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20th Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival: Impact

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20th Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival: Impact
0=1 by Hitoshi Kuriyama. Image courtesy of Hitoshi Kuriyama

This year’s theme inspires artists to investigate the impact of the past on the present and to create a new impact on society through contemporary art. The Department of Culture aims to make this event a platform for experimentation and research.

Of the 43 artists represented, fourteen are from Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as four calligraphy masters from Iraq and Syria. Outdoor exhibitions include murals, street and public art as well as two pavilions – The Flying Mosque, a joint project by two architect firms, Choi (USA) and Shine (UK), and Floral Pavilion by Daydreamers Design (Hong Kong). Sharjah Art Museum is hosting the indoor art exhibitions. The festival is on until 23 January 2018.

Floral Pavilion by Daydreamers Design HK. Image courtesy of Islamic Arts Magazine.

 Daydreamers Design (Hong Kong) - architects Aden Chen and Stanley Siu – built on the success of Spiral Arches, their installation at last year’s Islamic Arts Festival, with a new installation called Floral Pavilion. Their inspiration came from the traditional arabesque designs on Tabriz carpets from Iran. The geometrically structured dome, overlaid with an arabesque carpet design laser cut sheet, creates the sense of being inside a traditional Arabic tent. The interplay between light and shadow produce a dynamic atmosphere. During daylight hours the shadows cast by the dome forms a carpet pattern on the floor, while at night the LED light strips inside the dome enhance the feeling of being under a starry sky.

0=1 by Hitoshi Kuriyama. Image courtesy of Hitoshi Kuriyama

Japanese artist Hitoshi Kuriyama’s inspiration for his contemporary light installation came from the repetition and infinity found in arabesque and Islamic design. He explores the concept of existence and non-existence with his hypothesis of 0=1. It comes from the idea that complete nothingness can be proven. By using a glass tube as one unit he repeats it to construct a bigger image in the same way that the enormous patterns in the domical ceiling of a mosque are constructed with repetition of smaller geometric patterns. Hitoshi’s successful use of mirrors in this installation draws the viewer into the endless micro world of multiplications, creating a sense of an expanding atmosphere.

Gardens of Bliss V, VI, VII by Sulaiman Esa. Image courtesy of Ansie van der Walt

Renowned Malaysian artist Sulaiman Esa’s works represent two garden series from his Raha’ah collection. In both series, Esa uses a base surface of woven yarns and bamboo strips in a deliberate attempt to introduce craft into the realm of fine art. In the Garden of Bliss series, the geometric woven patterns are overlaid and embellished with central mandala designs suggesting the concept of unity in diversity, while in the Garden of Mystery series the medallion designs echo those of a prayer rug.

Thalaatha by Ayman Zedani. Image courtesy of Ansie van der Walt

Ayman Zedani’s deceptively simple installation, Thalaatha (Three), centres on the essence of Islamic art in a contemporary context. A formula to create 24 objects and 24 paper works inspired by Ibn Muqla’s system of letter design of proportioned script inspired a new visual alphabet. The objects made of spools of thread is loaded with symbolism and cultural associations. Zedani believes that Islamic art’s form of attractive shapes, intricate patterns and complex geometry was designed to inspire the human mind and pushed culture in the direction of incredible mathematical sophistication, blurring the lines between art and science.

Gilded Path by Sarah Al Abdali. Image courtesy of Ansie van der Walt

Gilded Path an interactive installation by Saudi artist Sarah Al-Abdali, embodies the labyrinth as an ancient symbol of meditation within the language of Islamic art. Consisting of six concentric hexagons, the maze is defined by a single path being both the entrance and the exit. According to Sarah, this provides the audience with an opportunity to reflect on the maze experience. Sarah works across mediums including graffiti and comic installation and is regarded as one of Saudi’s first street artists.

Metalmorphosis by Zeinab Alhashemi. Image courtesy of Ansie van der Walt

Zeinab Alhashemi, a UAE artist specialising in site-specific installations and spatial art, use her work Metalmorphosis to address the geometric depth of Islamic art. Using four identical steel grids and rotating them around a single axis, she created a sixteen-point star based on classic Islamic geometrical design principals and so transforms the mesh from a functional to a decorative state. Alhashemi uses her work to forge a connection between an honoured tradition and contemporary art by relying on technical and creative knowledge. She believes it is her responsibility as an artist to draw awareness on not only art and design but on how it can inspire society. That is the reason she continually deconstructs and reconstructs her chosen medium.

Salah by Ammar Al Attar. Image courtesy of Islamic Arts Magazine

Salah by Ammar Al Attar, a UAE photographer and mixed media artist, presents an analytical series of self-portraits centred on the act of prayer in Islam and the underlying explanations for each micro-movement of the ritual. The act of prayer is isolated, compartmentalised, dissected, and celebrated. This series is both a continuation and a plot twist on his previous series Prayer Rooms, where he captured empty prayer spaces, taking great care to document the aesthetics and purpose of the space rather than the form of the attending worshippers.

Visual-audio Flaps by Najat Makki. Image courtesy of Ansie van der Walt

Najat Makki, a UAE cultural and artistic icon, has taken her conceptual art to the third dimension of expression by combining coloured light, sound and movement in her installation called Visual-audio Flaps. A sphere constructed from blue crystal glass, decorated with embossing and engraving in intricate patterns, immersed in halogen light and surrounded by oriental music creates a visual synthesis symbolising the movement of a cosmic activity, the earth’s rotation and the multiple dimensions of human imagination.

Through its successive editions, Islamic Arts Festival seeks to underline the importance of contemporary art as a catalyst for creating a visual and aesthetic awareness in the community and to reflect the rich regional and international cultures present in the UAE. Sharjah’s geographical location is a perfect home for this cultural bridge between East and West.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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