The Jameel Prize is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. Its aim is to explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.
The V&A houses one of the world's great collections of Islamic art from the Middle East. It began to collect art from the Islamic world in the 1850s, and it was the first institution in the world to do so with a purpose. This can be seen at its best in the Museum's splendid Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art.
The past achievements of the Islamic world in art, craft and design are reflected in the work of many contemporary practitioners in these fields.
The Jameel Prize, worth £25,000, was first awarded in 2009 and is held every two years, when work by the finalists is shown in an international touring exhibition. Both the Prize and the exhibition are organised by the V&A in partnership with Art Jameel.
The Jameel Prize is open to artists and designers from any ethnic, religious or cultural background.
Jameel Prize 4
Ghulam Mohammad was announced as the winner of Jameel Prize 4 for his five works of paper collage, four Untitled and one with the title Gunjaan (2014) on 7 June 2016. Ayşe and Ece Ege, founders of Turkish fashion label Dice Kayek and winners of Jameel Prize 3, presented Ghulam Mohammad with the Prize at a ceremony at the Pera Museum, Istanbul. The judges felt that Ghulam Mohammad’s work stood out for its excellence of concept and execution.
We would like to congratulate Ghulam Mohammad, the first artist from Pakistan to win the Jameel Prize. Using second-hand books, Mohammad’s intricate collages of paper cuttings of Urdu script pasted on Wasli paper create new meanings and celebrate the great heritage of Islamic art, craft and design. The vision of the Jameel Prize is to promote artists who explore traditional Islamic influences through contemporary art.
This is the first time that the Jameel Prize has launched at an external venue and the exhibition will in future rotate between the V&A and guest venues around the world.
Over 280 nominations for the Jameel Prize 4 were received and eleven artists and designers were shortlisted from countries as far ranging as Afghanistan, Mali, Puerto Rico and Thailand.
About the judges
Alan Caiger-Smith, potter
Ece and Ayşe Ege, founders of the fashion label Dice Kayek and winners of Jameel Prize 3
Rose Issa, curator, writer, publisher and producer
Hammad Nasar, curator, writer and Head of Research and Programmes at Asia Art Archive (AAA), Hong Kong
Martin Roth, former Director of the V&A
The late Zaha Hadid, award winning architect, was Patron of the Jameel Prize.
The shortlisted artists and designers
David Chalmers Alesworth is a visual artist whose work over the last ten years has been based around his research on garden history and landscapes. He creates his ‘garden carpets’ by re-purposing worn Iranian and Pakistani carpets of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He overlays the original designs, which show abstracted, metaphorical gardens with maps of important European gardens. In Garden Palimpsest (2012) he embroidered an image based upon Abbe Jean Delagrive’s rendition of Versailles Palace Gardens in 1746 on to a 150-year-old Kerman carpet. Hyde Park Kashan 1862 (2011) is based on a fragment of a Stanford map of London embroidered on to a large 75-year-old Kashan carpet. He does not intend these new Western cultural landscapes to obscure the original carpet designs, rather to see them as distantly rooted in the fabric of these garden carpets, growing out of the quintessential landscape beneath. Alesworth also shows three works from his series Gardening the Archive (2014), which are digital images made up of layers of historical texts and photographs of living plants from his own garden in Lahore. Alesworth has recently relocated to the UK from Pakistan, where he lived for more than 20 years.
Rasheed Araeen is recognised as a pioneer of Minimalist sculpture in Britain. Working also in painting and photography he invokes and celebrates the philosophy, science and art of Islam, attributing the traditional geometry and calligraphy of Islamic art to playing a central part in the history of modern art. Bahar Lye, Khushiaan Lye: Spring Come, Happiness Come (2015), is a sculptural work which is a resumption of his early works using geometry and colour. Al-GhazaliAl-GhazaliAl-GhazaliAl-Ghazali (2010–11) depicts in acrylic paint the name of the eleventh-century Muslim philosopher Al-Ghazali, inscribed four times on the canvas. Rasheed Araeen lives and works in London, UK.
Lara Assouad is a graphic and type designer whose interest lies in creating Arabic typefaces which speak or express a contemporary ‘Arab’ visual language. To create her modular alphabets and typefaces Assouad researches calligraphic styles from old manuscripts and abstracts their letters by ‘stripping back’ the ornate and intricate as far as possible without losing their legibility in an attempt to reach their underlying basic geometric structure. Assouad’s display for the exhibition The Modular Arabic Alphabet and Type Project explores her continuing work with modular Arabic typography. The project started with Tabati (2011) a children’s book, which demonstrates her award-winning geometric typeface Tabati, composed of simple geometric shapes and stamped out of wood blocks. The aim of the project was to introduce children to the Arabic language and alphabet in a playful, fun manner and get them more excited about learning it. It has also been used as a tool to teach young designers, Arab and non-Arab alike, about the basic rules of proportions, similarities and harmony in the Arabic scripts by taking the letters out of their cultural and historic context and exploring their symbolic ‘icon’ potential through abstraction and the principle of modularity. The graphic wall display Modular Arabic Alphabet brings to life her preoccupation with presenting Arabic letters through basic geometric shapes. Assouad lives and works in Dubai, UAE.
