The Nafas al Rachman or Breath of the Compassionate is both a pattern and a concept in Islamic sacred geometry and art. Composed of interlocking eight pointed stars and cross shapes that alternately expand and contract, the pattern visually conveys a sense of inhalation and exhalation and represents the process by which the Creator “breathes” out and manifests form. This act of creation is also an act of compassion for immaterial, spiritual forms that yearn to exist in the material universe and for the Creator himself, who, like the human artist, experiences pain at the suppression of creativity.
This pattern is a particularly apt subject and metaphor for artistic creation and experimentation. As Keith Crichton, a master of Islamic sacred geometry, observes, “Through the polar cycle of the divine breath the universe is periodically created, maintained, dissolved, and renewed … More than just an ornamental motif, the Breath of the Compassionate is a cosmological model symbolizing the interplay of polarities that manifest form.”
This sense of playful, yet reverent [re]cycling of creation is my conceptual starting point. After traditionally executing the pattern with compass and ruler on paper, I deviate from the “perfect” expression of the pattern by introducing deliberate errors to create new, imperfect variations. Many of these new patterns become the basis for paper designs that are output via laser cutter and screen printer, then hand-finished with pencil, ink and collage.