Arabesque, Islamic Art

Arabesque  (Islamic Art)

The image above is from the project Celestial Gardens  

click on the image to enlarge

The text below has been excerpted from the Text Page for the project: Infinite Beauty.

Islamic Arabesque & 
The Infinite Beauty Photographs 

The changing processes of nature are viewed as permanent patterns 
which through repetition integrates time and process 
into the image of eternity.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The Infinite Beauty repetition field photographs were constructed by seamlessly conjoining a repeating image pattern both vertically and horizontally within a square format, and then suspending the entire field within black space.  A Four-fold symmetrical photograph, itself an image of unity, was used as the source image for the repeating pattern.  As such the Infinite Beauty photographs are symbols of "unity in multiplicity" and are related to the great Islamic tradition of the arabesque of which there are two basic types: 1) intertwined stylized vineal and aboral imagery; and 2) abstract geometrical imagery.  The following excerpts by Islamic scholars elaborate on the tradition of the arabesque: 

Titus Burkhardt: Art of Islam - Language and Meaning  
Both types of arabesque are an extremely direct expression of the idea of the Divine Unity underlying the inexhaustible variety of the world.  True, Divine Unity as such is beyond all representation because its nature, which is total, lets nothing remain outside itself.  Nevertheless, it is through harmony that it is reflected in the world, harmony being nothing other than "unity in multiplicity."  But it is in yet another respect that arabesque recalls the unity underlying things, namely that it is generally constituted from a single element, a single rope or a single line, which comes endlessly back upon itself. 

Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Islamic Art and Spirituality  
Here the writer discusses the arabesque in relation to the void:   Together, the void and the "positive" material form, color and so forth, depict the full reality of an object, chiselling away its unreality and illuminating its essential reality as a positive symbol and harmonious whole.  The combining of these two aspects is seen clearly in the arabesque, so characteristic of Islamic art, where both the negative space and the positive "form" play an equally central role.  The arabesque enables the void to enter into the very heart of matter, to remove its opacity and to make it transparent before the Divine Light.  Through its extension and repetition of forms interlaced with the void, the arabesque removes from the eye the possibility of fixing itself in one place, and from the mind the possibility of becoming imprisoned in any particular solidification and crystallization of matter.  This refusal to identify, even symbolically, any concrete form with the Divinity stems as much from the Islamic insistence upon Divine Unity as it does upon the absence of an icon which would symbolize the God-man or the incarnation found in other traditions.

Keith Critchlow: Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach   
Islamic art is predominantly a balance between pure geometric form and what can be called fundamental biomorphic form . . .  The one aspect reflects the facets of a jewel, the purity of the snowflake and the frozen flowers of radial symmetry; the other the glistening flank of a perspiring horse, the silent motion of fish winding their way through the water, the unfolding and unfurling of the leaves of the vine and rose.  The Islamic art of geometric form can be considered the crystallization stage both of the intelligence inherent in manifest form and as a moment of suspended animation of the effusion of content through form. 

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