One to one with Richie Alli
Richie Alli is a British glass artist based in Gloucester. Born in 1985, Alli studied Applied Arts at Plymouth College of Art and graduated in 2009. In the same year Alli began employment at LoCo glass in Cirencester. It is during this time that Alli started to develop his own designs and realise a love of glass sculpture. I first came across his work at a craft fair in Harrogate and was immediately captivated. So much so that my windowsill is now home to one of his pieces. Watching the light flow through it daily gives me immense pleasure. In the flesh, his pieces convey a subtlety and beauty which I can only describe as breathtaking. Alli admits to being overwhelmed by the love of his craft. “I have always had a fascination with the optical and translu-cent qualities of glass,” he says. It is a craft which bears testimony to a love of nature. Many of Alli’s works resemble specific natural forms, such as triffids, cacti and spondylus, which are also known as thorny oysters. For this work Alli developed a process of over-layering coloured glass in its molten state, and when the glass has cooled, using a diamond wheel to carve through the layers to reveal what lies beneath. As Alli gained further mastery over his craft, his work developed in other ways. In more recent pieces Alli has taken a more radical approach. His current work explores the process of putting greater emphasis on the making rather than on the form itself, allowing Alli to reflect on deeper concerns around sculpture. By investigating the latent qualities of glass in using a mixture of traditional and contemporary, hot and cold glassmaking techniques his new work pushes the boundaries of this material, with molten glass being hammered over a bed of nails before being formed into a vessel. The result is a range of organic and free forms which are a refreshing development from his earlier work. I met up with Alli at his studio. After studying Applied Arts, what made you choose glass as your medium of choice and not something else? I was instantly mesmerised by the material and the endless possibilities it offered to a developing artist like myself. In its molten state the glass behaves like syrup on a spoon, needing constant turning to be kept under control. I embraced the challenge of controlling the glass in its molten state to achieve the designs in my mind’s eye. Your work is incredibly intricate, how are the pieces constructed? Each piece is hand shaped and blown from a ball of molten glass. After the piece has cooled, a mixture of coldworking techniques, including diamond wheel carving, sandblasting and brush polishing are used. A lot of my work relies heavily on overlay techniques. The resulting glass often contrasts from sandblasted to polished surfaces. The overall finish is tactile. What is it that you feel your work expresses? My work has been greatly inspired by the world around me; I look to the ephemeral landscapes and try to capture their transformation. My organic forms mirror those found in nature with their curved rounded edges. Most of my work varies between free and structured forms. Your structured work has a very geometric feel, what inspired them? My work has a strong connection with nature; I often mimic the patterns on the surfaces of my work. For my spondylus range I have used geometric lines inspired by the shells they were named after. I have applied them to the curved surfaces which resulted in the spiky form you see. Your current work is very different visually, what made you take this direction? In my most current work I have abandoned the cutting technique in favour of free blown forms. Cutting allows me to refinish and get precise lines where I want them. In my new work I’m still adding texture onto the surfaces but applying it while the glass is hot. For me it’s a new challenge and avenue of exploration. “Richie’s collections are a subtle statement about balance, texture, form and colour. Utilising traditional glass making skills, he creates handcrafted sculptures and vessels that evoke touch from the admirers. His designs draw inspiration from the world around him taking details from nature, colour, pattern and texture. Paying attention to detail, he uses his exemplary skills, and exquisite craftsmanship to shape every object in the making until its inherent beauty is revealed.” -Treniq.com
Lubna Agha 1949 – 2012
Her work resists categorisation. Deeply rooted in her personal history, the work is not constrained in the rigid constructions of a traditional heritage. The result is a contemporary visual language that is compelling, richly aesthetic, and stirring to the spirit.” Lubna Agha was an American painter of Pakistani origin. Born Lubna Latif in Pakistan in 1949, Agha graduated from art chool in Karachi in 1967. Agha knew she wanted to be an artist from a young age, and after her graduation, Agha taught at the Imam Ali Central Institute of Art for a short period before beginning her formal cHaerre earr. tistic work dates from the late 1960s to her demise in 2012. Her artistic journey ranged from the figure to non-figurative, from what is apparent towards abstraction. The main body of her work being made up of colourful