Geometry Through Islamic Design - Compass Designs

Geometry Through Islamic Design-Compass Drawings

This activity will encourage pupils to use a compass correctly, whilst creating pleasing designs that can be extended and coloured. There are downloadable worksheets which provide instructions on how to create basic shapes found in Islamic Designs. Reference is made to the contemporary artwork of Zarah Hussain.


Islamic design uses repetition, symmetry and change of scale to create a huge variety of effects. The four basic components of Islamic art are calligraphy, vegetal patterns, geometric patterns, and figural representation. For the purposes of this activity, we will be focusing on geometric designs.


The four basic shapes, or 'repeat units', from which the more complicated patterns constructed are: circles and interlaced circles; squares or four sided polygons; the star pattern, ultimately derived from squares and triangles inscribed in a circle; and multi sided polygons.


Salford Heritage Service worked with Shisha and artist Zarah Hussain, to develop an exhibition of new paintings. Zarah’s exhibition 'Handasah: Unity in Pattern' was shown at Huddersfield Art Gallery. 'Handasah' means geometry in Arabic and describes the foundation and inspiration in Zarah's work.


In this activity, pupils produce their own designs, using methods similar to those that Zarah uses in her own work. Zarah’s finished paintings are incredibly elaborate and contain many shapes, including pentagons, hexagons and stars, but all these shapes are originally constructed from circles.


Zarah begins by drawing out her design, using a compass and a straight edge. She then mixes her own watercolour paints and begins layering colour on to her design.


My work is based on geometric form and pattern; it is about the inherent beauty of number and how this relates to the natural world…My interest in geometry stems from my fascination of the symmetry, balance and order present in the natural universe we live in. A universe that has an incredibly reliable set of rhythms of day and night, and of the years together with the circumambulations of the sun moon and planets. I believe that geometric patterns reflect a natural order and are metaphors for creation. Zarah Hussain

Document icon Learning article provided by: Huddersfield Art Gallery | 
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