We spoke to Safia Latif, an oil painter and artist based in California, about the inspiration behind her Islamic art.
Safia earned an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and began a PhD in religion, focusing on the notion of piety as a form of social capital for Muslim women in the medieval world.
Although she enjoyed academia, she was always drawn to art and decided instead to use her knowledge of Islamic history to inform a meaningful body of work.
Her paintings reflect a personal openness to faith, stemming from her diasporic background as the daughter of an American Russian Jewish convert to Islam and a Pakistani Muslim immigrant.
Her work creatively reimagines Islamic narratives and concepts using visible brushwork and an emphasis on light and colour. She actively practises “Islamicate Impressionism,” a style that draws on the social and cultural phenomena associated with the Muslim world, touching all corners of the world, from Morocco to Indonesia.
In her art, Safia focuses on visual sensations of Islamic themes and aims to convey a sense of wonder and beauty to the eye of the beholder [i].
I derive my inspiration from Islamic history, culture, and spirituality. By depicting scenes of apocalypticism, Islamic futurism, Qur’anic exegesis, and the diverse landscape of everyday Muslim life from the devotional to the subversive, I craft a visceral entrance into the language of Islam using expressive brushwork.
I think all paintings reveal some information about the painter. For me, my religious convictions and more specifically, my ideas about Islam figure into my work.
One perhaps unintended consequence of my art is that it unsettles the hyper-legalistic and pietistic representations of Islam that dominate the contemporary visual landscape. In so doing, it perhaps brings a sense of realism and truth.
I hope that by conceptually drawing on the social and cultural phenomena associated with the Muslim world, my work conveys a feeling of universal beauty and awe to the viewer.
To see more of Safia’s work, head to her website by clicking here.