Project – Islamic Star Pattern Wallpapers Redux

This is the second batch of Islamic Stars wallpaper I have made. I recently use this free program (paint.NET) to do my works for my submission of Mushaf Cover project I have done last month (you can take a look into the post here) and I guess you can say I have a fairly good grasp of the program…not quite Adobe Photoshop, but this is pretty much good enough to teach me a little about photo editing.

Anyway, these wallpapers I have done are a little bit more complicated and if I may say, more well-done from the previous wallpapers I have posted. The resolution have changed though – from 1024×768 to 1366 x 768, because my present computer is in that resolution. However, if there is any demand, I would gladly make these wallpapers in another resolution . Please do tell me in the comments.

I decided to again follow the RGB colour scheme for the wallpapers, I guess because it is easier for me to choose, and also for you.

And, as always, these wallpapers are my properties and I have added a watermark in the lower-right corner of each image. Please do not erase the watermark and make it your own. Thank you!

This is the blue wallpaper, using a twelve-pointed star as the larger star motif and six-pointed star as the accent around the bigger star. I used the outlines of the stars and coloured it in cyan-turquoise colour, against a dark blue and navy background.

The red star wallpaper for this series. I like this one better than the rest perhaps because of the simplicity and how the colours play well together and harmoniously. I used a stylized interlaced six-pointed star and coloured the lines in red-maroon. The background features orange-amber colours.

This is the green wallpaper I have done. Liked this one because it almost looked like a damask silk fabric. I used another twelve-pointed star motif coupled with eight-pointed stars surrounding the motif. There is no outlines, just each shaped is coloured in either dark green- light green or Islamic green-sapphire combination.

Internet Finds – Gene Turangan Zilij

This one Gene Turangan from Indonesia introduced to me his own kind of Zillij and process last week and I have to say I am pretty impressed with his and his team’s work. With his kind permission, I would like to introduce to you Gene Turangan’s Zillij.

Take a look at his site here and the facebook page here

quoting from his Flickr site –

We have discovered new techniques in processing zillij.My techniques are simple and dont require any particular expertise and results in quicker production and a smoother, lighter table top or panel as no concrete or iron are required. Furmah ,hand cut from any ready made tiles (7 to 8 mm thk) ,we prefer low sheen floor tiles (rustic or monochromatic color)

In other words, he and his team found another way of creating Zillij, the Moroccan tessellation art, using modern equipments and tiles instead of the traditional way. He uses ready made tiles as opposed to traditional tiles which are made into particular shapes that is the Furmah. Using the ready made tiles, he then cuts and shapes them into the form that he wants and then rearranges it into patterns that follows traditional Zillij patterns.

He claims that his creations are more light weight since his method uses no concrete or iron. For me, using modern, ready made tiles instead of traditional fired tiles makes it loses its authentic look, since with the traditional method you can see each and every Furmah is unique. However, I am still very impressed with his work, and for me it is still Zillij no matter what method is employed.

Look as his video from Youtube (a grab from a news bulletin, it’s in Indonesian, but I guess visual can justify)

I salute the efforts this man had made, and I am very much looking forward more to his creations.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #22 – Arabesques

In this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to introduce to you a fundamental part of Islamic art – Arabesques.

Arabesques or sometimes spelled as Arabesk in Islamic art are patterns that resemble vegetation – flowers, leaves, crawling ivy – stylized to such a form that it is symmetrical. Much like geometrical Islamic art, but more “organic”, as I would refer it to as. It is used in decoration by itself or combined with either Geometrical patterns or calligraphy, or both. As usual, I will discuss this topic in further details under different category. But for this, we shall briefly look into the topic, and try to see the fundamentals of this Arabesque art.

Author - SanchoPanzaXXI

As usual, the finest example of Islamic art is to be found in Alhambra. This particular example combines all three of the Islamic Decorative Canon – Geometry Art, Arabesques and Calligraphy. The Arabic words in the center of the emblem reads the Nasrid dynastry motto  -ﻮﻻ ﻏﺎﻟﺐ ﺍﻻ ﷲ There is No Conquerer but God.

Underneath the dome of The Mosque of Omar, or more commonly known as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The decoration utilizes arabesques and calligraphy in its early form. You can see the impressive Arabesques on the borders that surrounds the calligraphy, as well as the repeating patterns beneath the dome itself.

An illustrated page off  the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, showing the different forms of Arabesques, Islamic or otherwise – Vegetal art, if you would prefer. In the center features the Arabesques from the Nasrid and Fatimid dynasties, in which one plate shows the Nasrid motto, mentioned before.

