Alifia Khan is a self taught artist, with a passion for Islamic geometry. Since childhood, she has had a keen interest in various artforms ranging from acrylic landscapes, pour painting, watercolors, sketching and sewing. Although her artistic journey has spanned many decades, she found her interst in Islamic art during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been most productive within the past eighteen months.
We talk about her journey specializing in Islamic geometry, her thoughts on the visibility of women artists and the future of Islamic art.
Your works are inspired by Islamic geometry. What made you develop an interest in this artistic tradition?
I have always been drawn to patterns and color palettes and have admired Islamic art. Quranic verses / quotes written in Arabic calligraphy, especially the Kufic style has always appealed to me. I’ve felt a spiritual connection to Islamic art. Being a physician, I’ve never had enough time in the past to pursue art in detail. Somehow a window of opportunity appeared during the pandemic and my interest in islamic art skyrocketed.
I found the process of analyzing patterns and then rendering them in color, fascinating. There are so many styles of traditional art, each beautiful in their own way and each demanding patience and perseverance. I was inspired to learn as much as I could in the time available. This desire to learn was fueled by the wonderful online classes by so many gracious teachers. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I hope to continue making progress.
How did you train to become an artist specializing in these traditional artforms?
I am mostly self taught and started drawing Islamic geometric art watching YouTube videos, tutorials, poring through books, and online courses. I’ve drawn and painted on an average of 6/7 days a week over the past 20 months and have created over 150 pieces. I have been inspired by several wonderful artists like Samira Mian, Richard Henry, Adam Williamson, Sandy Kurt, Serap Sonmez Ekizler, Haji Noordeen, Nagihan Seymour, Laurelie Rae , Lisa DeLong and the wonderful teachers at the Princes School of Traditional Arts to name just a few. I have learned so much from various artists and geometers on social media. The wonderful online art community is one of my biggest inspirations as are Islamic monuments.
Your work has a contemporary aesthetic, how did you create this style?
I like fusion and it seemed natural to mix contemporary and traditional art styles. It wasn’t a style I created intentionally but an amalgamation of everything I learned over the past several months. The more techniques I tried and explored, the more possibilities seemed to open up. I do like to add a 3D touch to my painting to give it some dimension and life. I’m also working on incorporating calligraphy to my geometric art.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I think my art is more of a hobby at the moment and I haven’t truly explored the possibilities on how to develop it as a career. So far most of my art works were created to bring me joy and some a challenge I set for myself. I have gifted, sold, and auctioned a few of my pieces. I also immensely enjoyed teaching geometric art to a group of teenagers over the summer of 2020. Another wonderful opportunity I’ve had is to submit an artwork to the Troy Mural project which is initiated by a wonderful artist Tara Sartorius in Alabama USA.
Your works are incredibly detailed, how long does it take for you to create a piece?
The time varies with the complexity of the project. The initial drawing may take from 3 to 5 hours which may also include pattern analysis. After that it can take anywhere from about 5 to 10 hours to plan, transfer and paint the art work. The maximum number of hours I have worked on a project is around 40+ hours, on a pattern from the Alhambra and is still a work in progress.
How would you describe the visibility of female Muslim artists? Do you think more needs to be done to raise the profile of art by Muslim women?
Women in general are severely underrepresented and under appreciated in almost every field of life. There definitely needs to be more awareness regarding female artists and their artworks. We have a group of 50 plus female artists that help to inspire, encourage and promote each other online. I think that social media is a powerful tool and can be used to promote female artists and their work around the globe.
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 believe there isnt enough exposure to Islamic art specially in the western world. I would very much like to promote Islamic art to increase awareness and share the beauty Islam has given, to the world. Beautiful geometric patterns, carvings, and calligraphy in places of worship, palaces , tombs, and buildings has inspired many over generations. I think it creates a positive image of Islam and will dissipate some of the islamophobia that exists around the religion in general. Hopefully if we can ignite the passion to learn about and appreciate islamic arts in the younger generation, the tradition will flourish. This could be done by online workshops for teens and young adults, incorporating Islamic art in Sunday schools, retreats, and convocations. I think the future of Islamic art is bright and with the amazing educators we currently have it can be developed further using online tools to reach a greater audience.
For more information check out https://www.instagram.com/alifia.artastic/?hl=en
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.