CANAN’s artistic practice is informed by her position as one of the leading defenders of women’s rights in Turkey. CANAN uses performance, miniature, video and photography to make a commentary on present day Turkey and its recent history. The two works on show Resistance on Istiklal Street (2014) and Bosphorus Bridge (2014) use the visual language of the Ottoman miniature. The first is a representation of the resistance during the Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. The city is depicted as inspired by the works of Ottoman cartographers. The second miniature illustrates a moment when a group of protestors succeeded in crossing the Bosphorus Bridge to reach Gezi Park despite the use of water cannon and tear gas by the police. CANAN lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey.
Cevdet Erek is an artist working specifically with sound, space and rhythm. In his series Rulers and Rhythm Studies, Erek converts the ruler into an instrument that measures time instead of space. Ruler Day Night (2011) uses the Muslim daily prayer times to mark the sequence of day and night as a repetitive and subtly changing black and white pattern. Ruler 100 Years (2011) is a visual record of a century in which two major changes took place in Turkey. In 1926 the Islamic calendar was replaced by the Gregorian and in 1928 the script changed from Arabic to Latin. Erek is also presenting a new work, a recent development from his Sound Ornamentation series, the aim of which is to give sonic form to repeated architectural ornamentation. Erek lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey.
Sahand Hesamiyan is a sculptor whose work presents a contemporary interpretation of traditional Iranian geometrical shapes. He is showing two works which demonstrate the way he dissects Iranian architectural forms into freestanding sculptures. Khalvat (2014) is a series of maquettes, their forms based on the triangular shapes in rasmibandi vaulting. Khalvat refers to a ‘sanctum’ or ‘place of solitude’ to which the mystic withdraws to seek the Truth. Hesamiyan also shows the imposing steel work Nail (2012). This single large nail substitutes the original four small nails as an emblematic and arresting symbol of the crucifixion. Hesamiyan lives and works in Tehran, Iran.
Lucia Koch creates architectural interventions by covering façades, skylights and windows with translucent materials and filters, through which she investigates issues of light and spatiality. She is concerned with screens that evoke the taste for the patterns of tiles and latticed window coverings, which filled Brazilian houses from the 16th century onwards, when the Portuguese settlers brought Islamic traditions with them. In her series Construction Materials (2012) she uses cut out plexiglass to create screens that are framed on sliding and overlapping panels, in order to create a multiplying effect on the patterns, and affect the vision of the onlooker. The two screens on display Showcase (acrylic-colour) and Showcase (acrylic-mirror) (both 2012), are mostly samples of materials used in her previous interventions, for example the materials she employed in the Turkish hamam for the Istanbul Biennial in 2003, the ones installed onto a window for Tokyo’s Contemporary Art Museum in 2008 or in the doors of a courtyard house, which she worked on for the biennial in Sharjah in 2013. Koch lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.
Ghulam Mohammad is an artist who uses words and language as a medium to create paper collage. By ‘freeing’ language from the page and attempting a playful reconstruction, Mohammad aims to enrich it with a new aesthetic meaning. The five works Untitled (2014) on show demonstrate his highly intricate work, taking individual paper cuttings of Urdu script and adding components of gold and silver leaf and ink to complete his collages. Mohammad lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan.
Shahpour Pouyan works with different media, including ceramic and metal. The decorative nature of his work is inspired by traditional Islamic art, but the unclear function of the object allows interpretation of the object from different perspectives. His series of ceramics The Unthinkable Thought (2014) shows different forms of domes – architectural structures long used as expressions of power. Pouyan uses traditional Islamic pottery techniques to make his models of a variety of domes from Europe and the Middle East. Some are detailed, scaled-down reproductions of specific buildings such as the Pantheon in Rome; others are simpler, almost typological, and draw on Iran’s rich architectural history, one example being the turquoise dome of Isfahan’s famous Mosque of the Shah (now Masjed-e Emam). Pouyan lives and works between Tehran, Iran and New York, USA.
Wael Shawky presents the film Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo (2012). This film is the second chapter of the film trilogy Cabaret Crusades which recounts the histories of the Crusades from an Arab perspective. Shawky uses drawings, objects and marionette animated films inspired by the book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf (1983) to describe the specific horrors of these religious wars, with meticulously crafted characters, music, scenography and speech. Shawky lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt.
Bahia Shehab is an artist and associate professor of graphic design at the American University in Cairo. Her work focuses on historic Arabic script and how it might be used to solve contemporary design issues. During the Egyptian uprising of 2011-13 Shehab sprayed the word la – “No” in Arabic – in different forms on the walls of the city. The word la is written using the Arabic letters lam and alif. A Thousand Times No (2010) is a Plexiglas curtain that traces the history of lam-alif using a thousand different shapes of the word in Islamic history. On display alongside will be the accompanying artist’s book – a visual documentation of Shehab’s extensive research into the different lam-alifs presented chronologically, stating the places she found them, the medium and the patron who commissioned the work. The project evokes the richness of the evolution of the Arabic script. Shehab lives and works in Cairo, Egypt.
In partnership with Art Jameel