A decorative panel featuring Arabesque designs from the Timurid dynasty. This particular example is taken from the Gur Amir Mausoleum in Samarkand. It is generally thought that these Arabesque art came from the influences of the Chinese decorative motifs.

A published material showing the different forms and styles of Arabesques in different shapes. These examples could be taken from the Fatimid era mosques in Egypt.

Observation – Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

I haven’t posted anything under this category for quite a while now, and I think it’s time for me to restart it.  For this post, I would like to introduce to you one of the most popular tourist spot in Brunei, and one of the most majestic and historical mosques.

The Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan was commissioned in the 1950’s, completed in 1958. It was commissioned by the sultan at that time the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III, and bears his namesake. The plans for the mosque was done by Booty and Edwards Chartered Architects according  to the designs of the Italian architect Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli. It was built on an artificial lagoon overlooking the historic Kampong Ayer. It was built using finest imported materials – Marbles from Italy, Granites from Shanghai, Crystal chandeliers and stained glass from England and carpets from Saudi Arabia.

Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam

The mosque exhibits influences from multiple sources – the whole building echoes the styles of Mughal architecture, amalgamated with Italian and renaissance styles, for example, the facade of the mosque is have Mughal characteristics, but the interiors reflect Italian and Renaissance styles. The minaret is essentially an Islamic architecture, but the decoration and ornamentation is Renaissance, complete with stained glass. When it was finished, it was regarded as one of the most spectacular mosque in Asia Pacific, and one of the finest example of modern Islamic Architecture.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of the mosque is its 52 meter tall dome that is covered in pure gold. It is recently restored to its original shiny state for its 50th anniversary. The dome virtually can be seen from anywhere in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Another feature of the mosque is a replica of a 16th Century Mahligai barge that is used by the fifth Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Bolkiah. It was built to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the Revelation of the Al-Quran, completed in  1967. It was formerly used as a stage for Al-Quran reading competitions.

The Mosque, seen across the lagoon, with the replica of the 16th Century Mahligai Barge.

The interior while have quite different style form the exterior of the mosque, it plays wonderfully with each other. The main prayer hall is glimmering with shiny marbles and granites with carpets brought in from Saudi Arabia. The Mihrab, the niche facing Mecca, where M uslims face when they pray are covered in golden mosaics – an apparent influence from Byzantine architecture.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #21 – Islamic Metalwork

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to bring forward the topic of Islamic Metalwork.

During the Islamic Golden Age, many finest artist work in the Islamic world are crafted. From the majestic palaces, beautiful mosques to tiling decorations and masyrabias the smaller daily items such as boxes and jewelery. I would like to show you the beautiful craftsmanship of the Islamic artisans in making items out of metal.As usual, I will later on discuss regarding these artifacts in its own different topics –

Courtesy of National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid

An Astrolabe, made by Ibrahim ibn Said al-Sahli. Taken from the description of the picture Planispheric astrolabe from Al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia), made in Toledo (Spain). Author’s name and year of carrying out (459 of Hijra / 1067 AD) are shown in the Arabic inscriptions of the plates.

Back during the days, Astrolabes are sought after – it shows in some way the owners integrity and academic prowess. This is understandable giving the high level of artistic metalwork on each astrolabe.

Taken from the description of the picture Inkwell. Copper alloy with silver inlaid decoration. Second half ot the 16th century, Iran. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Even a simple everyday item such as this becomes an artifact with its delicate and elegant artistic decorations.

Taken from the description of the picture –  Turkmen helmet, 15th century. Iron with matted, engraved and silver-inlaid decoration. Bears the hallmark of the Ottoman arsenal in Saint-Irene.

Islamic Metalwork is both beautiful and functional, showing the appreciation of the Muslims of beauty, even on something that would be worn to wars.

Taken from the description of the picture Perfume burner decorated with arcatures, found in Spain, 15th century ?. Beaten copper alloy with cut, engraved and gilded openwork decoration.

Every items of high art in the Islamic art are very delicate and made in a very elaborate way. Carved, pierced, inlaid…many techniques are used to manufacture fine beautiful artifacts such as this example.

Taken from the description of the pic This piece belongs to a group of eight plaques, each inscribed with a verse from the same shi’ite poem. It is possible that these plaques were set in the wooden doorway to a royal tomb. The striking cartouche shape is created by lobed arches formed at the horizontal ends of the rectangular panel, with smaller arches projecting from each straight border. The pious verse, inscribed in thuluth script, is set against an openwork ground of spiraling arabesque scrolls. Cut-steel panels were a specialty in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Iran, though few survive in such good condition.

