February is an exciting month, not just because it reminds us that winter is coming to an end and spring, with all its colour and new life, is around the corner. But this year it heralds a groundbreaking new initiative in the art world; encouraging unity by celebrating diversity.
Talking Art: Faith in Art
“This project is not only about showing the vibrancy and variety of Islamic art being produced in Britain, but also about engaging wider communities, and for me, building bridges, bringing people together through a mutual passion, art.” – Mobeen Butt, Curator and Founder of the Muslim Museum Initiative
‘Faith in Art’ is an exhibition celebrating contemporary Islamic art produced in Britain. Curated by Mobeen Butt and showcased at the Craven Museum & Gallery in Yorkshire, the exhibition incorporates the work of ten British Muslim artists. The artworks on show reflect a high standard of craftsmanship using traditional Islamic art forms such as calligraphy, geometry, arabesque and miniature painting. There are also works created using more contemporary materials such as paper cutting, embroidery and fabric printing. Whilst all artists approach the theme from a modern perspective, Butt believes the work will help to tackle an age old issue.
He says, “synonymous with Islam, and, I believe, the religion’s real strength, this exhibition will show that there can be ‘unity within diversity’ and ‘diversity within unity’.’’
Butt is also founder of the Muslim Museum Initiative, an online resource created to explore the history and heritage of Muslims in Britain. He believes that by highlighting our shared history and what unifies us, we can encourage greater cohesion in our communities at large. “Art has the power to transcend; it can bring worlds together, evoke emotions, pierce through politics, tell stories, and take people to distant times and far off places.”
Through the work of artists such as Siddiqa Juma and Samir Malik, Butt calls attention to the eclectic mix of Islamic art being produced in Britain today. Offering us a rare opportunity to see contemporary work exhibited outside of the main Islamic art hubs of London, Malaysia, Qatar and Dubai.
“Muslims in Britain are producing exceptional art; art with real soul, depth and meaning; art that mesmerises; and art that is increasingly being collected around the world.” – Mobeen Butt
The remaining artists exhibiting their work are: Zahir Rafiq, Fatima Zahra Hassan, Maryam Golubeva, Raanaz Shahid, Razwan Ul-Haq, Qashif Masud, Shams Un Nisa and Ghulam Farid Rafiq. Each artisan presents their own understanding of Faith, reflecting in their work the strength of spiritual practice emanating in the artistic beauty of their creative endeavours.
‘Faith in Art’ runs from February 5 until March 28
*Please note, artists’ work shown may differ from those in the exhibition.
In the weeks leading up to the ‘Faith in Art’ exhibition, Craven gallery has played host to a range of artist led workshops, allowing members of the public to participant in sessions, developing skills in calligraphy and papercutting. Local school children also had the chance to meet with Master Calligrapher Samir Malik, who encouraged them to explore and develop their own creativity through Islamic art.
The art produced from these community workshops will be exhibited along the professional artworks during the exhibition.
Craven Museum & Gallery, Town Hall, High Street, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 1AH
Admission is free. For further information telephone: 01756 706407
“I take my inspiration from God and I am grateful to God for his help and guidance in this creative process” -Maryam Golubeva
The most innovative and eye catching of all the artists featured in ‘Faith in Art’, is Russian born mixed media artist Maryam Golubeva. Her work is inspired by her Turkish heritage and spirituality.
Golubeva initially achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching and Linguistics before going on to study Fine Art and Art History. Her most famous work is ‘Flying Carpet’ a nine foot long paper by five foot wide paper cut design which resembles a traditional Ottoman carpet design. It was a key feature of London design week in 2014 and has toured the world celebrating Islamic heritage and innovation. Golubeva believes her craft is a means of crossing cultures and through her art invites audiences to interact as much as possible with work, in order to create greater understanding and encourage human connection.
“I see my art as a gateway to harmony and peace. This is why I am always trying to put positive feelings and ideas in my creations” says Maryam Golubeva.
Golubeva was shortlisted for the 2015 Muslim News Award for achievements in the field of Islamic arts.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein
Islam, at the very least, is a creative exploration of our spiritual nature. The ultimate artisan, our beloved Prophet Muhammad [s] taught us to harness our imagination through story and the Prophetic dream. Creativity is a means of cultivating the light [of Truth] in our hearts. A necessity in these formidable, modern times.
Young children have a propensity to draw from their imagination. Early child development encourages use of the imaginative faculty. Something that is sadly discouraged as children grow. Artist and writer Dave DeVries says that a child’s connection to its imagination enables it to succeed where adults fail. “Children are more creative. Their worldview is incomplete and demands discovery. They prosper because they embrace their ignorance instead of ignoring it. And they are willing to explore, investigate and put their ideas to the test because they are willing to fail.” He believes as adults, we often fear failure and are guided by logic and not curiosity. A fatal flaw since our world view is also incomplete and we are often oblivious to our ignorances. But that is not surprising since curiosity fuels our imagination which we tend to lose contact with as we mature.
Creating a downward spiral of finite knowledge instead of upward aspiration of infinite awakening. Current educational practice discourages imagination and creativity, and if we are to encourage our children to live wholesome spiritual lives we need to redress this imbalance.