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Home HRArt and auctions Love Universe: the ‘entire ocean’ of our inner world, expressed in the joyous works of artist Nazan Alhas

Love Universe: the ‘entire ocean’ of our inner world, expressed in the joyous works of artist Nazan Alhas

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Nazan Alhas, creator of the Love Universe collection.

Love Universe: the ‘entire ocean’ of our inner world, expressed in the joyous works of artist Nazan Alhas

By James Brewer

How to navigate life’s journey? London artist Nazan Alhas has assembled a collection of her paintings under the title Love Universe which signal potential panaceas for our tribulations. Her images call for deep thought and reflection, especially on the maxims spelled out in the myriad verses of the religious scholar and author Rumi, active eight centuries ago and still a beacon to many people. One of Rumi’s most memorable aphorisms was: You are not a drop in the ocean; you are the entire ocean, in a drop.

Only from the Heart can you touch the sky

Nazan has been presenting a captivating showcase of 39 recent art works inspired by the philosophy of Rumi, who lived from 1207-1273 and remains one of the world’s most widely read poets.

Her mostly small-dimension works were on show early in September 2023 at the Meditatio Centre, part of The World Community for Christian Meditation, which has a London base in an annexe of a church complex in Myddelton Square, a short walk from Angel tube station.

Already renowned for producing exquisite jewellery, Nazan turned to executing these pictures in an atmosphere of contemplative calm in which she felt prompted and guided by angels. Angels, sometimes unbidden, appear in some of her paintings, “angels giving hope.” The entire oeuvre is a cosmic narrative of distilled passion. In one piece, a bright sun shines and a sunspot somehow develops on that burning planet under the gaze of angels. It was as though the Sufi masters of old were walking alongside the artist.

“How did it all start? I had a dream many years ago, in which Sinan, the great architect of the 16th century Ottoman Empire, (renowned for magnificent mosques, palaces, and hammams) came to me and offered me a ceramic ball,” recalls Nazan.

Everything Dance in Joy

“As a child, growing up in Turkey, I used to draw tall trees with my black pencil, which gave me great pleasure. I remember drawing the Mona Lisa when I was 10 years old, but my artistic skills were not acknowledged at that stage. Maybe that’s why I now enjoy so much creating art and artefacts, and there is an unlimited desire to bring them to life.

Fire of Love

“At university during my fashion studies, I was absorbed by the history in that field – I couldn’t leave the library!” She graduated from the London College of Fashion (University of Arts) with a BA Hon. Her final degree collection of womenswear, menswear, jewellery, and accessories received impressive media coverage and praise.

“Creating something from nothing is a true passion and a kind of magic. It can be a joy, as well as triggering pain, as if a wound needs healing; it feels like a ceremony, a birth, and the creation lives forever once it is manifested: something that you either adorn yourself with or your home with, that creates such a personal and special interest to the wearer and viewer. It can be a best friend and a tool for self-expression too.

“My pieces are created to tell my own life story, experiences, and passion; while some of the objects and abstract creations are an expression of the unknown, living beings who call out to be remembered, discovered by different forms of creation, such as: a painting, a quote, poetry, a character from history and the life they lived centuries ago.

“This is why I like to create limited-edition and bespoke pieces for the wearer and viewer to appreciate the essence of those art expressions. I spend much time creating along and between the intersections of various craft techniques.”

Nazan with one of her spiritual artworks

Titles of her paintings are full of symbolism, as in HeartOnly from the heart can you touch the sky, and Everything, dance in joy and Serenity will comeFire of Love is emblazoned with the words “Dear God, let all lovers be content. Give them happy endings. Let their lives be celebration. Let their hearts dance in the fire of Rumi your Love.”

Çağrı  Küçükyıldız (left) with the ney wind instrument, and Sertaç Dilekcan with bendir frame drum.

The launch evening of Love Universe was endowed with a delicate, spiritual ambience thanks to two superb London musicians bringing to life Sufi melodies from the 17th and 18th centuries, airs which were meant to stir the human soul to experience divine love.  Çağrı Küçükyıldız played the ney, an ancient double-reed wind instrument long used in the Anatolian and Mesopotamian regions. In everyday life, Çağrı is technical officer in the maritime safety division of the International Maritime Organization safety division’s subdivision for marine technology and cargoes. Sertaç Dilekcan performed with the bendir, a large single-headed frame drum. Sertaç is an accountant, working among other specialities on projects for insurance companies.

Writing in Persian, Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, known as Rumi, addressed the tensions of the age in which he lived, and of our age too. The American poet Anne Waldman has compared Rumi’s work to that of Shakespeare’s for its “resonance and beauty.” The Sufi leader insisted: “We are born of love; Love is our mother.” He advised: “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder,” and: “Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.”

Nazan’s absorbing work embracing intense emotions on canvas and stunning creations in bijouterie has received much acclaim, and she has exhibited in London and New York since 2013.

Enraptured by ancient Sufi music

She received post-graduate Millennium Community Leadership Training from the King’s Fund and gained Fellowship status before spending five years directing and nurturing women from disadvantaged backgrounds, in arts and crafts workshops. She was awarded a Community Champion accolade by the Scarman Trust and Cripplegate Foundation. Nazan has volunteered to work with destitute asylum seekers as an interpreter and looking after toddlers and children. She organised fundraising campaigns with Islington council and residents for earthquake victims in Turkey.

Her personality shines through her designs. Her first art and jewellery collection, Divine Love, was launched at London’s Fashion & Textile Museum. The collection featured enamelled and engraved works, which included hand-carved wings, figurines of whirling dervishes and angels that intricately detail the symbols of Sufism, and their magical music, movement, and poetry.

Nazan embraced the success of Divine Love with her second collection, entitled Heaven, exhibited during Coutts London Jewellery Week. The Heaven collection reflects the ethereal beauty of the desert night sky, by means of glittering constructions of diamonds and sapphires set into cut-out designs of silver, 24ct yellow gold and rose gold, with stars, moon, and angel symbols. The collection profiled the ancient Ottoman welding technique of brass-heating as well as hand carving and was inspired by Sufism’s spiritual ceremony Sama.

Her first solo exhibition For Love at Canary Wharf was again inspired by Rumi, including engraved quotes from Rumi’s poem Masnavi, with corals and pearls, embellished by hand and heart symbols to express messages to and through the wearer. She was then invited to exhibit her For Love collection at the Body Parts exhibition at New York Soho Gallery.

James Brewer takes a close look.

Her recent venue, the Meditatio Centre, was inspired by the vision of the late John Main, a Benedictine monk, to teach meditation as a way “to restore the contemplative dimension of Christianity.” Laurence Freeman, a member of the Order of Saint Benedict, his spiritual successor, founded the World Community for Christian Meditation in 1991. It is open to people from any religious, spiritual, or secular tradition, and has regular meditation sessions and teaching on contemporary life and what it says is “the mystical core of Christianity.” Workshops take place on yoga, movement, poetry, and dance, with local artists invited to exhibit their work.

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