Cultural Crossroads

Exploring Geometry in Middle Eastern Art and Architecture at the Royal Academy

By Roxane Zand

F or those who had not yet seen the geometry-based Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy, Saturday 28 September provided an additional incentive to queue up after lunch, following the Geometry and Art Symposium sponsored by the Iran Heritage Foundation, in association with Sothebys and the Courtauld Institute.

The Geometry and Art Symposium at the Royal Academy, with artists Conrad Shawcross RA, Timo Nasseri and Mehdi Moutashar,architect, Marilu Sicoli of Foster & Partners, and moderator, Dr Sussan Babaie

Celebrated artists Conrad Shawcross RA, Timo Nasseri and Mehdi Moutashar, as well as architect Marilu Sicoli of Foster & Partners, were moderated by Dr Sussan Babaie, Reader in Islamic Art at the Courtauld, and co-author with Sothebys’ Roxane Zand, of the book Geometry and Art in the Modern Middle East.

Art Jameel prize-winner, Mehdi Moutashar, opened the session by discussing the use of Islamic grids and precise measurements in classical Arabic calligraphy, and how this informs his three-dimensional, sculptural pieces. Marilu Sicoli discussed the use of geometry in her practice, with particular references to the British Museum, The National Gallery in DC and the astounding new 700 000 square meter Kuwait airport, alongside German-Iranian artist Timo Nasseri, who is inspired by constellations, the celestial infinite, and the magic realist novel The Library of Babel, which opened a whole new perspective.

Pictured: Roxane Zand, Dr Sussan Babaie, Timo Nasseri, Vahid Alaghband, Farah Asemi and Conrad Shawcross RA

British artist Conrad Shawcross described his preoccupation with the tetrahedron, which he calls his ‘unit’ or ‘brick’, and the notions of time, entropy and disappearance as they relate to his ‘ fracture ‘ sculptures among other topics. Of particular relevance was the East-West dialogue and interconnection of ideas and patterns, but also the more philosophical and possibly spiritual and emotional potentials of geometry, as interpreted in art forms and architecture.

A book signing and reception followed, and discussions of geometry lasted until the Royal Academy dimmed the auditorium lights!

Read Cultural Crossroads, my blog on the arts of the Middle East and North Africa.

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