I started with Islamic art in 2016-2017 and it has been an amazing journey so far where I studied a lot, travelled to see the patterns and teach them to my students.
This art form is so pure and unique. Maybe this is why it’s gaining popularity around the world.
So if you want to learn more about Islamic art and patterns you are in the right place.
But first thing first.
WHAT IS ISLAMIC ART?
Islamic art is a visual art that encompasses all the arts produced from the 7th to the 19th century in the Islamic lands, but it doesn’t refer only to religious art.
The term Islamic art applies to all art forms produced in the Islamic world by Muslim artists for patrons of any faith. But it also includes the works created by Jews, Christians, and others, living in Islamic lands, for Muslim patrons.
Islamic art is difficult to characterize because it covers a wide range of lands, periods, and genres. Nevertheless, it can be represented by three distinct disciplines: geometry, islimi and calligraphy.
These 3 art forms were and still are implemented on every craft typical of the Islamic world such as:
- plaster carving
- miniature painting etc.
ISLAMIC GEOMETRIC PATTERNS
Before going into the details, I want to express what Islamic geometry means to me. Islamic geometry is the calm during the storm, it’s the moment of stillness in a chaotic life, it’s the deep breath that helps me face the world.
The peacefulness that I feel in every construction line, stroke or shape is something that I wish everybody could witness in his/her life.
Geometry was invented long before the birth of Islam. Egyptians, Ancient Greeks and many others used a compass or divider, a straight edge and a tee square to build pyramids, temples and cathedrals.
Islam has helped to preserve that knowledge and hand it down to the present day.
But the meaning of geometry is not only of practical connotation. It has a deeper definition of both cosmologically and philosophically.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote in the foreword of the book Islamic Patterns An Analytical and Cosmological Approach by Keith Critchlow:
“The doctrine of unity which is central to the Islamic revelation combined with the nomadic spirituality which Islam made its own brought into being an aniconic art wherein the spiritual world was reflected in the sensible world not through various iconic forms but through geometry and rhythm, through arabesques and calligraphy which reflect directly the worlds above and ultimately the supernal sun of Divine Unity.”
Islamic geometric patterns are based on mathematics and fit in perfectly on a plane. Patterns are created with compassn and straight edge and they always start from a circle. The central star or the petals of the rosette can be counted and that is usually how patterns are named (five pointed or five fold, six pointed or six fold, eight pointed or eight fold etc)
ISLAMIC BIOMORPHIC PATTERNS
Islimi, arabesques, biomorphic patterns, call it whatever you want, but this easy-looking art form is anything but easy.
Maybe it’s because I like hard corners more than curvy lines or perhaps it’s because I’m a hopeless perfectionist, but the 2 times I attempted at Islimi it took me hours to create a symmetrical and balanced pattern.
This free-hand type of art follows a geometric grid representing the underlying order of nature, and it can be used to:
- illuminate calligraphy
- embellish geometric patterns
- ornate carved plaster, ceramics, wood etc.
- used on their own as the main focus
If you think I’m patient, you have never met a calligrapher.
I think Arabic calligraphy is the hardest of the 3 art forms and the most important as it has been used to write the Qur’an.
Paul Marchant wrote in the book Arts and Crafts of the Islamic Lands:
“Geometry, combined together with islimi representing love, provides the setting, which is united by the addition of calligraphy representing the Divine wisdom of the word of God made manifest in the Holy Qur’an.”
Many scripts were developed during the years (more than 20 scripts) but the ones in common use today are Thuluth, Naskh, Muhaqqaq, Maghrebi Kufic, Nast’aliq, Diwani, Riq’a and Squared Kufic.
Nowadays, Islamic art is growing in popularity and if you want to learn more check the rest of my blog posts here.
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Back to Basics: What is Islamic Art?
January 1, 2020