The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts degree show is always impressive, with the level of craftsmanship often surpassing expectations of a student show. This year is no different, with 2017’s graduates drawing inspiration from Persian and Indian traditional painting, Christian iconography, Islamic calligraphy and more.
Tradition is central to the identity of the Prince’s School, but an understanding of tradition ‘as the path of continual renewal’. It’s a concept of tradition that encourages students to draw upon the underlying timeless principles of an idea, or the origin of a form, in order to inform their individual creative journeys. The school’s interaction with cultures globally has further developed its own tradition – one that seeks inspiration from the harmonious principles of the Order of Nature.
As such, as became further evident when I spoke to the artists, there is much in the work that is not immediately apparent to the viewer. Behind each final display is a wellspring of inspiration, philosophy and research. All works have been created using age old, traditional methods, including the use of natural materials, pigments and surfaces, which makes for an extremely lengthy, painstaking process.
Here are some of my highlights from the show:
Rasa Lila (Dance of Love). Pigment and gum arabic, Martha Moderitz
Martha Moderitz, inspired by the feminine form and movement, has created a series of beautiful compositions drawing upon the Hindu Pahadi miniature painting tradition. The number 8 plays an important part in her work. A study of the ancient Hindu text Natyashastra led her to create a series of the eight Nayikas (heroines) and their emotional states as experienced in a love relationship. Her depictions of the feminine form strike the perfect balance between delicate and emphatic.
The series culminates a much larger, beautiful piece, set within an octagonal geometric grid – ‘The Dance of the Divine’. This piece explores transcendence from the eight emotional states and moves up into an exploration of the concept of Divine ‘egoless’ love.
Homage to the Masters. Pigment and gum arabic on Chinese rice paper, Naveed Sadiq
One cannot help but marvel at the technical mastery of Naveed Sadiq, an accomplished miniature painter, and a graduate from the reputable National College of Art in Lahore. To truly do it justice, his work is best viewed through a magnifying glass. Each of his paintings has been completed with a paintbrush that tapers off into a single hair, and the level of finesse is barely visible to the naked eye.
Through historical study of the miniature painting tradition, Naveed has traced back to the earliest known origin of his own Master’s lineage, and also the tradition’s evolution through the ages. For his final work, he has created an exquisitely rendered depiction of this heritage, dating back to the third century and ending in a portrayal of himself.
The Albatross and the Cosmic Egg. Natural Pigment and gum arabic on antique Indian paper, Elisabeth Deane
Elisabeth Deane is fascinated by Tantric art, whose aim is to connect with ‘cosmic forces’, She found herself intuitively drawn to the use of geometric shapes, which to her represent both the simple and the universal, the micro and the macro and the interplay of these dichotomies.
Creating joy through the combinations of colour is also of paramount importance. For Elisabeth, colours are ‘a powerful force that creates vibrations which sing.’ Her work – at once contemplative and playful -features deep crimsons, bright oranges, hues of blue, white, black, silver and luminous gold. Many of the colours – cinnabar, malachite, carmine – have been sourced from the earth and ground painstakingly by hand before being applied onto the surface. All this is ultimately expressed in an absolutely breath-taking series of works, grounded in the tradition of Indian miniature painting. A must see!
Don’t Lose Hope in the Mercy of God: Ink on Ahar, Muhammad Samiur Rahman
There are six other students whose concepts and final works are equally engaging. Muhammad Samiur Rahman, an Islamic theologist and calligrapher, has applied his theoretical background to a practical expression of Kufic and Thuluth inspired Islamic calligraphy across a variety of mediums. This has culminated in an extraordinary collection of work in parquetry, ceramics and traditional ink paintings.
In his MPhil work, Mohammad Hosam Jiroudy has undertaken an exploration of traditional principles in contemporary mosque architecture, reflecting on the validity of traditional forms and notion in contemporary design.
Hana Louise Shahnavaz has chosen a Persian Sufi theme of ‘lover and Beloved’ ultimately with a return to Union, explored beautifully in her ‘gol-o morgh’ (flower and bird) paintings. On display is a collection of earth samples in different hues that she collected during her travels in Iran, and has used exclusively to colour these pieces.
Rosie Morton has studied various Christian Iconographic traditions through the mediums of egg tempera, gilding and medieval stained glass windows and produced masterful work.
Nazira Bibi, through her striking geometric works in gold and slate, explores the ‘zaahir‘ and ‘baatin‘ (seen and the unseen). Geometry is fundamentally inspired by the natural world, and both conceals and reveals a hidden order, serving as a gateway onto an ever deepening journey of Self discovery.
And Basmah Felemban, who, having undertaken a riveting journey through ancient astrological and navigational manuscripts has created wonderful games, charts, and paintings, imbued with various layers of symbolism.
Flower and Bird 2, Natural pigments and gold leaf on handmade paper, Hana Louise Shahnavaz
The art is extremely affordable, and commissions are available on request. For those who are just interested in looking, remember that there is much more here than meets the eye.
Where: The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, 19-22 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3SG
When: Monday – Friday 10am – 8pm, Saturday 10 am – 4pm (Closed on 5th July). Show ends on 7 July at 2pm
More info: www.psta.org.uk
By Anjali Khanna.
Posted on 30 July 2017
Photos courtesy of Princes’ School of Traditional Arts