Tag Archives: Islamic art

Princes School of Traditional Arts Degree Show 2014

I managed to catch the Degree Show at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (PSTA), an exhibition of work produced by graduates of the postgraduate programme.

As you may have guessed, there are strong ties between traditional arts and crafts Islamic art. In fact ‘traditional arts and crafts’ is often the description provided for the term ‘Islamic art’, and it is usually these types of items that are displayed as examples of it. Rightly, or wrongly? It is debatable.  However, we must acknowledge that the link persists, and thankfully, the skills have been passed on to generations of artists and craftsmen today.

At the PSTA, students hone their skills of creativity and activity to produce contemporary artworks using traditional methods and materials, and always to a high standard.

Below is work produced by Ahmed Angawi, who comes from a product design background. His hand-made woodwork combined various woods to enable a mixture of shades and patterns within his pieces.

Close-up of woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Close-up of woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Woodwork by Ahmed Angawi

Also, on show were a pair of beautiful replica Hijazi doors produced by Sarah Al Abdali, using plaster.

Plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Detail of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Detail of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Close-up of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

Close-up of plaster replica Hijazi doors by Sara Al Abdali

The inspiration behind this piece was Sarah’s discovery of the original wooden doors within the Jameel Centre collection in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

Hijazi Doors, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

17th century, carved wooden Hijazi Doors at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Image and item details can be viewed here: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/object/EAX.422

Cutwork pieces by Sarah Al Abdali

Laser-cut pieces by Sarah Al Abdali

Having viewed previous work produced from PSTA gradautes, it was great to see  students are now also experimenting more with new technologies such as laser-cutting. It’ll be interesting to see how much technology will influence the work produced by artists in future.

Another favourite was the Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann who learnt this unique method for decorating wood in Morocco:

Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann

Zouaq ceiling by Natasha Mann (for further details visit http://www.natashazouaq.co.uk)

Painting by Natasha Mann

Painting by Natasha Mann using hand ground natural pigments with egg tempera and 24 carat gold leaf.

Painting by Natasha Mann

Painting by Natasha Mann using hand ground natural pigments with egg tempera and 24 carat gold leaf.

Further images below demonstrate some of the incredibly intricate work on show:

Read more about The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and both their taught and public programmes on their website: http://psta.org.uk/

 

Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design at PSTA

The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (based in East London) runs a number of practical short-courses. I recently attended the Iznik: Ottoman Ceramic Design course where a small group of students learnt how to apply focussed and delicate brush strokes to ceramic tiles and plates. The class firstly taught us that concentration and a calm approach is key to producing the best results. We spent some time practising small lines and swirls. I honestly found this a little difficult, as I am used to applying deliberate and highly pressure movements through my tools, be it pens or brushes. As a result my brush strokes using ink came out quite bulky 😐 This technique called for dainty elegance for sure.

We soon moved on to experimenting with applying glaze to tiles. The change of texture was stark and proved even more difficult to work with. However the tutor, Nooshin Shafiei (very much an expert in the art of ceramic design) was able to depose some tips and eventually we cracked on with our final pieces – large ceramic plates!

Designs were transferred on to the plates by applying red powder dye to the back of the paper and then tracing over the top so that the pattern was drawn with the powder only.

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

We chose designs from a beautiful book full of photographic examples of Iznik ceramics: Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey I chose the following design. I thought it was simple enough for my less than advanced skills but I soon learnt that even this was perhaps a little ambitious. In the following two sessions, conversation amongst students centred on one topic – the desire to make this final piece worthy of display in our own homes. The collective goal was to give it everything we had.

The various stages of my efforts are displayed below:

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

 

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

Iznik ceramic design class at PSTA

However, based on our tests on glazing tiles previously, it would not be until much later, once the plates had been fired that we would know exactly how our skills played out in reality…

Iznik ceramic plate design

Original plate that I was trying to replicate

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

Detail of Iznik ceramic plate design

The plate is now ready for it’s final coat of transparent glaze which will give it a shiny smooth surface.

Overall, the class was very enjoyable. I learnt new motif designs distinctive of the Iznik region within the Ottoman reign. I’ve not done much freehand, non-geometric art practice so this was definitely something new and challenging for me but I am very glad I decided to do it. The fellow students and the teacher Nooshin made it a very friendly environment with lots of interaction dispersed with the much appreciated tea-breaks (thanks for the biscuits Nooshin!).

I would highly recommend practical short-courses to anyone who either has a soft-spot for creativity, is looking for some inspiration, wants a break from their normal life routine or for the opportunity to meet new people. For further information on courses provided by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts have a look on their website: http://www.psta.org.uk/openprogramme/

Jameel Prize 3 exhibition 11 Dec 2013 – 21 April 2014

The Jameel Prize is an international award designed to highlight the production of contemporary art and design which has been inspired by Islamic traditions.

The Jameel Prize 3 winners, Dice Kayek, are a fashion house based in Istanbul whose collection of garments ‘Istanbul Contrast’, for which they won the prize, was inspired by the famous architectural sites of Istanbul.

Istanbul Contrast by Dice Kayek, Winner of Jameel Prize 3, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Istanbul Contrast by Dice Kayek, Winner of Jameel Prize 3, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The garments in Istanbul Contrast bring to mind the famous domes of Istanbul’s historical mosques and are an example of how Islamic artistic styles can be applied to a range of mediums. The cross-application of aesthetics from one medium to another is much like the methods adopted by traditional Islamic artisans in the vast history of Islamic art. Traditional artists were more akin to craftsmen who were known to decorate varying items of differing materials using the same stylistic designs including ceramics, metalwork and wood.

Inspiration from the architecture of Istanbul is not new. A previous nomination in the 2009 short-list of the same prize included the work of jeweller Sevan Biçakçi who created miniature scenes of Istanbul in the form of rings.

 

Saray Burnu (Seraglio Point). 2005 Umut Kapısı (The Gate of Hope). 2007 Sevan Biçakçi

Saray Burnu (Seraglio Point), 2005
Umut Kapısı (The Gate of Hope), 2007
Sevan Biçakçi

All shortlisted nominations are featured in the current exhibition at  the Victoria and Albert Musuem, London on show until 21 April 2014.

Some of the featured work includes pieces which are digital in form such as the multi-media installations by Mounir Fatmi – Modern Times: A History of the Machine and Technologia. These installations are animated videos projected on to the walls supported by static noise audio.

Still from Mounir Fatmi's Modern Times: A History of the Machine, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Still from Mounir Fatmi’s Modern Times: A History of the Machine, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Another artist who made use of digital technology was Faig Ahmed who designed his carpets using computer software before having them hand-made in the traditional weaving method of Azerbaijan.

Hollow, Pixellate Tradition by Faig Ahmed, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

Hollow, Pixellate Tradition by Faig Ahmed, Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, V&A, London, 2013

To see more of the striking artworks on show visit the V&A before the exhibition ends on 21 April 2014.

To learn more about the current exhibition:  http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-jameel-prize/

To learn more about the Jameel Prize: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-jameel-prize/jameel-prize/

Curating Islamic Art

I came across some podcasts on the arts council’s web site recently. They are audio recordings from a meeting where curators and members of staff at some of the UK’s leading museums were invited to discuss how British museums could improve their curation of Islamic Art.

This is hugely intriguing for me personally as I have been quite curious to better understand the decisions made by curators in selecting and displaying Islamic art in London and how this in turn would affect the artists in the local Islamic art scene. One can imagine how this might have a knock-on effect on the developments of the artworks that are then produced. But that is another topic for another day.

I was glad to hear contemporary Islamic art being discussed as a form of important acquisition and that the need to facilitate engagement with thriving Muslim communities across Britain through the artwork was also identified by those in key curatorial positions.

The podcasts are accessible through the Arts Council’s website here: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/supporting-museums/cultural-property/curating-islamic-collections/