Artists in Conversation: Ayesha Gamiet

As part of their Artists in Conversation programme, Yunus Emre Institute in London and Leighton House jointly organised their fourth talk of the series on the 21st July 2020, this time hosting Ayesha Gamiet, an Islamic illumination artist.

Having attained a BA in African and Asian Art History and Archaeology from the University of London, as well as an MA in Traditional and Islamic Art, Gamiet spoke of her journey with Islamic arts, beginning with her visit to Alhambra Palace, Granada. Gamiet was left in awe of the palace’s architecture, designs and mosaics, which led to her decision to work with Islamic arts more closely. After researching the arts further, she came upon calligrapher Soraya Syed, a classically trained Islamic calligrapher and artist. Touched by his art, Gamiet mentioned how she then attended the Prince’s School of Traditional Art through his recommendation.

Gamiet went on to  discuss her time studying traditional arts where she began studying Islamic art and architecture to then focus on illumination (tezhip). Listening to her friends’ recommendations, she decided to move to Istanbul, the heart of Islamic traditional art. There, Gamiet began taking classes from Ayten Tiryaki, a master calligrapher and illuminator. She recalls how she not only learnt the art of illumination but, was influenced by Tiryaki’s manner and style as she learnt the principles of Islamic art. Having moved to Istanbul, a city with a wealth of art and artists alongside innumerable mosques, places, tombs, Gamiet began a new path in her artistic journey.

Gamiet, who completed a second Master’s Degree in Education (with a focus on Art, Creativity and Culture in Education) at the University of Cambridge in 2014, continued to talk us through the art of illumination. She led us through how learning to draw is like learning the alphabet and how creating motifs resemble constructing word, and, eventually, how the decorated piece becomes a beautiful poem.

In 2018, Gamiet received her ‘Icazet’, a license used in traditional Islamic arts which is given by master artists. She was awarded this by Ayten Tiryaki and Çiçek Derman, two master illuminators, at the Süleymaniye Library. At the talk, Gamiet showcased the piece she produced to graduate using a video showing the designs and colours she used for the Hilya Sharif. While doing so, she spoke of the culturally rich world of Islamic arts which she was inspired by during her travels and experiences, stressing how you never stopped learning while producing illuminations and the importance of patience.

Furthermore, Gamiet shared the illuminated frontispieces she was commissioned by the Royal Library for four volumes of poetry, one of which was gifted to HM Queen Elizabeth II, and one to HRH Prince Charles. Alongside these, she presented examples of the illuminations and miniatures she designed for children’s books.

The talk ended with Gamiet recounting her experiences teaching at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and teaching on the Prince’s School’s educational programmes in London, Cairo, Jeddah, Doha, and Abu Dhabi.

The talk is available to watch at: