Shakil Akram Khan is of Pakistani origin, but he was born in Singapore and raised in Canada from the age of seven. As a first-generation immigrant he was expected to become either a doctor, an engineer or an accountant. So he became an engineer. But in his heart he always wanted to be an artist.
Khan is self-taught and has been creating artistic designs privately for the last twenty years. Art has always been his passion. “I loved to write poetry. I loved making abstract designs using colours, geometry, symmetry and mosaics.”
The engineer has his own style of Islamic geometric design. “I was searching for an art form to pursue. I was captivated by Islamic geometric design. I was enthralled by the minimalist art of Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella. But when I came across the art of M.C. Escher my search ended and the development of my own art concept began. I united these three art forms consisting of tessellations, minimalism and square kufic script to form a unique modern Islamic art style.”
Inspired by his Islamic background, the themes of his artwork are spiritually based. “I want to convey the message that God is the ultimate creator. His artistry and engineering is perfect and incomparable. God’s will drives the system of the universe and is based on absolute laws which He has ordained. Things are not random, nor without purpose. There is order and harmony. There is a plan and there is a Planner.” Khan also wants to bring people together with his art. “I am also interested in using my artwork as an instrument to bring Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims together on the common foundation of love for beauty. The beauty of Islamic art in the forms of calligraphy, geometric design and arabesque are universally appreciated by all people.”
The creative process of his art works starts with an intended word or verse. The favourite aspect of his art is the initial design stage. “Every work of art is different and has its own unique qualities. So each piece should be appreciated on its own merits. The challenge of creating the pieces of the puzzle that will fit perfectly when tessellated is very exhilarating.”
In the last few months Khan have had exhibits in a number of galleries in Canada, USA and Korea. He has also received interest from galleries in the UK and Dubai. “I am in the process of producing my art in silk screen and also wood sculpture. I have only very recently started to publicize my work and have received great appreciation and encouragement. I would really like to make large scale versions of my designs in grand architectural projects. My designs are such that the larger the canvas the greater the visual impact. I would like people to be able to see my art from far away. ”
Islamic square kufic tessellations – © Shakil Akram Khan