I just came across the works of the contemporary Muslim artist Ali Omar Ermes. Due to the Muslim prohibition of portraying sentient beings much of Arabic art is based on ornaments and calligraphy. Ermes often creates illustrations to famous poems, this one by Abu Al-Ataahiah, saying “that which really belongs to you is what you are able to spend on good causes, not what you consume and liquidate or leave behind”.
We can appreciate the sentiment, as we can admire the sinuous elegance of line, and the use of colour. It also reminds me of my childhood, and gives me a vaguely “homey” feel. But we shouldn’t believe that we can appreciate it.
What the image conveys to the artist, and to those from a similar context is a totally different matter. Is the poem focused on acceptance, or on religious fervour? Does the colour combination suggest life and happiness, or death and destruction? Is the whole work shockingly modern and disrespectful? Or reassuringly main-stream, a little trite, perhaps?
We don’t know. Today all the world is only a click away, but until we actually learn more about it, most of it remains alien to us. Even when we like it.
(I am annoyed that I cannot insert images, or even embed them from another site on the ipad. It also doesn’t automatically show me what I’m typing, to say nothing of the missing arrowkeys. Definitely not good for blogging. )