The Writing of Art showcased in London

Writing of Art offers glimpse into contemporary approaches in­fluenced by traditional arts based on Arab and Persian scripts.

Tunisian artist Khaled Ben Slimane at work. He is one of the participants in The Writing of Art exhibition in London. (ceramicstoday.com)


2016/11/06 Issue: 80 Page: 23


The Arab Weekly
Karen Dabrowska



London - The use of written words as an art form is beautifully displayed in The Writing of Art exhibition at Lon­don’s Ismaili Centre, part of the Nour Festival, which high­lights the best in contemporary arts and culture from the Middle East and North Africa.

The Writing of Art offers a glimpse into contemporary approaches in­fluenced by traditional arts based on Arab and Persian scripts, bringing together the works of Arab, Iranian and British artists. Their creations range from small framed works to large pieces that hang from the top of the gallery walls and reach the floors.

“We wanted to provide a flavour of contemporary art that makes use of calligraphy and provide the art­ists with an opportunity to display their work in London,” said Amin Abdullah Pardhan, chairman of Art and Cultural Activities at the Ismaili Centre.

“The Ismaili Centre originally planned to display a selection of work by the Iranian film-maker and photographer Abbas Kiarostami but his sudden death prevented this. That was when London-based cura­tor Rose Issa stepped in and provid­ed us with a selection of works for The Writing of Art exhibition from her collection. Other artists also came forward to offer their work. Hanieh Delecroix brought her crea­tions from Paris.”

The exhibition venue, a space pre­viously used by the Zamana Gallery, is a quiet contemplative area that creates the ideal environment for a moving poetic dialogue between art and letters weaving culture and his­tory together.

The flowing, decorative designs of Tunisian studio potter and paint­er Khaled Ben Slimane contrast with the precise geometrics and logically inspired designs of British artist Graham Day. The allegorical visual poetry of Katayoun Rouhi and the versatile brushes of Farnaz Jahanbin are presented alongside Parastou Forouhar’s challenging and zoomorphic calligraphic draw­ings to suggest a historical-cultural narrative that is continually pro­cessing cross-cultural influences.

“Two colours are predominant in my work: blue and black. The lines are the very core of the work of both: the artist and the clinician. I write my work.” Delecroix ex­plained.

A Paris-based artist who, in ad­dition to studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, has a doctorate in psychology, Delecroix’s practice in clinical psychology informs her work in sculpture and painting. The relationship between the mind and body, especially the mind of a damaged body, is central to her art. Shades of black and blue predomi­nate in her paintings, particularly intense hues of cobalt, ultramarine and cerulean that she usually ap­plies with a palette knife in sweep­ing strokes.

Describing the inspiration for his work, Ben Slimane, an instructor at the National Ceramics Centre in Tunis, said his artistic practice is founded in his quest for spiritual­ity and is inspired by Andalusian themes and the Berber traditions of Sedjenane and Djerba. He choreo­graphs letters, words and Quranic verses in an intimate and rhythmic dance.

However, Ben Slimane insisted he was not a calligrapher. “I was invit­ed to the Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Tokyo where I took courses with master Japanese calligraphers,” he said. “I learned a lot about methods of concentration and manipulation of the brushes. Back in Tunis, I used Arabic letters with Japanese callig­raphy techniques, which gives my writing more air, space and freedom and makes it more spatial.”

Day said careful study of the cal­ligraphic detail found in the 17th-century Shaykh Lutfallah mosque in Isfahan led him to realise that altering the mosaics from a regu­lar square into an unfamiliar shape could reorient the play of surfaces and renew the experience of the text and its meaning.

“I produced a series of works that took texts from the same mosque and arranged them into unfamiliar shapes to generate the same en­hanced concentration thus allow­ing the reader to look with new eyes and re-appreciate familiar texts,” Day said.

Persian for beginners is a series of calligraphic drawings that Forouhar made in 1997 when she was a mem­ber of the German-based artist col­lective Fahrrad Halle, during which she became “the Iranian” in the group. The enforced ethnic identifi­cation was a challenge for Forouhar that she turned into a source of cre­ativity. “Looking back I would say that Persian for beginners instantly highlighted my desire for cordial understanding,” she reflected.

Issa, the exhibition’s curator who also edited Signs of Our Times: From Calligraphy to Calligraffiti, said the usage of Arabic and Persian script is the main common language of the participating artists.

“They use words. They use the morphology of the letter because they want to express themselves in their own language or they think their language is beautiful or sacred or the morphology of it can transmit another visual culture,” she wrote.


Karen Dabrowska is an Arab Weekly contributor in London.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved