Ayesha Ahmed is a UK based educator and mixed-media artist. Her focus is modern Arabic lettering and abstract art, which is used to showcase the beauty, and express her love for the written word. She draws inspiration from both classic and contemporary artists, and is fascinated by the concept of culture and how this influences art. This has lead her to experiment with modern Arabic, Urdu and Farsi lettering, and bring concepts of street art on to the canvas.
We talk to Ayesha about using different mediums to bring together the traditional and the modern, experimenting with lettering and language and using her art as a tool for social change.
How did your journey into a creative career begin? Did you always want to be an artist?
I was always interested in art from a young age. My uncle bought me my first calligraphy pen at the age of 10, and although I was doing English lettering at the time, I guess that’s when I caught the bug. I experimented with art through school, but my education took priority as I got older. I started painting again as a hobby in 2013, which is when I decided to document my journey as a self-taught artist on Instagram. Eventually, people decided that they liked it enough to invest in it, and so I started selling my work.
You experiment with Arabic, Urdu and Farsi lettering, why do you explore these diverse languages and how has your cultural heritage influenced your practice?
Islamic art has always featured Arabic calligraphy, and this is something I have grown up with, as have most people within the Islamic faith. You learn to read Arabic from a young age in order to help you build a relationship with the Quran. It is heavily featured in places of worship, and you are consistently surrounded by it. It is a language, and consequently an artform that binds many cultures together. Being of South Asian heritage, I also learned Urdu, and some of my work has featured Urdu lettering. I also enjoy poetry, in particular the work of poets such as Hafez, and Rumi, and have featured some of their poetry in my work.
You draw inspiration from both classic and contemporary artists, which in particular?
I have always admired the work classic abstract artists such as Pollock, Kandinsky, Vangough etc… I love the way they use colour and shape to evoke feeling. I love how many artists such as Madiha Umar and Ismail Guglee were able to combine abstract ideas with lettering. Some of my favourite current artists are el Seed, Ahmed Mustafa are Diaa Allam. I love their use of contemporary scripts, and the fusion of calligraphy with modern forms or art, such a graffiti.
Which mediums do you use to create your work?
I have used many mediums, such as watercolours, ink, spray paint, oils etc. Currently, my work is mainly created using acrylics on canvas.
How do you come up with your colour palette?
The colour palette is usually determined by the type of piece I am working on. With commissioned pieces, the palette is usually dependent upon the requirements of the client. When I am creating collections, the palette can be influenced by the theme of the collection, the meanings of the pieces, or simply my mood at the time.
Which is your favourite work you have created to date and why?
It’s difficult to choose, but I think my favourite work I have created so far is the selection of pieces I created for my collection entitled “Asma’ ul Husna”. These pieces incorporate the 99 names of Allah, and I was able to develop a new technique for my work. I was very happy with the results.
You also use your work to bring attention to social justice issues, can you tell us more about this?
I have always been interested in using my creativity to raise awareness for issues that are of interest to me. Most recently, I was able to raise money by auctioning off a piece of artwork, the proceeds of which were donated to Interpal, a charity that focuses on supporting and empowering the Palestinians currently facing immense hardship. I have also donated pieces for various other charitable causes.
Do you think art can be a tool for social change?
I think an important tool for social change is having the right types of conversation - those that can result in action - and I believe that art can be a great catalyst for those types of conversations. Art can be a great tool to raise awareness, but it can also inspire and evoke emotions, and when you feel something, this is usually when you are moved towards action.
What does the future of Islamic art look like to you?
Traditional art forms will always be practiced and preserved, however as Islam has spread throughout the world, art has broadened to include new styles and techniques, and I believe that this will continue, as cultures continue to change, and with the emergence of new technology. More artists will create work that bridges the gap between traditional and modern art forms, and find new ways to convey the beauty of Islam to the rest of the world.
For more information check out www.handofayesha.com
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