Saeid Shakouri's educational background includes a BA in Architecture and a MA in Landscape Architecture. As a result of his interest in traditional art and architecture, he began working in this field in 2008. Considering the geometric patterns of gereh, mogharnas, and karbandi to be interesting to him, he expanded his research into these patterns. By doing so, he has been able to share his knowledge as a teacher and teach his students in a simple manner. Over the years, he has taught hundreds of students around the world.
We talk to Saeid about the art of geometry, preserving traditional skills and the future of Islamic architecture.
What made you interested in Islamic geometric patterns?
My fascination with ancient Persian art and architecture dates back to my early adulthood. I spent a lot of time observing the geometric patterns in different types of Mogharnas, tiles, Yazbandi, and geometric patterns when visiting historical monuments.
Your patterns are constructed using traditional tools and methods. Can you tell us more about your process?
My trainees are always encouraged to draw geometric patterns with traditional tools such as a compass, ruler, and pencil, and then use software if they wish. Our minds will be actively engaged with geometry when we draw geometric patterns, so we will learn geometric concepts better. It gives me immense pleasure to be able to read ancient Iranian artists' minds using the method they adopted. Currently, with the advent of different kinds of software, traditional methods have lost their function in most disciplines of the arts. It is my opinion that handmade work is more artistically valuable than software-based work.
You are also an architect, how has Islamic architecture influenced your creative practice?
The fact that I was born in a country where art, culture, and literature are so intertwined has been a blessing to me. Aside from magnificent national monuments like palaces, caravanserais, fire temples, minarets, etc., pre-Islamic and post-Islamic architecture in Iran offers magnificent national monuments. Iranian post-Islamic architecture also has magnificent national monuments that taught me a lot. Furthermore, I endeavored to learn from past masters and pass on my knowledge to others. As an example, I taught my trainees geometric patterns from the Seljuk, Timurid, Ilkhanid, Safavid, Qajar and other periods for the first time in Iran. Additionally, I explained to them the differences between them in terms of geometry and how to use materials, as well as color combinations, geometric patterns, and arches. Despite the names of some of these architects, such as Ali Akbar Esfahani, Qawamuddin, and Ghiyathuddin Shirazi, we do not have much information about these ancient Iranian masters. There are also some of these architects who have designed buildings that are located abroad, such as Issa Shirazi, the architect of the Taj Mahal in India, and Asir Ali Tabrizi.
How does your cultural heritage influence your creativity?
It is our past, identity, and history that make up our cultural heritage. It is the thoughts of the artists of that time that are reflected in every building from the past. Taking a close look at these buildings, as well as the way they are constructed and decorated, has naturally had a significant impact on me as an architect and teacher. There are times when looking at an architectural work creates many magical sparks that lead to the creation of new works.
How do you come up with your pattern constructions?
The first step in obtaining geometric patterns is to examine the star pattern of the work and the number of points (the number of stars) it has, then to examine the context of the work. Our work needs to take into account the context in which it is performed. Whether it is a square, rectangular, regular hexagonal grid, and root square 2 or root square 3, or in some other context. Drawing the geometric pattern itself is the most challenging part of the drawing process. So we draw the internal structural lines of it, and then draw the geometric pattern itself.
What has been the most challenging work you have created to date?
In the field of geometric patterns, using even and odd star patterns in a large number was a real challenge for me. I should be able to preserve not only the structural beauty of the geometric patterns in the base of the work, but every single detail of it should be standard. Perhaps the use of gereh patterns and various star patterns presented another serious challenge for me in this field.
Which artists inspire you?
Anyone who creates beauty in this art impresses me. My inspiration was anonymous artists of the past who created the most beautiful masterpieces of art and architecture with the bare minimum of equipment. How they brought into being all kinds of patterns in various bases such as squares and rectangles and created beauty.
What do you hope audiences feel or think when they encounter your work?
I like when someone encounters my work anywhere, not only do I provide them with a strong focus and create a space for beauty inside them, but I also tend to take the person out of the material form and think within themselves. In my opinion, those who think beautifully about the world naturally create beautiful works and help to make the world beautiful. When someone sees my work, I would like them to have the question of how I can do such drawings, and this question and its response by this person would be important to me.
Is there a spiritual element to your work?
I am inspired by Iranian literature and mystical music. It can be said that the music of great Iranian maestros such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri inspired my work and innovation in this field. Moreover, being familiar with some Iranian ancient poet such as Hafiz, Sa'adi, Mevlana and etc play a great role in my work.
What are your aspirations as an artist?
As a teacher and an architect, first of all, I deeply wish that traditional arts, as well as ancient monuments around the world, will be rehabilitated and restored regardless of language, race, and country. Second of all, access to excellent education should be provided for those who are interested. Currently, I am also working on my website SaeidShakouri.com to be in touch with interested people as well as teach my learnings and research. The website is not fully launched yet but will be available to enthusiasts worldwide in the upcoming months.
What does the future of Islamic art and architecture look like to you?
As we move forward in the Islamic era, there are two types of people who will build the future of architecture. In the first category, people learn drawing and construction techniques and methods from experienced teachers, which gives them the ability to create beautiful and original works of art. The second type is people who are poorly trained or not trained at all. They limit themselves to an internet search for a geometric pattern photo from the Islamic era. What the second group does will be a disaster in art and architecture, as we have seen in Iran and other Islamic countries. However, we should always hope to create a world full of beauty and goodness.
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