Sarosh’s artwork is an eclectic blend of pieces inspired by modern street art and graffiti and the centuries-old influence of mystic poetry and traditional Islamic calligraphy and design.
Love, life, and faith are the foundations of my work.
Tell us a little about your self?
I am a Muslim American artist, social entrepreneur and educator based in NYC and Istanbul. In 2011, while completing my undergraduate degree at Columbia University, I founded the philanthropic visual arts company Arneeq, a platform devoted to promoting and nurturing artistic expression and social consciousness particularly among the Muslim American community.
Working with NBC Universal, NY1 News, CAIR-NY, TeachForAmerica and the United Nations over the years, have helped me grow as an artist. However, the defining experiences in my life and for my art have occurred outside the workplace. As a Pakistani-American, a Muslim, a female, and an ivy-league educated entrepreneur, I fuse my love for art and social justice and dedicate my work to inspiring and educating youth to become dynamic participants in civil society and advocates for social justice. I blend elements of my hybrid upbringing to create a unique style of art that speaks to people of all ages, races, cultures, creeds, and religions. Currently splitting my time between NYC and Istanbul, I am studying under the direction of a renowned master calligrapher in Istanbul while completing a graduate degree in Civilization Studies.
When did you start Art and what inspired you?
The art that I create is in honor of my mother who passed away after more than a decade-long fight with breast cancer. However, her legacy was more than her illness. She taught me the most important and beautiful lessons I have ever learned: how to love, live, and believe.
Love, life, and faith are the foundations of my work. For me, all action, but art specifically is about purpose.
In history, art has always been a reminder for civilizations of the beauty around us and within us. As I walk the cobblestoned streets of Istanbul, I gaze at the magnificence in architecture and complexity in design that embody this ancient city. One can easily be consumed by the majesty of this city and by the impact of countless civilizations on it. However, it reminds me that although too often humanity has proven to be weak and frivolous, greatness is possible.
It is part of my artistic mission to revive that beauty. For me, art is not just a creative outlet or a way to express myself. It is a way to celebrate life in all its intricacies. It is a way to inspire, to heal, and to remember.
What are the reoccurring themes in your work and you also talk about art being way to celebrate life and heal, tell me more about this.
Art in the ancient traditions I study and train in and create myself is not simply an escape from the world or a reflection of myself, but it is done in appreciation of the beauty of a life and world that I have had the privilege of experiencing. It includes the themes I have learned directly and indirectly throughout my life like gratitude, courage, truth, and love as well as struggle, perseverance, patience, and unity. I like to emphasize these themes by selecting thought-provoking and meaningful verses like those of the Quran or the poetry of Rumi, Iqbal, or Hafiz and incorporating them into my artwork. In this way, my artwork becomes a touchstone for remembrance, reflection, and meditation— ‘visual dhikr’ —every time it is ‘consumed.’
Obviously street art/graffiti art and islamic calligraphy are very different, yet you have managed to merge the two together, how did the joining of both come about?
My artwork is an eclectic blend of pieces inspired by modern street art and graffiti and the centuries-old influence of mystic poetry and traditional Islamic calligraphy and design. Honestly, my style speaks directly to my upbringing and the cultural influences in my life which for the last decade has included the heavy imprints of NYC and Istanbul. Graffiti and Islamic calligraphy may seem like an unlikely pair, but it’s all about finding balance and proportion, which happen to be two elemental principles in the science of Islamic calligraphy.
You are also studying calligraphy in Turkey, tell me more about the classes, what you do and why you chose to study in Turkey?
Turkey just happened and I am so glad it did. It wasn’t something that was planned very far in advance, but when the opportunity presented itself and everything else lined up, the decision was made for us. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever lived in not only in terms of physical aesthetics, but the people, the culture, the whole environment is saturated with a pure, simple, honest vitality that is hard to find today. It’s certainly not perfect but there are pockets at every corner that can transport a person to a new way of life.
In terms of classes, the city has maintained the old tradition of ijaza training or apprenticeship in which a student works with a master teacher until the teacher feels confident in the students’ ability to teach. The whole system is about sharing the knowledge and maintaining a level of excellence lost in the modern education system which is based on efficient pre-designed cookie-cut instruction. To receive your ijaza (which literally means permission) there is no time frame because it is based on individual mastery. It is not a race with time or a class average, but an exercise of individual will and determination. This may be scary for some people who live by their clocks and schedules (I was one of them) but it resets a natural balance of time, patience, and discipline in the student that as a teacher I know is one of the hardest things to ‘teach.’ The ijaza system is not limited to calligraphy but all the major Islamic arts and sciences.
Tell me a little about the art scene in Turkey and what’s it like for emerging Artists? Is there a big difference to New York?
The art scene in Istanbul is very diverse. Literally at the cross-road between East and West or Asia and Europe, Istanbul incubates limitless opportunities for all types of artists. The old Ottoman tekke or Sufi lodges sprinkled throughout the city all seem to be dedicated in continuing at least one of the traditional Islamic arts and sciences. But there is also the artistic community which resembles NYC in its similar tastes in visual art, music and film. Because of its unique location, Istanbul is enriched by artistic traffic from around the world.
Would you recommend aspiring calligraphers to head to Turkey for courses?
Absolutely! There are endless opportunities here for not only calligraphers but all types of artists. Language can be a barrier, but Turkish has been surprisingly learnable.
Connect us with a few of your favourite Arab Artists at the moment.
A Bahraini calligraphy artist, Mohsen Ghareeb.