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Digitising Islamic Pattern, David Wade

David Wade is a Sculptor, Graphic Artist, Photographer and Author. Born in London in 1941, David has lived in Wales, U.K. for 50 years. A passion for Islamic art, he has travelled extensively and visited most Muslim countries. David has a long-held fascination with the general subject of the role of Geometry in Art and has created a digital photo archive of over 4000 images of patterns and other design features drawn from the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic world.

We talk to David about his connection to Islamic art, developing the WADE photo archive and how digital platforms are democratizing culture through digital platforms.

What made you develop an interest in Islamic art?

My initial interest in Islamic art was sparked by a visit to Istanbul in the early 1960s. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Sinan’s Mosque’s and the Topkapi Palace – in particular by the profusion of Isnik tiles in both places. My interest in these led to my wanting to draw them (I was interested in art from a young age and have worked as a graphic artist). This led to a more general interest in the Islamic decorative arts and, inevitably, to its geometric aspects. I became fascinated with the geometric intricacies of Islamic design, in analyzing and drawing these. In 1975 I heard that a major Islamic exhibition was being planned in London, ‘The World of Islam’, so I presented my drawings to the publisher ‘Studio Vista’ and this resulted in my book ‘Pattern in Islamic Art’, 1976.

How did the WADE photo archive develop?

As my interest in this subject deepened I then decided to see and photograph these monuments for myself, beginning with an extended trip to Spain and Morocco. Over the next 20 years I went on to visit Egypt, Sicily, Syria, Turkey (again), Iran, India and Uzbegistan. I also found relevant material in Museums in these and other countries, including the U.K., U.S.A. and Europe.

How many images do you have currently online and in your collection?

Not sure about this – I’d have to count them – and the collection is being added to …

What was your intention behind curating this site?

Originally this was a personal enthusiasm, but then the internet appeared – I decided to make these images more generally available.

Do you have a favourite artistic period in Islamic history?

I’m fascinated by the decorative forms in most periods of Islamic history – but if I were forced to make a choice it would probably be the Seljuks

The focus is largely on architecture, why is this?

I’m interested in every aspect of Islamic decorative art, including the Arts of the Book (i.e. Qur’an illumination and those miniature paintings that feature pattern), also in textiles. But architecture is available to photograph – the other forms less so.

Do you think digital platforms such as yours are democratizing culture?

I feel that the traditions of Islamic art and architecture deserve to be more widely known. The internet (including websites and Instagram) are a way to reach many people world-wide

What do you think the future of Islamic art looks like and how do you think we can continue to keep the tradition alive?

As far as I can see many aspects of Islamic art are flourishing - but as we know, art must develop and change to stay alive and relevant …

For more information Website:

Instagram: dav.d­_wade

The views of the artists, authors and writers who contribute to Bayt Al Fann do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bayt Al Fann, its owners, employees and affiliates.


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