Thursday 15 September 2011

Islamic art

For Islamic art, Extracts from the Master Artist

By Tajudeen Sowole
  Visual Arts, in strict Islamic sense must not be three-dimensional lest the viewer abuse the essence and use of the image. Over the ages, what is known in art world as Islamic art has, however, grown wider than the confines of two-dimensionality. From Arabic calligraphy to the brand of medieval art dubbed Turkish, there have been varieties of the art style in several forms including Persians, Indians as well as the dome-like piny structural forms that are now popular in modern art as Islamic architecture.

  But one cardinal thrust of art works that fall under the cover, Islamic art, is that such pieces contribute to the spread of the faith.
Extracts from the Master Artist, a presentation of about 50 art works by nine Nigerian artists, which is scheduled to open this Sunday at Didi Museum Victoria Island, Lagos and ending Sunday July 2, 2006 therefore falls within this context.  The  group exhibition is supported by a Lagos-based organisation, Forum for Islamic Education and Welfare.
   At the preview, the works presented cover spiritual, social as well as architectural areas of Islam.
  The show gives deep background to the faith, throwing the viewer back to the origins and its core tenets. Though Islam has a well known date of emergence in the emigration of Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622, the beginning of Islamic art is far more difficult to establish.
  But in the ninth century, art of pottery advanced in the technique of lustre painting,  a spectacular means of decorating pottery, perhaps in imitation of precious metal, which was first developed in Iraq and subsequently spread to Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Spain.
These much have obviously influenced whatever could be called Islamic art today irrespective of the artist’s cultural background.
Explaining the contents of their works, the nine artists exhibiting at Extracts from the Master Artist, however agreed that it is not impossible to have an African flavour of Islamic art just as other cultures around the world have greatly influenced what is known as Islamic art  today.  
   In the paintings he calls the The Mosque Series, Sherifdeen Ibrahim bring to life different architectural pattern of mosques from one culture to another. One of the paintings is of the Middle Eastern pattern set of mosques while another depicts a typical Northern Nigerian architecture.
One of the artists, Istanbul, Turkey-trained Kaltume Gena Amuta, also brings in a blend of African with much of Turkish art in one of the works presented. While explaining the unavoidable influence of art from that part of the world in her works, Amuta, the only lady in the group notes that Mongolian, Othoman, Indian, Persian and Arabian art are so much in the Islamic art of today because history favours these cultures longer than Africa. "As an African artist, after studying the art of Turkey for example, I have the challenge to bring in African contemporary art into my works which I have exhibited abroad."
Perhaps most visible of Islamic art is the Arabic calligraphy. Another artist in the group, Ridwan Osinowo has the calligraphy done in reverse mirror.
Muf ‘Samawati Wamafilardi, (Creator of Heaven and Earth) is a work of metal and wood, a close surrealism from Adeola Balogun. "Heaven and earth belong to Almighty Allah. In spite of man’s struggle on earth, at the end, what remains is Allah. This is the crust of that work," Balogun, a lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, (YABATECH) explains.

  Another work, Ultra Illumination by Akeem Muraina still toes the spiritual path. It depicts the power of light over darkness. Trained at YABATECH, Muraina notes that though the dark and bright side of life, physically or spiritually, are both from Allah, "but the light is my focus"
For Mukaila Ayoade, colour is the focus. In his work, Total Submission, creative and rich application of colours exhumes the beauty of what lays ahead for those who associate no partner with God.
  Other artists involved in the exhibition are Sheriffdeen  Ibrahim, Abdulfattah Adeyemi and Abdul Akeem Murthado.
  Explaining what informed the theme of the exhibition, the Deputy Amirah of Forum for Islamic Education and Welfare,  Abdulrafiu Ebiti states that there is a relationship between art and the teachings of the Quran. "The Quran delves so much about mankind in the physical and spiritual realm. But there is a Master who teaches by the pen, meaning He has given us art," Ebiti stressed. He related this to the encounter of the Holy Prophet with the spiritual realm, and quoted a verse from the Quran. "Thy Lord, the most bounteous, who teacheth by the pen and teacheth man that which he knew not’, chapter 96, verse 1-5. Who else is the Master artist other than Allah?"
But in his contribution sent to the preview, renowned artist, Yusuf Grillo asked: "Is Islamic art a clearly identifiable form, modifiable in graphic term? Is it a Muslim artist’s expression of his faith? Will the work of a contemporary artist who happens to be a devout Muslim automatically qualify as Islamic art?
The exhibition is the third edition coming after the last one held in 1998.

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