by Alexandra Osadkova19 June '18
Spiritual experience in abstract painting
Oil painting depicting Fatimah bint Muhammad
It is well-known that Islamic religious tradition forbids figurative depiction of human figures, so artists avoid the temptation of comparing themselves and their works to the Creator. Thus, Muslim masters were forced to develop the language of ornament - the form of proto-Abstract art. At first glance, such aniconism (rejection of visual representation of deities and nature) makes talking about history or any personalities impossible.
This can be brightly illustrated with the oil painting, dedicated to the youngest daughter of the Prophet. Fatimah is said to be his most beloved child, who has inherited a lot of her father’s features - from gait to the manner of communication. Her prudence and modest behavior made the young girl the embodiment of the ideal Muslim woman. Not surprisingly, in Iran, Mother’s Day is celebrated on her birthday. However, behind that inspiring, idealistic image of Allah’s pious servant, one can overlook the person with tremendous inner power and courage, whose life was filled with struggle. The pass of faith can be deeply distressing. But one shouldn’t be afraid.
Fatimah is said to put herself in danger numerous times, helping her father in the war against non-believers. The things got even worse after the death of Muhammad: having no time for a proper grief, she found herself in the center of the political turmoil and fight for the succession of the Prophet. Her spirit was restless in the final months of her life (she died soon after the father), and Virtosu wanted to depict that state, believing it is the borderline situations that unveil the true character of things.
The composition of oil painting is unbalanced and harmonious at the same time. The combination of red (in the backdrop) and black (in the central figure) is aggressive and even infernal.
The subtle knot of lines reminds of the khatt el-islami - the art of calligraphy. Calligraphy is the perfect incarnation of the Muslim worldview, meant to express focus on the transcendental side of life - the same principle Fatimah lived her life in accordance with. Gheorghe Virtosu prompts us to relate ourselves to that spiritual experience through contemplation and meditation on trauma.