‘Earth Measure’ presents a body of work which breaks apart the traditional / contemporary dichotomy, offering proof that these two concepts need not be oppositional or even in tension with each other. Utilising the ancient tools of compass and straight-edge, Gillian Turnham constructs and paints by hand classic Islamic geometric patterns, which have decorated the walls of palaces and mosques for centuries. Developed as a distillation of universal mathematical principles, these patterns remain relevant in every era as they are constant and unchanging reflections of the basic substructures upon which our physical and psychical reality is built. This ancient design tradition aims to beautify the urban environment in a manner reminiscent of the beauty of the natural world, and in doing so, uplift and align the human spirit with our original nature – a goal no less relevant today than it’s ever been.
In today’s world, audiences tend to lack literacy on the processes involved to design complex patterns. There is a tacit assumption that these things are created automatically by computer algorithms and are therefore cheap and bereft of human spirit. By showcasing the detailed pattern construction process as part of the finished designs, this series breaks through those tacit assumptions and brings a level of marvel and awe to the contemporary viewer that these designs have inspired in audiences of ages past.
Islamic geometric design has always been central to traditional Islamic societies, unifying people across varied sectors and disciplines. It is an ambassador for under-represented faith communities and reaches across the aisle between atheists and believers. This project meets viewers where they’re at – whether they want to appreciate it simply for its classic beauty, to converse with its mathematical mysteries, or to use it as a means of approaching the Divine, all responses are welcomed and valid.