While metals may be used for smaller items such as jewelery or astrolabes, it is also used as a part of a decoration for architecture, such as this particular sample.

Internet Finds – Yama Azizi Website

I would like to bring forward this website of a commenter who is in my opinion, have a very inspiring creativity and a very interesting take on the traditional Islamic art.

Yama Azizi is an Afghan artist who is in my opinion is a great artist who have fused traditional Islamic art and general aesthetics with modern, edgy twists. His creations of Islamic calligraphy (like the one above) on the front page of his website clearly shows his apparent talent of combining the modern and the traditional. I admire this  take on the Islamic art.

I am no art critic, nor I can give any good commenting. But browsing through his galleries, I can see his efforts in making his artworks as perfect as the artisans in the past generation does.  I personally love his Islamic inspired designs in his gallery and I am very impressed on how immaculate it looks. Have a look into his Youtube video –

As well as Islamic art inspired works, he also made some other works that is just as impressive.  He does designs for clothing, posters and the like.

I quote from his website –

My love of Art began over 15 years ago. I think nothing can serve better than Art to deliver the message of unity , beauty, love, peace and reconciliation in our war-torn society.

And I cannot agree more.  He, in my opinion, represents his art and culture from a war torn country.

To Yama Azizi, I salute your works, and I am looking forward to see your work and your growth. (and hopefully you wont mind introducing your works to my readers! 🙂 )

Projects – Mashrabia-ish Window Decoration

For quite a while now I was trying to emulate Masyrabia, the pierced screening that is unique to the Arab world. While I do not have access to capable enough carpenter or artisans to create these such beautiful creations of art…or there is, but they charge too expensive. So, I decided to make my own, in a true DIY-er style – with paper and glue!

I wanted to put up my faux-mashrabia on the window that is very much filled with sunlight every morning (it faces eastward) so as you can imagine, the effect every morning is very exciting to see…One reason to wake up early in the morning for me! Also, I like to block out the harsh sunlight in the midday. This project for me have all the right reasons and I worked it out soon enough.

I decided to use both the eight-pointed star and six-pointed star, in different arrangements for the window. The window is the old, eight panes of glass that is operated by a lever as a mean of opening and closing the panes of glass to a certain extend…which to I may add, will allow nothing but a hand (or an arm, if you’re lucky) to go through. So much for safety.

There are two, eight panes of glass windows on the east facing wall, so I decided to decorate on window with eight-pointed stars and the other with six-pointed stars.

This is both of the windows side by side, showing the decorations using the eight-pointed stars on the right and the six-pointed stars on the left. As you can see it allows enough sunlight to pour in, as well as allowing me to see the view.

I’m sorry that I don’t have the pictures  when I was making the stars and the process of sticking it on the window panes, but I can say that it is simply a matter of cutting patterns out of scrap paper and using a stick of glue to stick it on the panes. Voila, you have your instant faux-mashrabia.

A close-up view on one of the window pane. This is the eight-pointed star pattern, and turn it in a slight angle.

It is always a delight to see the sunlight pours in through the windows ; the shadows of the stars are just relaxing to look at, even though it is not as perfect as the Mashrabia in the Arab world, nor does it offers good air circulation when the windows is closed.

The left part of the window, showing the six-pointed star pattern in different arrangements.

Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #20 – Carpet Pages

For this edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to bring forward the topics of Carpet Pages.

Carpet Pages, or sometimes referred to the Illuminated Manuscripts of the Islamic world often decorates sacred texts of the Muslims and sometimes also used for decorating major literary or academic works. It is often put in the front pages of the book after the front cover (which also can be decorated just or more impressively), and sometimes also put in the back. With the Muslims vast decorating methods of Calligraphy, Arabesques and Geometry Art, these carpet pages are far different than the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Age Europe – Metallic colours are used, specifically golds and silvers, and there are significantly less figural motif used on the pages.

A Carpet Page for a copy of Al-Quran done by Ahmet Karahisari, 16th Century Turkey. Now kept in Topikapi Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.  This is from the first chapter of the Al-Quran, Al-Baqarah (1:1-4). Usually (and still is) The opening chapter and the first verses of the first chaper of the Al-Quran were heavily decorated with ornamentation and special borders and decoration.

