Aliya Quraishi was born and raised in United Kingdom. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia and specializes in Islamic art and calligraphy. We talk to Aliya about her creative process, experimentation with mixed media and techniques and her thoughts on the future of Islamic art.
You originally studied fine art and textiles, what inspired you to move towards specializing in Islamic art and calligraphy?
After studying at college i did not pursue art any further as a career. I ended up doing a degree in Information Systems. I still continued to paint as a hobby over the years and experiment with different art styles. A few years ago I made a painting for my home with Islamic calligraphy and this was a piece I really enjoyed making and bought my contentment and satisfaction during the process, I loved the finished artwork itself and formed an immediate connection to it. I then began to do research more into Islamic Calligraphy the different styles and techniques used and whilst doing this I began creating more artwork in this style. I never intended to sell Islamic Artwork or paint as a profession however around 2 years ago during the Covid lockdown period I had made a few different Islamic calligraphy art pieces which gathered a lot of interest from the community, and people were wishing to purchase my work. I then decided to establish Art by Aliya in December 2021 and go into this particular field of art as I love calligraphy and it brings a different joy and spiritual contentment to me when I create this type of work,
You create amazing paintings that combine calligraphy, architecture and illumination, how did you create a unique style?
I think I formed my style through experimentation. Although I can be inspired by other artists work I do not copy any other artwork. I believe in making art which are my own unique vision, using materials I enjoy working with and blending colours in a way which comes naturally to my hand. I love measurements so adding Islamic architecture and illumination design to my work was a beautiful way to enhance the Islamic artwork. By combining elements of things I love I found my own style as an Islamic artist.
Can you tell us how you create a work of art from start to finish, how long does the process usually take?
My paintings require a lot of work, they can take days to complete. I love to work on larger pieces. If I am making a commissioned artwork, I spend a few days thinking about the design itself. I talk to my customers about what particular verse they want, why they chose that verse (the reasons behind it), what they are hoping to feel from the artwork itself once they place it in their home. We then discuss the colours, size, style etc. I ask them for photos of where the work will be placed so I can create a piece that fits well into the surrounding area. I draw up digital sketches for design purposes so my customer can get a preview of what the art looks like. Custom work is generally a collaboration between me and the customer as we both need to be happy with the final product.
Once a design is agreed I can usually spend up to 2-3 days just working on the background itself. I add several layers over time and sometimes there is structure work also involved in the pieces. Drying time for texture work can take a few days depending on the weather. If there are other architectural elements involved such as a mosque this also then takes a few days to do, from measurements to the painting and making the colours work with the background. I will do the calligraphy last. This is the most exciting part for me as it brings the whole artwork together. I will spend several hours perfecting the calligraphy and neatening it all up. I am a perfectionist by nature and will not be satisfied until I think I have been able to do the work until the best of my ability.
Sometimes I create pieces just for experimentation and for myself, these are not pre-agreed designs for a customer. For this I just go for it on the canvas, leaving my heart and hand do all the thinking. Again these can take several days to complete but these are the pieces that generally come out the best as I am allowed freedom of creativity and not restricted by a design or colours that I have to stick to.
You also use mixed media in your paintings to add depth and texture, how did you experiment with different techniques?
I initially started using sand texture in my first pieces. I came across a video on how to create your own sand texture at home and thought this may be a good idea to incorporate in my artwork. I then began experimenting with this further as I made more work, adding crushed glass, Swarovski stonework and different metallic finishes. The type of texture I use will be dependant on the final look I am hoping to achieve with the artwork and how well it will work with the background and other elements on the painting.
Can you share your favourite work of art you have created so far with us and why is it your favourite?
My favourite artwork is one I did recently called “black stone”. This is inspired by colours of the Kaaba and the Hajr-e-Aswad. I love this piece as it was created with a lot of emotion and the background and colours form and shape are all representing something. I also decided to place my most loved verse from the Quran in this “verily after every hardship there is ease, (Surah Ash- Sharh). I initally made this piece to sell but I loved it so much, I have now kept it in my studio as a reminder to why I started painting Islamic artwork. This is also the first piece of artwork that I have named.
Which artists have influenced your practice?
There are many talented and wonderful ar2sts out there but i am heavily influenced by: @Salehaart she creates amazing Islamic artwork where each element on the art piece holds meaning behind it SK Modern Art she creates large custom artwork and also incorporates different texture in her work. Hamidahart_(aka Hamidacalligraphy) she uses Islamic art and creates beautiful backgrounds to invoke emotion in her work.
What does a typical day in the studio involve?
My studio is in my home as I am also a mother and I need to be able to balance home, children and work together. I recently converted my garage space into a studio so I can work more effectively. My day starts off with answering any queries I have received overnight. Then ordering in any materials for artworks and orders. I will then start painting midday taking breaks in between and stopping early evenings. Sometimes this time is also distributed with packaging and preparing artwork for shipment or taking photos of completed work for Instagram and my website. I then may do consulting and design work in the evenings for new customers and admin paperwork for new orders.
If I am really into a particular artwork I can go back at it late at night to continue working on it.
Why is Islamic art integral to your creative practice?
I feel a spiritual connection with Islamic art and it brings me a different happiness and peace when I write calligraphy from the Quran. When there is meaning behind what I create the long hours I spend on my work go past very quickly and the labour of making the work seems effortless. The time and effort I spend on Islamic artwork all seems worthwhile when I know it will serve as a beautiful reminder of religion to others.
What are your thoughts on the future of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic art, do you think it has a place in mainstream spaces?
Islamic Artwork is beginning to become more and more popular. It already has started making its way to mainstream places. You can see it being displayed in commercial offices, hotels and restaurants. There’s also some ar2sts who paint calligraphy on walls and large buildings and it is being viewed and appreciated publically by muslims and non-muslims. As the apprecia2on for this art grows more and due to the versa2le styles of calligraphy we can do, especially the modern abstract calligraphy style which is trending right now I hope to see the love of Islamic art grow more and more around the world.
For more information check out https://artbyaliya.com.au
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