The Art of Painting Divine Domes

At the heart of downtown Beirut is the distinguished Mohammad al-Amin mosque, the most significant mosque in Lebanon. The beautiful constructing, which was inaugurated in 2008, is usually the backdrop for local protests that cluster at the adjacent Martyrs’ Sq.. Inside of is a spectacular painted dome. It is the get the job done of an artist who has obtained a popularity as a top painter of ornamental ornament, specially in mosques. What may perhaps shock a lot of persons unaware of the wealthy cosmopolitan tradition of Islamic religious art is that the artist, Harout Bastajian, is not Muslim himself. When folks talk to him how a Christian is making the ornamental plan of a mosque, he likes to reply, “God operates in mysterious means, brings us all together to embellish his house of worship.”

He embarked on this artistic path back in 2004, when he was questioned by the Hariris, a distinguished enterprise and political household in Lebanon, to enhance the newly inaugurated Hariri mosque in Sidon, Lebanon — a composition designed by the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in memory of his father. He had presently labored on the family’s villas, and the 20-a thing-calendar year-outdated Bastajian’s function plainly impressed the Hariris, so they designed an settlement. 

A check out of the Bahaedine Hariri Mosque in Saida, Lebanon

The journey into portray in sacred areas has been inspiring for the artist. Not only has he painted the interiors of mosques but he’s also been associated in the restoration of Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic buildings in Lebanon. He remembers his initially mosque fee in Sidon nicely. “When I went in and noticed the large dome, which is like 900 square meters [roughly 9,687 square feet], I could not snooze that evening. I was imagining, ‘How am I supposed to do this?’ And then I was taking part in basketball in my backyard. I saw the basketball, the form, how it’s divided. So I begun considering, how can I divide the dome and test to handle it? And it was quick. In two months I was capable to complete the challenge with my crew,” he explains.

“Regarding the layout, for certain, I go by background, via various faculties, and I try out to appear up with anything someway contemporary and get the job done on it. And I will often use the golden ratio as a essential for my work. Pertaining to the colors, I really don’t see 1 colour. I normally perform with levels of colors in get to achieve this depth of colour, the ornamental complete, and give this aesthetic conclude final result.”

Layouts by Harout Bastajian in the Al Shokr Mosque in Jamal Abdul Nasser, Mina, Lebanon

He presently has a workforce of 6 or seven colleagues who work with him complete time, and a graphic designer who will help organize the project approach considering that Bastajian does not like to do the job with electronic applications — and he appreciates the assistance in great tuning his suggestions and ordering the total system. He works by using artificial-based mostly paint, and the internal layers of the domes are practically usually gypsum, so he’s frequently portray on that floor. He provides a 25-yr guarantee that the shades he employs will not peel, and he emphasizes that he spends a significant amount of time guaranteeing that his paint is of the best quality.

In the very last 18 many years, Bastajian claims, he has painted 37 whole and fifty percent domes, which translates into around a dozen mosques and many secular initiatives as much afield as Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Switzerland.

A watch of his made in the Sultan Yacoub Mosque in Sultan Yacoub, Lebanon

“Well, when I did my first couple of mosques, I had to journey a great deal and verify other mosques in order to realize it all greater. Then I took some programs in Islamic style and design and Islamic art … [and] after a though it grew to become aspect of me. I can see the conclusion consequence only by carrying out the sketches and planning the layouts … I do not like to do the very same, or repeat the very same point I already have accomplished. I only repeat the exact same Quranic verses, which I have to, but as for the style and the hues, I really don’t like repetition …. [Looking at my work] you can see none of the domes appears to be like like the others they’re all unique.”

A watch of the artist’s operate at the Islamic Middle of America mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. The creating is the largest mosque in North The usa and the oldest Shia mosque in the United States.

He conceives every project from the floor stage, wherever site visitors will encounter the function, incorporating a combination of geometric designs, together with vegetal and floral motifs, to produce a rich world wide web of patterns. “The shape of the dome by itself, it has some thing divine in it for the reason that it is circular. It doesn’t have a start out or an conclude,” Bastajian clarifies. “And the light that comes in from the windows, they call it the mild of God. The dome by itself, you feel that it’s flying, it is anything divine.”

That symbolism is essential to the artist, who is in some cases encouraged by other will work, this sort of as the layouts from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which motivated his work for the al-Amin mosque in Beirut. He adjusts the types in accordance to the sect: Ottoman layouts have a tendency to get the job done improved for Sunni areas, when Shia holy spaces are inclined to acquire their aesthetic cues from Persian-influenced designs and geometry. But it is tricky to characterize Bastajian’s work as a single factor, due to the fact he relishes the hybrid nature of society currently.