An unusual exhibition opens this month at London’s Aga Khan Centre in which nineteen international artists explore the concept of Al-Jannah, the Garden of Eden or Paradise in Islam.
Throughout the history of Islam, gardens have been seen as embodiments of Paradise, reflecting the bounty of Allah and the blessings of life.
Indeed, Paradise is described as a garden not only in the Qur’an, but in countless works of spiritual literature and poetry which portray a lush green sanctuary, irrigated by lakes and fountains.
The exhibition, “Making Paradise” brings together digital reproductions of classical miniature paintings from Aga Khan Museum’s permanent collection with other eastern and western depictions of elements associated with Paradise, including Islamic geometry, traditional ceramic work, gold work embroidery, hand-stitched textiles, collage and modern appliqué techniques.
The walls of the gallery are being transformed into the four symbolic quadrants of the Chahar Bagh, based on the ‘four gardens’ of Paradise in the Qur’an.
The central focus is a silent fountain, designed by renowned Islamic garden designer Emma Clark. From this will spring a bespoke paper-cut installation of organic forms, created by American collage and installation artist Clare Celeste Börsch.
Other featured works include calligraphic pieces by Soraya Syed, four ceramic plates by Yasmin Hayat, tulle embroidery by Olga Prinku and a soundscape of birdsong developed by Geoff Sample.
Aga Khan Centre Gallery curator Esen Kaya said : ‘We are honoured to present an exhibition which embraces such diversity of artistic practice, and which visitors of all ages and backgrounds can delight in.
“Gardens are such important spaces and certainly in this time of COVID they have become even more important for people to be in. It feels timely to celebrate the concept of gardens and paradise at a time when our lives have been so restricted”.
As well as showing works from Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Centre Gallery has collaborated with the collections team at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Library to identify botanical illustrations of specific trees, fruits and flowers mentioned in the Qur’an in relation to the gardens of paradise. This show is designed to
appeal to audiences interested in gardens, Islamic Art, traditional fine art techniques including gilding, miniature painting and Islamic geometry.
“This exhibition purposefully combines historical artworks from a variety of collections alongside contemporary artistic interpretations” said Kaya, “In the exhibition you will find exquisite work by artists whose practice originates from ancient fine art training to those who use more contemporary methodology and materials to produce artworks that respond to the subject”.
Kaya added: “This multi-sensory and richly diverse exhibition will have something for everyone, not least, an opportunity to consider ideas on paradise and what it means to us as individuals”.
The exhibition opens on April 28 and runs through until September 30. Entry is free.