Encourage, engage and inspire

“Our mission is to increase the appreciation, understanding and awareness of Islamic art. We hope to show the beauty of Islam through the beauty of Islamic art.” – Salman Sheikh

This month, I’m in discussion with upcoming, Salman Sheikh, charting the rising interest in contemporary Islamic Art and listening to his plans for a curated exhibition in Manchester at the end of October. Salman is the co-founder of Islamic Imprints, a new and dynamic company set up in 2013 showcasing the beauty of Islamic Art. Its main objective is to remind us of the wealth of our Islamic heritage, to encourage dialogue between faiths and help to build bridges between different communities and faith groups in order to encourage harmony and understanding.
Islamic Imprints is very much a passion project for Salman who over the last four years has spent a significant proportion of his time encouraging public engagement as well as building relationships with artists nationally and globally.
This summer saw the success of his first major exhibition at the Living Islam festival in Lincolnshire where his company had the opportunity of showcasing, to two thousand attendees, the work of eighteen Muslim artists. The gallery sympathetically displayed work in a range of media ranging from acrylic and watercolour, leatherwork and ceramics to digital print and hand embroidery.

One 2 One
With Salman Sheikh

Salman Sheikh, curator and advocate for the Arts

How was this new venture received by the public?

Our exhibition at Living Islam was a fantastic experience for all involved and has been hailed as a huge success. We were blown away by the responses we received from guests of the gallery. The exhibition was well placed in the centre of the festival and provided a completely new experience for the majority of our visitors. Many people remarked that they had little or no experience with the arts and had ‘never seen Islamic Art displayed in this way’. It was humbling to know that for many of our visitors we have inspired or refreshed a love of the arts. Furthermore we were astounded by the level of investment into the arts by our communities. Sale of artwork is a secondary motive for Islamic Imprints Art Gallery but through purchasing the art our communities are not only supporting the work we do, but also the artists themselves. By investing in the industry they are showing our artists that they are respected, supported and that their work is loved. This is such a crucial message that we hope to deliver to all of our artists. Amongst the guests we also spoke to many budding artists of all ages who were ready to kick-start a career in the arts. This was the very mission statement of our exhibition; to inspire, to emotionally connect, to motivate.

You will present your second exhibition at the Muslims Lifestyle Expo in Manchester to a potential audience of 10,000. What should we expect when we visit?

We propose to take our guests through a global celebration of Islamic Art ranging from the more contemporary styles coming out of West to the traditional skills of the East. Guests will be exposed to a variety of techniques and media that artists use to manifest their creative spirit. From canvas to leather, wood to textiles, guests will be blown away by the diversity and beauty on show.
Guests will be challenged throughout to unearth the secrets each piece is hiding and to discover its story. Guided by the artists themselves they will be able to explore the diverse nature of Islamic Art through which their own creativity and emotions will undoubtedly be stirred. From the novice to the connoisseur, this gallery is open to all and will allow each individual to connect on their level.
The range of workshops, lectures and performances are designed to entice, to entertain but most importantly to inspire those who wish to create – those that gave up on a passion or those yet to start.
Islamic Imprints Art Gallery has made it its mission to not only increase the appreciation of Islamic Art in the UK but further to inspire and empower a new generation of artists to celebrate and embrace their own creativity.

Islamic Imprint Gallery is a new venture for you. How do you envisage it developing from here?

This project is the beginning of the long process to achieving our aims. We are expecting both the planned collaborative event to be a great success but are realistic in the knowledge that far more needs to be done after this. Based on the feedback from our 2016 project we will develop another plan for 2017. It is intended that this will include smaller, more community based events in order to reach a different community and demographic.
It is hoped that this project sets a precedent for the future and that with each event we take one step closer to harmonious living and tolerance. There is much scope for extension of this project through distinct events such as Art Galleries, poetry, spoken word nights, artistic workshops and more.

“The art space that we will create is not simply a gallery that is easy on the eyes – it is a true multi-sensory experience. Visitors will be taken on a journey through the world of Islamic art where they can appreciate and learn more about the art and the artists whilst being challenged to understand, to connect, to feel.” – Salman Sheikh

As well as being co-founder and CEO of Islamic Imprints Art Gallery. Sheikh, 22, is a fourth year dental student who, with his training, is able to provide free emergency healthcare in conjunction with the Refugee Crisis Foundation in Calais and surrounding camps.

The Islamic Imprints Gallery will be at the Muslim Lifestyle Expo, Event City, Manchester from 29th – 30th October showcasing a diverse range of artists and artwork from across the Islamic Arts World.

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