Cairo to Yazd


Original Available
Handmade watercolour paints from Ontario and Iran, on animal-free Fabriano watercolour paper. Framed with anti-glare, UV Preservation Glass.
Dimensions: 101cm x 61cm (40" x 24")

This piece explores the relationship between a classic tenfold pattern common to Mamluk Egypt, and the iconic “pili gereh” pattern from the Jameh mosque in Yazd, Iran.

Whilst outwardly diverse, both of these patterns spring from the same mathematical grid structure. Working outwards from the centre, the constructions evolve in both directions toward their completed forms. Both patterns are united by an interstitial regular fivefold polygon (a pentagon to the left and a pentagram to the right), and by the usage of the “kite” polygon, highlighted in dark blue to the top-right of center. In the lefthand pattern, the kite is used as a clear and independent design motif, sometimes referred to as a free kite. This design innovation appears to have originated in pre-Mongol Persia but was utilised prolifically and to great effect by the Mamluks.

In the Yazd iteration, the kite shape is imbedded more deeply within the structure of the pattern, yet almost completely defines the outer appearance of the classic turquoise pili tiles (which some believe to be a stylized kufic rendering of the name of the Prophet ﷺ). Special thanks to my teacher Alan Adams, who identified the link between these two patterns.

- Gillian Turnham

© Gillian Turnham 2023