Since its coinage in sixteenth-century France, the term ‘arabesque’ has preoccupied a wide range of researchers in the West. Originally inspired by geometric ornamentation in Islam, the ‘arabesque’ was integrated and transformed over the centuries across fields beyond visual expression, including literature, ballet and classical music. Considered as a systematic structure, mathematicians investigated its inner rules as theoreticians and anthropologist inferred the complexities of its patterns to religious beliefs. Viewing it as an ornament, some art historians explored its past origins while others decontextualized its aesthetic vocabulary into fragments.
What is the Arab aesthetic foundation of the ‘arabesque’ structure? In his illustrated lecture, painter and writer Kamal Boullata proposes a reading focusing on the correspondence between key features of Arabic grammar and the geometric composition of the ‘arabesque'. He will explore the reflexivity of word and image in classical Arab aesthetics that has been the subject of research conducted as a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellow in Morocco, and a stimulus for his own painting.
Kamal Boullata is a painter and writer. Born in Jerusalem, he studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Rome and at the Corcoran Gallery School of Art in Washington, D.C. He has been living in Berlin since his 2012 election as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg Institute of Advance Study in Berlin.
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