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Owen Jones: Islamic Design, Discovery and Vision

Owen Jones: Islamic Design, Discovery and Vision

by Mashaal Gauhar

Owen Jones: Islamic Design, Discovery and Vision exhibition at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Art and Civilisation pays rich tribute to the contribution of Islamic art to modern design and architecture.

In collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, this exhibition traces the fascinating journey of the renowned 19th century architect, Owen Jones through Spain, Turkey and Greece. The exhibition highlights Jones’ passion for the geometric patterns, abstraction and colour schemes particular to Islamic art and design. His landmark design sourcebook, Grammar of Ornament (1856) underlines the importance of Islamic design principles in achieving a modern, sophisticated aesthetic and is still highly valued by designers to this day.

Own Jones’ rigorous study of Islamic art and design had a profound impact on European design in the 19th century. While visiting Granada with his friend, the French architect Jules Goury, the flawless symmetry of the Islamic architecture of the city had a transformative impact on him, which was so far removed from the stark austerity of European architectural ideals.

His comprehensive study of Alhambra Palace won him great acclaim. Islam placed a particular focus the divine qualities of mathematics and Muslim artisans painted walls of buildings with repeating sequences of delicate and complex geometries through which the infinite wisdom of God was affirmed. Quotations from the Holy Koran were carved in the corridors of the Nasrid kings’ Alhambra palace in a florid Kufic script. Through his detailed architectural survey of Alahmbra, Jones initiated a new and more objective approach to the study of Islamic architecture

 His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasmi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the ground-breaking exhibition, he was accompanied by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Salem Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

In light of its outstanding contributions to art and culture, Sharjah was chosen as the only venue in the Middle East to showcase this spectacular touring exhibition, which was previously presented at the Alhambra in Granada and will travel on to South Korea in July.

Speaking at the inauguration, Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharajah Museums Department said, “we are extremely proud that the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization was selected to act as the only venue in the Middle East region to host the Owen Jones exhibition and showcase his outstanding contribution -a fact that underscores the longstanding reputation of Sharjah as a capital of Arab and Islamic culture.”

Commenting on the invaluable contribution of Owen Jones to modern day British architecture, Dr. Mariam Rosser Owen, curator of the V&A’s Middle EasternDepartment, said: “Owen Jones, a leading light in the revolution of Islamic art’s impact on British design, was a skilled architect and designer, and one who gave Islamic art a new sophistication and greater integrity. This exhibition will show how and why Jones was able to bring this great change about.”

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