Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Ornamentation In Islamic Civilization.


Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

Art of ornamentation in Islamic civilization

The Muslim artist inclined towards new worlds other than the drawing of people and imitation of nature, where he outstandingly showed his genius and creativity, and used his imagination, delicate taste and inherent art. Ornamentation was one of such worlds.
As industry of aesthetics is the function of Islamic art, ornamentation is a key mean to create this beauty since it is a pure act that only means beauty-making, where the shape of artwork combines with its content to become a cohesive unit to make beauty outwardly and inwardly, something which we can hardly find in any other art[1].

Characteristics of Islamic ornamentation:

Islamic ornamentation had distinctive characteristics that greatly contributed to highlighting the civilized image of Islamic renaissance. It grew and boomed outstandingly in design, production, subjects and methods. Muslims artists used magnificent decorative lines in appearance and formation and used decorative shapes as examples in which they unleashed their imagination for infinity, repetition, renovation, alteration and intertwinement. They also invented star-shaped squares and "Ataurique" (floral decoration or arabesque) and Arabic decorative shapes which the Europeans designated as Arabesque. Several countries have been still interested in this Arabic pattern of ornamentation since it initially emerged in Fatimid ornamentation, Al-Azhar Mosque and in the middle of the fourth Hejira century (the 10th century). Muslim artists of architectural ornamentation excelled in flat sculpture and carving on wood, stones or marble, and were skilled in using colors and producing exquisite inscriptions[2].
Floral and geometric elements are key pillars of this art, which are occasionally combined together or kept apart. Thence, there are two types of decoration: floral and geometric decoration[3].

Floral ornamentation:

Art of ArabesqueFloral ornamentation (Ataurique) consists of designs composed of various leaves and flowers. Having diverse patterns, such designs are produced separately, jointly, convergently and embracingly. In many cases, a decorative unit is composed of a group of overlapping, intertwining, symmetrical and regularly repetitive floral elements.
By using his imagination, the Muslim artist could keep his art away from the imitation of nature and that's why his floral designs were geometrical pieces where the lively element was subdued and abstraction prevailed. Such designs were commonly used in the decoration of walls and domes, various antiquities (brassy, glassy and ceramic ones), and in the ornamentation and binding of books.

Geometrical ornamentation:

It is the other type of Islamic ornamentation as Muslims excelled in using geometrical lines and formulating them in exquisite motifs, including polygons, star-like pieces and overlapping circles. They were used in adorning buildings and wooden and brassy antiquities, doors and ceilings. This shows an advanced knowledge of practical geometry.
The Muslims produced various circular geometric forms, including hexagons, octagons, decagons and, thence, triangles, squares and pentagons.
Geometrical decorationThrough intertwining such forms, filling some areas and leaving others empty, we can get an infinite amount of such elegantly designed miniatures that catch the eye to take it little by little from the part to the whole and from a partial whole to a bigger whole.
The Muslim artist was interested in, and preoccupied with, finding a new innovative formation through intertwining secants or adjoining geometrical shapes in order to give more sober beauty. Such geometrical shapes include abutting and adjoining circles, twists and fractured and intertwined lines.
Key geometric designs in Islamic arts are multi-sided star-shaped formations, which make up the so-called (star-shaped plates). This type of decorative designs was used in the ornamentation of wooden and metal antiquities, gilded pages of Quranic copies and books, as well as ceilings.
French critic H. Faucillon precisely and deeply said: "I can't find anything that may abstract life from its outward meaning and take us to its inward content just as do geometric formations of Islamic decoration, which are no more than the fruit of thinking based on precise calculation, possibly turning into some sort of diagrams of philosophical ideas and spiritual meanings. Yet, we should not miss that through this abstract framework a flowing life proceeds from lines to compose generating and increasing formations, separately once but jointly several times, as if there is a bewildered spirit that brings such formations together and keeps them apart and then re-brings them together. Hence, each formation can be variously interpreted, depending on what one scrutinizes and contemplates. But, all of them concurrently hide and show the secret of their unlimited potential and energies[4]."

Decorative perfection

Decorative perfectionArtistic processes of Islamic decoration mainly include studding, overlaying, dovetailing, inlaying, plastering, ornamentation, plating and spooling, with key substances used being marble, plaster, wood, metals, tiles, mosaic, faience and ceramics.
On decorative art and its purpose and characteristics, Roger Garaudy[5] says: "Arabic decorative art aspires to be a typical expression of a decorative concept that combines abstraction and weight, the musical meaning of nature and mental meaning of geometry always compose constituents of this art[6]."

[1] Saleh Ahmad al-Shami: al-Fan al-Islami…Iltizam Wa Ibdaa (Islamic Art…Commitment and Creativity) page 169.
[2] Ahmad Fuad Pasha: al-Torath al-Elmi al-Islami (The Scientific Islamic Heritage) page 44.
[3] See: ibid, pages 170-173.
[4] Tharwat Okasha: al-Qiam al-Jamaliya Fi al-Emara al-Islamia (Aesthetic Values of Islamic Architecture) page 39.
[5] Roger Garaudy: (1331 AH-...1913 AD-...), a contemporary French philosopher specializing in research of civilization, history, literature and human sciences, a highly placed scholar who adopted several orientations and then converted to Islam, he clashed with Zionist policy through his various writings.
[6] Roger Garaudy: "Le Dialogue des Civilizations", page 174.

Wa'laykum Salam.

No comments:

Post a Comment