Aya Mourad is a Lebanese artist based in Sydney, Australia. Her fascination with Islamic art was first kindled during her trip to Iran in 2014 and her subsequent travels to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Spain exploring and indulging in the grandeur of Islamic patterns. Beyond her enchantment with the aesthetics of Islamic art, a keen intrigue in the mechanics behind the patterns was prompted and before she knew it, she was on a journey of joyful creation and ongoing exploration and learning. She works primarily with watercolors, recreating the traditional patterns that adorn the walls and ceilings of the historical mosques and palaces of West Asia. The underlying geometry beneath each pattern is deduced through a form of reverse-engineering, which then informs the recreation of the pattern. This is a therapeutic and fun process through which she channels her fascination, delight, and simple love for Islamic art.
Team Salaamy: What made you choose Islamic art as an art form? Tell us something about your journey.
Aya Mourad: I was initially drawn to Islamic art for its aesthetic beauty — it has such a mesmerizing and attractive nature. This quickly grew into a fascination and journey of learning, where I developed a deep appreciation for its significance and value from an artistic, spiritual, scientific, and historical perspective.
I was first exposed to Islamic art during a trip to Iran in 2014 when I bought my first book in an attempt to learn how to draw Islamic geometric patterns. I later discovered invaluable online resources and teachers, such as Samira Mian and Mohammed Aljanabi, through whom I learned further and continued to practice.
I began to analyze patterns on my own and continued to make artworks based on photographs of patterns I’d taken during my travels. I have so many plans for future work and can’t wait to create and showcase them.
Team Salaamy: How is the Islamic art scene in Australia and how did you blend in as an artist coming from Lebanon which has deep roots of Islamic culture, but Aussies are more into beaches, nightlife, and corporate lifestyle?
Aya Mourad: We are lucky here to have the Islamic Museum of Australia which has several galleries where Muslim artists, both in Australia and abroad, are given the opportunity to showcase their talents, exhibit their diverse experiences, dispel orientalist narratives and raise cultural awareness. As yet, I have not delved much into non-Muslim art spaces within Australia, but I do have upcoming plans to do so in the near future.
Team Salaamy: With geometry and mathematics a lot of patience and detailing is required, do you think all artists can cope with it?
Aya Mourad: I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone, and I say that because people frequently comment about the time and patience this type of work takes, and how they don’t think they’d be able to tolerate it. I think it depends on personal traits and personal interests — some people find it therapeutic while others find it tedious.
Team Salaamy: What tools and techniques are your favorites, which you use in all your artwork?
Aya Mourad: My favorites at the moment are watercolors paints on 640gsm paper, but I’m really keen on working with oils and acrylics on canvas and wood panels for some of my next projects. I also love working with my drafting tools and can’t deny how much I enjoy using my beam compass!
Team Salaamy: What is the best way to start your journey in Islamic arts as an artist?
Aya Mourad: Invest in high-quality tools (such as a compass, ruler, and pencil), explore online resources (I highly recommend Samira Mian’s ‘resources’ page on her website https://www.samiramian.uk/) and take your time when drawing, don’t rush. That last point is crucial for achieving/maintaining precision, as the slightest inaccuracy in drawing could result in visibly distorted shapes. It’s important to mention that inaccuracy happens with everyone at the start (so don’t be disheartened!) and improving precision takes some practice.
Team Salaamy: Blue attracts you lot be it the ocean or the sky it can be seen in many of your artworks. What makes blue so special?
Aya Mourad: I have always found blue to be such a calming color. My favorite scene in nature is a turquoise beach with a cloudless blue sky. My first exposure to Islamic art was in the blues of the shrine of Imam Zadeh Saleh (as) in Tehran, and the blues of the Imam mosque in Isfahan, and I think this cemented blue as my favorite. I associate the color with pleasant experiences, peace, solace, tranquility, and contentment and that’s what makes it so special.
Team Salaamy: Can you give a few tips and some advice to beginners?
– Don’t compare your work to others’, only compare it to your former work;
– Hard work is more important than talent.