UK based artist Jennifa Chowdhury is fascinated by Islamic patterns. Through her work she questions and challenges the possibilities and pre-conceptions of print and textiles, redefining these; through innovative surface design; exploring intricate cutouts and sculpted textiles.
Jennifa gained a Masters in Textiles from the University for the Creative Arts, and is a Member of the prestigious Society of Designer Craftsmen. Her research has allowed for a series of conceptually challenging and engaging structures, exploring light, shadow and movement. Jennifa now divides her time between freelance clients and producing innovative surface design, exploring geometric patterns and sculpted textiles/artworks based in Winchester, Hampshire, alongside studying for a PhD at the University for the Creative Arts (Farnham).
We talk to Jennifa about her experience as a printed textile practitioner, and interest in origami and paper sculptures.
Your works are inspired by Islamic geometry. What made you develop an interest in these artistic traditions?
I began exploring geometric pattern during my MA in Textiles at the University for the Creative Arts (Farnham), 2017. My visual language draws from traditional Islamic art and architecture, specifically Islamic geometric patterns in conjunction with historical and traditional textile crafts that have developed into a body of work. Encapsulating the aesthetics of my childhood memories and cultural identities; both public and personal, whilst embracing Bengali, Western and Muslim cultures.
How did you train to become an artist specializing in these traditional artforms?
I hold a BA (Hons) in Textile Design from Nottingham Trent University (1993) and an MA in Textiles from the University for the Creative Arts (2017). I am currently a research student at the University for the Creative Arts (Farnham). My research explores contemporary expressions of identity, heritage and belonging within the field of pattern design; specifically Islamic geometric pattern construction.
Your paper and cloth cutouts and origami techniques are incredibly detailed and delicate, how long does it take for you to create a piece?
I am a process-driven textile practitioner and my work begins with exploring ideas on paper to pushing production concepts through applied digital technology, manipulation of unconventional materials and scale. The process can take weeks or even months from concept to the finished product.
You create amazing geometric paper sculptures, what is the concept and intention behind them?
My work is personal and embodies femininity by articulating strength, fragility and beauty. Inspired by Jaali screens and Japanese Origami techniques, by reimagining the fluid and graceful movements and patterns, in the form of three-dimensional geometric paper and cloth sculptures. My work is intended to provide a unique experience for the viewer that is both contemporary and engaging.
Your work has a contemporary aesthetic, how did you create this style?
Through the diverse influences in Islamic geometric pattern combined with my textile practice, and research. My style of work has organically evolved toward a modern aesthetic through my unique expression of my hybrid identity, resulting from my contemporary process led approach and materials utilised.
What is your creative process like and what tools do you use?
As a printed textile practitioner, my creative process responds to my theoretical research, from a multi-dimensional perspective. Starting from the basic principle behind Islamic design: draw a grid using ruler and compass; the development of pattern; applied digital technology, unconventional materials; and scale.
Can you tell us about your work Finding Star?
‘Finding Star’ is a response to a a research visit to Japan. Inspired by the architecture of the Miho Museum, Kyoto, Japan and the diverse historic artifacts displayed within the building surrounded abundant natural beauty of the mountains. I was drawn to the geometric constructions, filtered light and Zen like atmosphere of the Miho Museum, specifically the circular window and aluminum louvres.
You are also an academic and researcher, can you tell us a bit more about your areas of expertise and how this relates to Islamic art and culture?
My research is concerned with unravelling the formation between personal identity and the act of cultural appropriation in contemporary pattern design that have evolved from more traditional practices. My study explores contemporary expressions of identity, heritage and belonging within the field of pattern design; specifically Islamic geometric pattern construction. With a specific reference to my British-Bengali-Muslims heritage.
What do you think the future of Islamic art looks like and how do you think we can continue to keep the tradition alive?
The importance of art and design in promoting a culture cannot be underestimated. Art and design have the capacity to engage and inspire younger generations, by creating a deeper connection to one's identity. Although Islamic art carries the attributes of more traditional art forms. Islamic geometric pattern allows for the formation of symbolism for the development of cultural and creative identities through time and across shifting geographical boundaries.
For more information check out http://jennifanchowdhury.com/
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