Iqra Arts' stunning ceramic works proved extremely popular at the July launch of MCBDirect. With Eid fast approaching, and the associated perennial quest for quality gifts for family and friends, we took the opportunity to try and get a better understanding of the thinking and vision that underpins this inspired art.
Iqra Arts is an unusual choice of name for an arts company. What was the thinking behind this choice of name?
There were a number of reasons why we chose Iqra Arts as the name of the company. We wanted to emphasise the Islamic nature of the art and as the majority of our pieces have Qur'anic inscriptions on them, in one form or another, it seems appropriate that we use the Arabic word for `read' Iqra. The fact that it was also the very first word of the Holy Qur'an revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) was also inspirational in its choice.
Have you, or the artists that work with / for you, received any formal training? If so, what did this entail?
Iqra Arts specially commissions pieces from sources who specialise in Islamic calligraphy and design. The basis of training for most of the artists is by working alongside experienced colleagues and going through an 'apprenticeship' to appreciate the inspirations behind Islamic designs and their appropriateness to settings and materials. All pieces commissioned by Iqra Arts are hand painted and their stunning quality is testament to the skills acquired by the craftsmen who are helping to keep Islamic Art alive.
The Visual Islamic Traditional Arts (VITA) Centre, supported by HRH the Prince Charles, is proving popular amongst many of the artistically inclined in our community. What do you think of this course and the calibre of the artists it is producing?
Any initiative that provides an environment for people to express themselves in a constructive and Halal way is to be commended. It's a well known fact that the Prince of Wales has a great interest in Islam and the arts. What better way to combine these two passions then by setting up VITA? And if it means that knowledge of our Islamic artistic heritage is passed on from generation to generation, then long may it continue.
Can you share with us some of your views on the deeper meaning behind Islamic art?
Islam literally means `peace', and it asks its followers to strive in obtaining peace. Historically, I think that had a lot to do with the development of Islamic Art. As you may be aware, Islamic art and its impact on architecture has steered clear of depicting humans and animals. So artists concentrated on abstract form, geometric patterns and floral designs. I believe this creates a better atmosphere of tranquillity and peace. I also consider the Islamic development of geometric pattern and design as quite unique in the history of the world. For example, being based in science and mathematics, this art form emphasises one fundamental difference between Islam and the Christian West. And that is, in Islam, science and mathematics are regarded as part of Allah's creation, and should be celebrated as such. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Christianity, where historically, science and religion have been on opposing sides.
What would you hope to achieve with the pieces of art that you produce?
We wanted to share our excitement, enjoyment and pride in the wonderful heritage that is Islamic art. Our pieces try to reproduce some of the marvel and excellence that we can still see today in mosques and palaces around the world. Take, for example, the Al-Hambra Palace in Spain; in my opinion, the art within the architecture is unsurpassed in its richness and splendour. What I want my art to do, and Iqra Art's aim, is to try and bring some of that to people's homes. We also want the art to be a constant reminder to them of Islam and its role in their lives.
Where have your works been displayed?
Our work has been very popular with private buyers who wish to display them in their homes. However, we have been receiving interest from Mosques for bespoke orders. We are also working closely with a number of mosques and educational institutions to promote the use of Islamic art.
What hopes do you have for the future of Islamic art in Britain?
I believe there is a great future for Islamic art in Britain and elsewhere. Certainly, I think that the Muslim population of this country are crying out for high quality art, which until now has been sadly lacking. However, I do believe that, as a way of bringing people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions together, Islamic art is an excellent way of bridging the divide that currently exists between Muslims and non-Muslims.
And finally, from where can our readers view and purchase your work?
I'm glad you asked me that one
.! We have a website where people can see our range, and where our contact details are also given. We hold exhibitions and sales throughout the country, and details of these can also be found on our website at www.iqraarts.com Thank-you for your time and may God Almighty continue to bless your efforts.