In a rich ethnographic narrative, cultural anthropologist Kenneth George introduces one of the leading figures in the world of Asian art, Indonesian painter Abdul Djalil Pirous, and his pioneering work in abstract modernist styles and modern Islamic aesthetics. Picturing Islam examines how religion, nationalism, ethnicity, and globalization have shaped the life and work of this original contemporary artist. Working in close collaboration with Pirous, George tells a captivating story about this painter's pursuit of a political, religious, and artistic identity as it emerged over the course of recent Indonesian history — from a time of revolution and anti-colonial struggle to the current period of post-authoritarian hope and uncertainty. Along the way, the author offers insights into the cultural and political predicaments that befall the artist as he seeks ethical purpose and refuge in his art, and embraces Islamic aesthetics as a way to resist being defined by globalized art styles and discourses emanating from the West. While providing a compelling and richly drawn portrait of an individual artist, “Picturing Islam: Art and Ethics in a Muslim Lifeworld” also contributes to a deeper understanding of the cultural politics of Asia's postcolonial art world and the creative and ethical sensibilities of its Muslim artists.
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