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 arist, Picturing Islam: Art and Ethics in a Muslim Lifeworld also contributes to a deeper understanding of the cultural politics of Asia's postcolonical art world and the creative and ethical sensibilities of its Muslim artists.
Kenneth M. George is professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an associate of its Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and past Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies (2005–8). George's first book, Showing Signs of Violence, was awarded the 1998 Harry J. Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies by the Association for Asian Studies. His research on the politics of Islamic art and culture in Southeast Asia has been supported by fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Social Science Research Council, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.