Tehreem Pasha was born in Karachi and now lives in Dubai. A passion for the Islamic Arts and everything to do with it, she went from graphic design to learning about Islamic traditional arts. Tehreem is a geometer and a trained calligrapher working with Geometric Patterns, Calligraphy and Islamic Illumination/Tehzip, using traditional methods for over 9 years and teaching these methods for over 3 years.
We talk to Tehreem about her journey to becoming an artist specializing in traditional skills.
What was your journey to becoming an artist?
I can say that growing up I was kind of surrounded by art and creative atmosphere if I may. My mother is an Architect Engineer, my aunt is a Fine Artist and always dabbled in creative projects throughout her life and my brother was sketching and drawing from very early on.
The people around me did have a major influence on me as I was at a doodling age, creating random ideas, scribbling away with my crayons and pencils and handing my father a new piece almost every day knowing he always kept it in his wallet for the whole day.
And as I started to progress through school, I always felt it was the right thing to do, I just wanted to create. With that after college, I got in to Karachi School of Arts, where I completed my 2-year certification in Commercial Art / Graphic Design, getting my taste of the digital world of art primarily. Right after that I got into University of Karachi in the Visual Studies department where for my Undergraduate program and completed my Bs. Design (Communication Design).
This was the place where I got introduced to a newly built department of Islamic Arts, this was the moment that would mark my journey in to the world of Islamic Arts. I learned Calligraphy, Islamic Illumination and Geometry. While I did my dissertation on the topic “Impact of Arabic Calligraphy and Digital Typography in Contemporary Graphic Design” I spoke to Late Ustaad Gohar Qalam which helped me understand a new depth. My thesis was surrounded by the same concepts where I created a pop-up book for children on Calligraphy.
Why do you feel a connection to Islamic art specifically?
To break it down into one memory, I would say it was all about the Qalams and the Scripts.
When we started learning about calligraphy, it was something new for me, I had seen it around, but I never really went in too deep and when I did, I believe that was the highlight of my life when I found out how everything worked, how everything was readied and processed.
I absolutely loved how every script has its own way of shaving and readying the qalam’s tip for the perfect stroke, how qalams are the most fundamental tool for writing, before everything, there was the Qalam
Did you undergo any formal training?
I was first introduced to Islamic Arts in my undergraduate program, where I learned the basics of everything from calligraphy, Islamic illumination/tehzip and geometry. But as I graduated and started working in an ad agency, I always wanted to go back and learn more about Islamic Arts.
Finally taking that step, I studied calligraphy formally from Ustaad Shahryan Shah in Turkey and Islamic Illumination from Ustaaz Fatima Ulusoy in Turkey. And I have been working on my Ijaza on multiple scripts as we speak.
The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts has also been a source of my education for Islamic Arts.
Is your work influenced by your cultural heritage?
Islamic Arts and all its forms are vastly visible in almost all the regions of the world, and some of the most prominent ones are found in Pakistan. Foremost, the Badshahi and Wazir Khan Mosques in Lahore, absolute marvelous pieces of art and architecture. Both have some of the most beautiful Naqashi/Tezhip work done across the ceilings, pillars walls and calligraphy.
Thatta is one of the key places in Pakistan that you can see very prominent Islamic Arts with some of the most vibrant colors and complexity of works.
So, in short, I would say yes, my cultural heritage has been a very good influence as it was the nearest source of truth, I had to me while in university.
Your works are inspired by Islamic geometry, illumination and Arabic calligraphy. How did you train to become an artist specializing in these traditional artforms?
As university had set the fundamentals for my formal education for Islamic Arts, it was certainly not finished.
I took it further by learning from some of the best educators from The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts, Lisa DeLong, Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh, Adam Williamson & Richard Henry, Ustaad Shahryan Shah and Ustaad Fatima Ulusoy which has put me on a path of absolute knowledge with great insights and understandings of the history and every element surrounding the artform.
Where do you find inspiration to create your works?
Books! Books are the primary source of inspiration as there are some amazing materials out there, one just has got to look. Gazing at them for long periods of time, reading about them everything that the experts today have analyzed about the masters’ work from centuries ago, it is an amazing feeling.
And there is always the other absolute amazing Islamic Artists that are doing some of the most amazing and most original work nowadays.
As part of your work, you also write verses from the Qur’an, which have you written?
I have had the pleasure and honor of writing some of the most beautiful verses from the Qur’an. Some of them include from:
What are your aspirations as an artist, what do you hope to achieve?
The key is in the question. Ha!
Aspirations are key. You have to have them, no matter how simple, how small, how complex, how big, they will guide you to places you can only think about.
Mine at the beginning was to exhibit in some of the most amazing and renowned venues, but as I grew as a person and as an artist, I realized that there is one step higher than that and it turned out to be to spread this knowledge, to find people like myself who would find genuine joy in this form of art and its history, its beauty, its complexed simplicity.
I aspire to share and spread this joy as far and as much as I can in my lifetime.
How do you create your colour compositions?
There has always been a standard set of colors for Islamic Illumination, the standard red, blue, green, gold. I won’t’ say always, but a good time to time I do try to break away from those palettes and try something else, I mainly try to bring in some of the other times and mediums of art and creation in to this by playing around with color palettes from Scandinavian design, sometimes Victorian era creation, sometimes more contemporary, and somewhat rarely from digital form of art.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I believe my career has a good number of years to go on, but so far in life I believe the highlight of my career would be the true and pure knowledge that was shared with me by the amazing masters and educators I have been honored to be under of and that I have and will be able to justly spread that knowledge onwards.
What do you think the future of Islamic art looks like and how do you think we can continue to keep the tradition alive?
I am a true believer that Islamic Arts will rise above and beyond one day sooner rather than later. The amount of love, appreciation and coverage this has been getting is simply wonderful. It is definitely one of vastly asked about form of art, especially since Covid happened.
I believe the best way is to make sure we spread the love and knowledge of Islamic Arts through the right channels, through the rightfully educated individuals and through the correct information. It can be a wonderful hobby for someone, but it can be an amazing way of life if they would like to master it and to master it, it is more than secondary element in one’s life, it needs all the time and love and it shouldn’t get anything less I believe.
So that said, it would be an absolutely wonderful approach to create more platforms, more official platforms for Islamic Arts where anyone from any level of expertise can come, learn, share and grow together with it.
For more information check out https://www.tehreempasha.com/
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