compositions reflects her personal, political and religious feelings. “My technique involves tiny brush strokes and lines in close proximity to create a sense of ‘activity’ when the paintings are examined closely. From a distance, however, they give the perception of ‘sublimeness’. These qualities permeate traditional Islamic art. Applying these innumerable points and strokes have an esoteric and meditative quality for me — that of how each atom exists in its own right and collectively come together to shape the universe. Each dot can also be a breath or a fleeting thought that comes together to form our existence.” – Lubna Agha Agha is most famous for her ‘White’ series created in the 1970s. This work shows a marked shift in her style, reflecting a range of work both abstract and minimalist in its presentation. From here on, her paintings are made up of a repetition of colourful punctuations or pixels which culminate in a complex yet simple story of searching. Agha’s work is highly reflective of her personal journey as an artist whose experience blends two cultures in an attempt to find meaning. Agha emigrated to America in 1981 although she was at the height of her career in Pakistan. It marked an emotive transition, apparent in her new work, which began to show feelings of alienation. Despite this, her work also reflected a clear marriage between her roots and her new life in the west, a harmonious integration of themes from traditional Islamic art and modern painting styles in keeping with Dutch abstraction. “The images that shape my American Pakistani art have been hovering at the outer edges of my consciousness for several years. It took a casual trip to North Africa for everything to take on a new clarity in my imagination. My inspiration stems from visual images that once were seen daily but are now part of history. In my Pakistani paintings, the forms and elements I draw upon become seeds for stimulation. The aim is not to capture those images faithfully, but use them as triggers to take me on paths all my own.” – Lubna Agha It is Agha’s work from the final chapter of her life which most intrigues me. The homogeny of several decades of thought, feelings and reflections are apparent in her final paintings. Not aware that her time in this world was coming to an end, her paintings depict her journeys through Morocco and Turkey and tell a story of the beauty and intrigue she experienced there. In 2012, a retrospective of Agha’s work was featured in an exhibition at the University of Oklahoma.
With the intention of developing and upholding the traditional arts of Islamic lands, Prince Charles set up the Prince’s Trust in 2004. VITA, the Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts programme, is run by the Prince’s School in London. It offers students the opportunity to rediscover the traditional arts and make a practical contribution to their continued presence in modern society. The latest work of the trust was a weeklong Masterclass with Mughal fresco painter Ustad Saif-Ur-Rahman, teaching the fundamental art of Naqqashi, the art of drawing biomorphic patterns in South-Asian style. ‘The Sacred Arts of Islam’, another teaching course offered an experience of Islam through the beauty of its arts. Artists and teachers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, France, Poland and the UK, many of whom are alumnae of The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, have contributed to this event.
Umayyad Qur’an, one of the earliest recorded examples of the use of vowels and consonants
Just before the third anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, a car bomb meant for police headquarters across the road, exploded in front of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Almost everything in the museum has since been moved out. The bombing had a devastating impact on the collection of artefacts housed on the 111-year-old site. But, to the surprise of many, an 8th century Umayyad era Qur’an in the direct line of fire, emerged completely unscathed from the blast. The museum’s director, Ahmed el-Shoky, described it as ‘a miracle’.
The Place to Be
The Museum of Islamic Ceramics Cairo – Egypt
Launched in February 1999, the Museum of Islamic Ceramics is located in the Prince Amr Ibrahim Palace which is on the Nile in the Zamalek District of Gezira Island. The palace, which was built in 1921, houses an array of ceramic art ranging from the post-Pharaonic era to the twentieth century. The earliest of them are two eighth century clay Umayyad oil lamps. Several rooms within the palace have been used to display a collection covering the wealth of Islamic heritage from latter day Persia to Andalucia. An entire room is filled with a collec-tion of 17th and 18th century Iznik ceramics, and another with pieces from the Umayyad period through to the Ottoman. Halls are decorated with fine 16th and 17th century Iznik jugs as well as Mameluke and Persian pieces from the 14th century. The contemporary Turkish wall tiles and the friezes have been copied from the Alhambra Palace in Grenada. The Museum of Islamic Ceramics 1 Al Sheikh Al Marsafi, Cairo Governorate, Egypt The museum opens from 10am to 1.30pm and from 6 to 10pm daily.