a 10-week workshop where we are creating traditional Islamic patterns being taught by Richard Henry. He teaches with Birkbeck as well as with schools and also creates artwork himself. He was also taught by Keith Critchlow so I think we’re in good hands!

Richard’s worksheets are very easy to follow and start from basic circle formations to developing full pattern constructions. Some of the patterns are similar to those I’ve done already but Richard’s approach to constructing them seem easier and sometimes more practical. I wanted to take the class to see how things could be done perhaps with short-cuts or to make some of the stages quicker with ‘best-practice’. Many a handy tips have been passed on already. It has also affirmed some of the general things I’ve picked up about pattern-making and the things I need to be aware of (for example I thought it was just me when my compass would slightly alter itself). All in all I’m really enjoying it.

To have a look at some of Richard Henry’s work visit his web site: http://www.richardhenry.info/

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.

More patterns

October 15, 2009

I have a tendency to say too much so this time I am just going to add a load of pictures of my latest pattern-making endeavours. The images below are the initial stages of creating a pattern to be used for some of my sculptural experiments. You will see the stages I go through from start to finish.

Using my favourite book and following the instructions as layed out in Islamic Design: Genius in Geometry by Daud Sutton

Using my favourite book and following the instructions in Islamic Design: Genius in Geometry by Daud Sutton

Continuing stages as the pattern takes shape

Continuing stages as the pattern takes shape

Final stages before tiling - hand cutting parts if the pattern

Final stages before tiling - hand cutting parts if the pattern

Using the new cut-out to trace a repeated/tiling pattern on to large black sheet of paper

Using the new cut-out to trace a repeated/tiling pattern on to large black sheet of paper

Cutting out the full pattern from the black paper

Cutting out the full pattern from the black paper

Sample of the final version - white sheet beneath the black to show the cut-out pattern

Sample of the final version - white sheet beneath the black to show the cut-out pattern

Placing the photocopied stencil within the lampshade to trace the pattern

Placing the photocopied and slightly altered stencil of full pattern within the lampshade to trace. This will then be cut out, again, by hand.

More images will be added soon to show the final stages of this process.

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/

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 🙂

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.

———————————–

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.

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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.