KOCHI: For Saudi-Palestine artist Dana Awartani, her art practice-- which includes paintings, drawings, embroideries and woodwork-- doubles both as a medium for spiritual expression and a tribute to mathematical symmetry.
And Awartani’s unique style of embroidery is on display at the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). She marries history with symbolism to explore spaces for the contemporary within the bounds of the traditional. Through this, Awartani hopes to trigger a revival of Islamic art forms.
“First, Islamic art is not made for the sake of art alone. It is a sacred spiritual practice that is used as a way to worship God. It teaches one ‘sabr’ (patience) and respect. As a practitioner of Islamic art, my work is a form of prayer and ‘dhikr’ (remembrance).
I need to be 100 per cent focused and in a good mood to be able to do it, otherwise it won’t work,” Awartani said. Her exhibit titled ‘Love is My Law, Love is My Faith’, features a set of eight embroidered cloth panels inspired by the verses of 12th Century Sufi poet Ibn Arabi about his experience in the holy city of Mecca. The panels, on display at David Hall, Fort Kochi, are arranged in order of decreasing size and intended as a spiritual journey towards the sublime.
“ Every number has a meaning. The numeral ‘8’ is my favourite since it is so aesthetically pleasing, whether in mathematics, numerology and geometry. The mystic Ibn Arabi said that the eight-point star is a representation of the eight angels that will bear the throne of God on the Day of Judgement. It is also seen on a higher level as representing rebirth. Even the Dome of the Rock (an ancient shrine in Jerusalem) was built on an eight-figure base,” she explained.
Awartani works within the mysticism of the Sufi tradition, which considers symbolism an essential means to approach and engage with the Eternal.
She also has a great fascination for geometry, through which she blends the art with mathematics.
“Sufi poetry and teachings are layered with evocative symbols that strive to inform and awaken different levels of intellect, being and understanding. My effort is to familiarise Islamic art to the contemporary world using the medium of mathematics,” she said.
KMB 2016 curator Sudarshan Shetty said Awartani’s deft use of traditional patterns in a contemporary form was pretty impressive.