Calligraphy-an ancient art that arguably goes back to 10th century Iraq, is still a prevalent form of art, today.
It has evolved in incredible ways, and below are a few of the many talents that brought innovation to the table; all drawn for their Middle Eastern backgrounds, traditions, and other forms of inspiration.
1. Samir Al Sayegh
Born in 1945, based in Beirut; Al Sayegh is a Lebanese artist, poet, writer, art critic and historian, with a passionate interest in calligraphy. He is considered a pioneer of modernism in the Arab world, as one of the most avant-garde Arab master calligraphers of his generation.
His research on traditional calligraphy, combined with his interest in contemporary design, led Al Sayegh to invent new calligraphic typefaces and fashion several logos. In addition to that, his interest in the traditional art of Arabic calligraphy as well as in contemporary art and design led to the creation of new calligraphic typefaces.
The artist seeks to liberate Arabic letters from the restrictions imposed by language and meaning.
Lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Nugamshi was actually trained as a graphic designer, specialising in branding and type design.
Nugamshi’s research explores the evolution of traditional calligraphy and typography employing different techniques and unusual tools (broom or spray paint instead of brushes). Despite intentionally breaking with convention, Nugamshi remains true to that tradition of calligraphy while stirring dialogues within communities and looking for the spirit of the Arabic letters.
Most recently, the artist presented his video works in the 2016 Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial.
3. Mouneer Al Shaarani
An internationally acclaimed Syrian artist, he is an admired calligrapher, book designer and writer with over 50 years of experience. He found his calling at a young age as an apprentice for the most important Syrian calligrapher, Badawi Al Dirany.
Al Shaarani has also become popular for his innovative and scholarly advancements of the traditional calligraphic script. His work reflects the faultlessness attained through pioneering dimensions.
His work has been showcased internationally, gaining wide exposure through exhibitions in over a dozen countries around the Arab world, Europe and the United States.
4. Khadiga El-Ghawas:
Originally Khadiga Tarek, she is an Egyptian graffiti artist who became the First Light Calligrapher in Egypt and the first woman in the world to be mastering this art along with 6 men from different countries around the world.
By the age of 12, El Ghawas would have already won many drawing prizes and awards in her country. At the age of 13, her calligraphy talent began to appear during her school days. In 2011, Khadiga won the first place in an important Contemporary Calligraphy Competition in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s calligraphy center called “ Revolution in Arabic Calligraphy Eyes “ and that’s when everybody began to recognise her true talent. After that she went to a calligraphy school to complete her calligraphy studies.
In April 2013 she began her Light Calligraphy work inspired by Julian Breton‘s Light Calligraphy, and she started to make her own version of this art. Her process starts with choosing the word that she is going to light then she calculates its energy field. And then she writes it with all the traditional Arabic calligraphy types after what she chooses what is suitable for it. The action starts by practicing the word physically with her whole body for about 20 minutes to absorb the whole process. Then it’s time to perform it in front of the camera with lights for 30 seconds or more if needed.
5. Wissam Shawkat:
Born in Basra in 1974. It was the form of four letters from the Arabic alphabet written across a school blackboard that started him on a journey that has shaped him both in early years and adulthood.
He recalls finding peace and patience in calligraphy during a heavy aerial bombardment during the Iraq-Iran war.
There is purpose in the liberating juxtaposition of using handmade paper reed pens and traditional inks to create works that ask us to think again about what Arabic calligraphy is and can be – a central Calligraformic characteristic and something that sits comfortably with an artist like Shawkat, whose less prescriptive route to Arabic calligraphy has always left him somewhere on the periphery of tradition.
The above information has been sourced from the artists’ official websites, representing galleries, and/or the artists themselves.