Pete Moorhouse | Contemporary Islamic Sculpture
Matahatan Series: The symmetries of space
The spectacle of geometry: Harmony, balance, beauty, and proportion
Moorhouse’s body of work transcends traditional boundaries. He reworks traditional Islamic patterns typically found within mosques across the pan-Islamic world. Within Islamic art representations of the ‘infinite’ shun anthropomorphic form and embrace abstract expression. The traditional two dimensional aesthetic geometric patterns are symmetrical, proportional, and balanced and are widely found in tiling, mosaics and engravings. The patterns are based upon Euclidean geometry, particularly on the exploration of tessellation and symmetry.
There are certain key design elements. They have a sense of flow having no point of focus leading the eye to travel different paths; they are unbounded, continuing indefinitely with no beginning or end; and they often incorporate star shapes, representing the cosmos and heavens. Stars were culturally prominent due to their use for navigation over both land and seas. Islamic art unifies science and art combining mathematics, crystallography, chemistry, physics, and the natural world. In this manner the designs are a result of the combination of art, science and nature, and this is apparent on both a molecular and an astronomical level. The majority of traditional designs were developed 10C-14C, with the zenith occurring in the 14C perhaps as exemplified with the Alhambra.
Abstraction was chosen to represent the ‘absolute’, to represent Unity. Geometry was seen to connect the material world with the spiritual world. The real secret to the resonance of the patterns over generations lies in their sense of balance and proportion leading to a profound beauty, with the parts being in a strict relation to each other and to the wider whole. It is this inner logic of proportions that Moorhouse retains and reworks sculpturally, keeping true to the original motifs.
Moorhouse’s sensitive reworking of these designs, respects the rich heritage of Islamic art, as he extrapolates the original designs to form innovative three dimensional form, with elements of the original motif informing the resulting sculpture. He explores the symmetries of space with the sculptures evolving with their own defined visual language and a strong sense identity of their own. The bold forms are minimal whilst the surfaces dance with the leitmotif, as the pattern recurs like a short musical phrase, mirrored along folds in the steel.
The geometric patterns in Islamic art are based on the repetition of a single motif, which is designed in a specific way that recurring components fit together to form a perfect sequence. Moorhouse’s work pays homage to these original designers that had an incredible wealth of geometrical and mathematical knowledge in order to construct their work.
The motifs themselves are based on a grid system resulting in patterns that are interwoven, and link becoming infinitely repetitious, whilst retaining proportion and balance with a complexity considered by many to be sacred. In this way geometry was considered to be of high importance, imbued with spiritual, cosmological and philosophical significance, which delve well beyond the visual aspect. Geometry was seen as a branch of mathematics, concerned with dimensional analogues with the basic building blocks all based on key elements found within the natural world, with hexagons, squares, circles, triangles and pentagons all directly relating to natural phenomena such as honey-comb, crystals, petals, planets and so forth.
This aniconic abstract nature of Islamic art invites a deeper form of expression to lie within the geometric complex patterns. It invites a contemplation of the ‘infinite’ by adhering to laws of beauty, harmony and complexity. Moorhouse aims to retain the spiritual potential of the designs, providing possibilities for the observer to respond to.
Geometry can be thought of as the study of spatial order through the measure and relationship of form. It is an unfolding of number into space, providing a timeless language of aesthetics. Throughout the ages it has offered infinite possibilities to artists and designers, with the mathematical principles permeating the aesthetic development of their work. In a way the abstract language liberates us from the here and now, from our ego, to a timeless dimension of harmony and eternity with the wider creation. The sculptures celebrate the concept of unity and diversity, that all things are connected, as well as the diversity that lies within unity. Seriality or repetition is the essence representing growth without a boundary.
Moorhouse’s work combines the Western artistic canon with that of the East. At key moments Western art has embraced geometry such as with cubism, constructivism, De Stijl, the Bauhaus and examples within optical and kinetic art as well as many artists embracing tessellation within their work. We can clearly see the influence of minimalism on Moorhouse’s sculptures. His work is restrained and rigorous with his adherence to clean lines and reduced form. It is deliberately kept minimal avoiding superfluous form and thus has a strong impact and communicates clearly.
In this way Moorhouse’s work is a fusion between East and West, the marriage of minimalism with geometric abstraction. Moorhouse can be thought of as a geometric deconstructionist, freeing and liberating the two dimensions, whilst exploring new landscapes, as he reworks and reinvents creating bold new three dimensional form. This results in new patterning and contexts where boundaries are pushed to challenge perceptions and reveal new meanings and concepts.
The three dimensional form extends and expands the surface, with the manifestations returning us to the natural phenomena, perhaps revealing universal truths. Moorhouse’s sculptures are representation of the unlimited possibilities of the imagination with the capacity to create original form.
Due to their sculptural form Moorhouse’s sculptures create a never ending pattern, embedding the infinite, even more so than in 2 dimensions. There is no beginning and no end. As the surface becomes form, a new abstract shape emerges, a new manifestation of a spiritual inner truth. Spatial relationships between the resulting form and the original motif pattern creating a resonance. The geometric forms become a dance, balancing up proportion and symmetry, with visual representation in geometric pattern and an intuitional sense of aesthetic beauty, conveying a sense of the mystery of creation.
The sculptures are fluid containing a sense of motion, with different but related movement of lines, planes and volumes. The coming and going, and extension inward and outward. The volume created is full and empty. The shadows created both represent and mirror the from.
The facets or faces are an important leitmotif in his work. Moorhouse’s approach to geometry moves between its structural beauty and the spiritual complexity, as it embodies the forms of the universe. The sacred and the profane are merged, balanced and to create harmony. Balancing proportion and pattern within the sculpture encompasses spiritual meanings as new relational sequences are created. There is a universal appeal in the symmetries of order, and tessellation. By creating three dimensional form, new perspectives emerge and well as new spaces and voids allowing new relationships. The sculpture balance substance with essence, and lead the viewer on their own journey.
The sculptures are formed with repeating parts creating a whole, but it is apparent that the part also contains the whole and the whole carries the visualisation of the part.
Moorhouse has work located within mosques in the UK. He is also currently working on a new Minaret for mosque in Bristol, UK. As well as creating sculptures, Moorhouse has designed many wall panels exploring a variety of geometric designs working with a wide selection of eclectic materials.
The resulting work is spiritual, offering a moment to contemplate, and elevate the soul. The spirituality of abstraction inviting meditation on the absolute. Moorhouse represents many visual variations around the same imaginary route, following a meandering creative process resulting in a labyrinth of form. The sculptures become a map of thoughts and feelings, line, shape and fragments of an ongoing interior flow and dialogue.
Martin Burrows, Curator , London
‘I am indebted to the astonishing historical achievements within the development of the traditional Islamic arts and architecture which have made a profound impact on me, both personally and on my resulting sculpture. For many years I have a deep interest in Islamic art and have been inspired by travelling and research in the Middle East. It is a great privilege to create art, and as with the original designers of the motifs, the rigour and discipline of the construction becomes a form of meditation. Today we encounter many prejudices between cultures and I hope my art can offer bridges and in a small way enhance cooperation and understanding between East and West’
Pete represented the UK at the prestigious Islamic Art Festival in Sharjah UAE.
Pete has work located within mosques in the UK. He is also currently working on a new Minaret for mosque in Bristol, UK.