January 16, 2010

Arabesques: Notes from Southern Spain


Geometry was not my best subject in high school but the nerd in me feels a certain affinity to shapes. When we were in walking the grounds of The Alhambra in Spain, the intricate carvings in the walls were mesmerizing for me. It was easy to walk with your head up in the air or stuck in place staring for long minutes at various walls inside and outside the grounds.

Part of me wondered if there was some sort of hidden meaning behind all of the carvings. It felt that way, and they also reminded me a little of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and images. Walking through the Alhambra every inch is covered with carving, from the doorways all the way up to the ceiling. The arabesques cover the exterior walls also. Can you imagine the intensity of the work, especially when you note all the long curves and swirls that don't end in the patterns.

Here are a few of my favorite designs along with a definition from Wikipedia that helped explain what is behind these patterns.


The arabesque is an artistic motif that is characterized by the application of repeating geometric forms and fancifully combined patterns; these forms often echo those of plants and animals. Arabesques are, as their name indicates, elements of Islamic art often found decorating the walls of mosques. The choice of which geometric forms are to be used and how they are to be formatted is based upon the Islamic view of the world. To Muslims, these forms, taken together, constitute an infinite pattern that extends beyond the visible material world. To many in the Islamic world, they concretely symbolize the infinite, and therefore uncentralized, nature of the creation of the one God (Allah). Furthermore, the Islamic Arabesque artist conveys a definite spirituality without the iconography of Christian art.


2 comments:

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  2. Very captivating aren't they? No in your face icons, I wonder if it relates to the Sufism aspect of Islam???

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