By Jazia Hammoudi, MA Curating Student
Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq is one of two superb blind embossed prints that the London-based artists Langlands & Bell generously lent for Impress: Print Making Expanded in Contemporary Art, on display in The Courtauld Gallery until 20 July.
The print is one of ten ground plans of famous mosques from around the world represented in the Enclosure and Identity portfolio. Langlands & Bell have long been interested in the socio-political implications of architecture. Dealing with religious buildings, along with political infrastructure, cultural institutions, and historic sites is part of their rich artistic practice.
Blind embossing, a kind of stamping without ink, creates visually subtle prints that emphasize texture and dimension.
In Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq, this process accentuates the mosque’s precise geometry, making for an elegant, sculptural image.
As an example of print making expanded, it speaks to the ways that centers’ of worship organize our lives and communities, sometimes invisibly.
The prints in Enclosure & Identity use architecture to investigate how religious institutions, along with secular and political organizations, play a major role in structuring identity within societies and in global contexts.
On another note, displaying the architectural plan of this particular mosque feels particularly relevant in light of recent history. This historically significant building has been heavily damaged in recent years due to intermittent warfare.
It was commissioned by the Abbasid Caliph (head of state) Al-Mutawakkil in the 9th century, and is one of the largest mosques in the world, measuring 240 meters long by 160 meters wide. It is particularly famous for its spiral minaret, the Malwiyah — ‘snail shell’ in Arabic – which stands 52 meters high.
Part of the top of the Malwiyah, was bombed in 2006 during the Iraq War. As a result, UNESCO declared the city of Samarra, including the Great Mosque, a World Heritage Site in 2007. Hopefully it will remain intact and inspire artists for centuries to come.
Impress: Print Making Expanded in Contemporary Art runs until 20 July 2014.
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