A part of an ornamentation for a Carpet Page, most likely for a copy of the Al-Quran, now kept in a university in Istanbul, Turkey. There are knot decorations for the border, recalling influences from the Far East lands of China and its surroundings. The Geometrical pattern in the center is a unique artwork – The whole design is actually a stylized Kufic script, and from what it seems, it is the Basmala, the word recited before every chapter in the Al-Quran, which means “In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate”

Another cover for a copy of the Al-Quran, presumably made by Arghun Shah, made in around 1375. Now kept in The National Library of Egypt. It is almost certain that this particular manuscript is done in the Mamluk era of Egypt, judging from the calligraphy. It is also a fin example of Islamic ornamentation done in a smaller scale but no less making a great impact.

Another illuminated manuscript for a copy of the Al-Quran. This particular work is named Al-Bawwab, so presumably it is done by an artisan by that name. It is done in the eleventh century, and now kept in Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. This work is a fine example of knot ornamentation of the Muslim artisans. Cleverly integrated are geometric patterns of six-pointed stars, combined with Arabesques.

An ornamentation in a copy of an Al-Quran, made in around 900AD. It is now kept in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. While not entirely a Carpet Page, an illuminated manuscript can be made with ornamentation such as these. The ink is fading, as you can see the decoration behind the eight pointed star is nothing more than faded outlines. The decorations are still not fully developed and still have elements influenced from the surrounding civilizations, but it is starting to show on its way to a unique Islamic aesthetic identity.

Official Facebook Page for Stars in Symmetry

I know I should have done this sooner, but I guess I was too caught up with my own personal Facebook page. Seeing the popularity of Facebook nowadays, I think it is a waste not to utilize the technology that is available.

So from this day, I am pleased to announce that Stars in Symmetry now have its own official Facebook page!

So visit the page, add us, be informed on the latest news about the blog, and most importantly, enjoy the fascinating world of Islamic art and Architecture!

See you there soon!

History – The Islamic Domes ; The Early Prescence

Domes was not an Islamic invention – the Muslim architects only start to use the architectural feature in the 7th Century, taking influences from the Sassanid Empire in Iran and from the Byzantine Empire.

The first ever building that the Muslims built with a prominent dome is the famed Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Palestine, which is incidentally the oldest existing Islamic building without any alteration. Completed around 691-692,  the building, a hexagonal shaped shrine is built over a stone believed to be the stepping stone of Prophet Muhammad during his journey heavenwards to God. It  is also, as a notable feature, decorated with tiles that brought over from Turkey – Iznik tiles- all over its exterior walls. The shape of the whole building displays influences of Byzantium architecture, echoing the form of a Byzantine martyrium (which is traditionally used for keeping venerated saintly artifacts and relics). On top of the building built a dome made out of wood and covered with gold ; it is said that 100,000 gold dinars were melted for the covering of the dome, and when it was finished, it was reported at that time that “no eye can look straight to it”  due to its strong shine.

The Dome of the Rock, with its golden dome in the vicinity.

As noted before the Dome of the Rock’s plan and architecture is much influenced by Byzantium architecture, mostly by the surrounding churches. In addition to the similarity of the floorplan of the shrine to Byzantine martyrium, the dome also influenced by domes of the churches of the Byzantine empire.

In 532AD, The church Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya (Ἁγία Σοφία) in Greek was completed and is in its third and final form, after the destruction of the first and second churches. An entirely different structure compared to its predecessors, emperor Justinian I wanted a building much larger and more majestic than what was built on the same site nearly 200 years before. He appointed  Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles as architects, and these two created one of the most recognized work of Byzantium architecture, which features a grand and imposing dome in the middle of the church.  It is thought that they utilized the theories of Heron of Alexandria regarding of construction of large domes over large open spaces.

The Hagia Sophia, once a church, a mosque and now a museum.

Nearer to the Dome of the Rock, another influence of the dome is the Church of Holy Sepulchre. The dome of the church itself is very reminiscent of the dome that decorated the Muslim shrine, though lacking the golden entrapment. The Church itself was built in the 4th Century under the orders of Emperor Constantine I over the alleged tomb of Christ and also Mount Golgotha, the site where Christ were crucified. Perhaps, as an act of mockery against Christianity’s deification of Christ, the Muslim architects followed the model of the Churches dome for the Dome of the Rock, only larger and more impressive, as in using gold for covering the dome. This idea is supported with the fact that the Muslims used Quranic verses for decorating the exterior and interior of the shrine that stated Christ was not the Son of God, he was a mere human, and a prophet of God.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the front facade.

Using the theories of Heron of Alexandria that have been executed by the two architects of Justinian I, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, coupled with the apparent influence from the domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Muslims created an architectural feature that which in time will transform and metamorphose into a unique feature. At first they were influenced and followed the domes of other cultures, but as time went they created features that makes the domes more Islamic.