Unit 1 Essay

Understanding the origins, influences and contemporary developments

MA Visual Arts – Digital Arts
Unit 1 Essay


This essay will address the following topics:

  • What is Islamic Art?
  • A brief history of Islamic art and the early influences on this art
  • Establishment of traditional Islamic Art
  • The movement of Islamic art practice from the East to West
  • The rise of contemporary Islamic Art

Islamic art encompasses many art forms that were produced within an Islamic context which arose with the beginning of the religion in the 7th century. The timeline for this is varied and moves from many locations simultaneously as the expansion of the Islamic empire was of such a nature. With the beginning of this art being strongly embedded with the beginning of the religion of Islam, one may assume that the link that binds Islamic art is the faith itself. As the current digital age is maturing is this truly the case?

There is a clear distinction between secular and religious art in Islamic history and these have remained so from the outset. Going beyond this high level division of Islamic art we will look at the possibility of further categorisation. These will be indicated with an understanding of their emergence in relation to historical events and influences from culture as well as theology.

This paper will also address the common misconception about Islamic art’s timeline of production ending in the early 19th century with the regression of the Islamic empire. However, regardless of the global and political changes of the era, and withstanding the temporary slowdown of the 19th century, Islamic artistic practice continued and came through with a new approach to face the late 19th century and beyond. We will see how a very traditional outlook evolved to a very contemporary one.

With examples of Islamic artwork, this paper will set out to illustrate the relationship between Islamic artistic practice and theology. Taking a look at practitioners who have, and are, producing contemporary ‘Islamic art’ and retained some link to traditional methods, we shall see that the links between the two are still very valid and have scope to move further with the developments of new art practice including that of digital art.

To read the rest of this paper in full please view the PDF here

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