"Art is to serve a purpose and allow people to develop their own creative instincts from it. We have become far removed from such ideas. In the old days, art began as a craft; it was used towards a given end. This is not the case today. Take the architect for example, he is a master-builder of yesterday, but he has lost touch with his basic tools: earth, wood, brick, concrete. Things have become too abstract; so abstract that we can no longer relate to them on a practical level." Issam El-Said*
The untimely death of the Iraqi artist, Issam Sabah Nuri El-Said, in London at the tender age of 49, has deprived the Arab and Islamic world of one of its brilliant icons. His artistic temperament underlined a creative genius which touched all his activities, whether as a printmaker, painter, decorative designer of furniture, lamps, carpets and tiles, architect and etcher. Perhaps the saddest legacy of this Cambridge architecture graduate will be his unfulfilled ambitions and his unfinished work. Mushtak Parker*
Born in Baghdad 1938, Issam El-Said was the son of Sabah Nuri El-Said (Iraqi) and Esmat Fahmi (Egyptian). His Paternal grandparents were Nuri El-Said Pasha (Iraq's prime minister from 1930-58) and Naima Al-Askari (Iraqi). His Maternal grandparents were Ali Fahmi Pasha (Egyptian) and Nur-Sefa Celik (Turkish). He had one brother; Falah El-Said who married Nahla Al-Askari and had Sabah; then married Dina Maher and had Sima and Zeina. Sadly, Issam El-Said died in London, 1988 at the age of 50. Issam between his grandfather Nuri El-Said and father Sabah El-Said with his brother Falah El-Said, 1956.
Issam El-Said (1938-88)
The creative work of Issam El-Said in the form of painting, sculpture, printmaking, calligraphy, design and architectural projects shows his dedication to the expression of the Islamic cultural identity. El-Said’s fascination for geometry – the vocabulary and language of Islamic art - manifested itself in the design concepts for constructing geometric patterns determining a formula used by craftsmen and master builders in Islamic art and architecture, which avoids the use of complicated mathematical calculations. This involvement developed alongside his understanding of the essence, beauty, perfection and harmony found in the Islamic arts and architecture irrespective of the region or era and he delved into theory and practice to reconstruct their elements, all of which endorsed his theory that ‘all Islamic arts were governed by the science of preparations in the realm of metre, rhythm and in the form of interval in music’ as developed by Moslem scholars and draftsmen.
El-Said demonstrated wonderfully, through both his personal life and creative work, that the spiritual values of Islam can be integrated with the practice of art and architecture. The artist’s mother, the late Dr Esmat El-Said said ‘The unforgettable scenery of his country made on him a deep impression which haunted his imagination during his entire life. Not only the bright colours of the sky, the golden rays of the sun, the sparkling stars over the endless horizon of the desert, but even the torrid heat of summer and the suffocating sand-storms which often swept across the desert were deeply embedded in his mind.’ Issam El-Said’s artworks are in private and public collections world wide including the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; National Museum of Modern Art, Amman.
Issam El-Said held numerous solo-exhibitions in the Middle East, Europe and the USA and participated in various group exhibitions including: 1983 Contemporary Arab Artists III, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London . 1982 Contemporary Arab Graphics, Graffiti Gallery, London . 1980 Third World Biennial of Graphic Art, Iraqi Culture Centre, London; Influence of Calligraphy on Contemporary Arab Art, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London . 1977 Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Christies Contemporary Art, London . 1969 Sultan Gallery (with Munira al-Kazi), Kuwait . 1964 Galerie Dagmar Wirth (with Nuha al-Radi), Berlin, Germany; Litchfield Gallery, New York, USA . 1963 Galerie Dagmar Wirth, Berlin, Germany . 1963 and 1962 Woodstock Gallery, London; Arab Artists Group; Banouch Gallery, Bahrain
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Issam El-Said: Artist and Scholar
Issam El-Said: Artist and Scholar
Geometric Concepts in Islamic Art
Islamic Art and Architecture: The System of Geometric Design
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