The writing’s on the wall

Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC) is putting a contemporary twist on ancient calligraphy as part of its new Kalimat exhibition

By Iain Smith

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Published: Fri 28 Aug 2009, 10:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

The Arabic lettering system is renowned for its art as much as its communication. The Kalimat exhibition, which is Arabic for words, will run until September 25 and features 50 works by emerging artists from the UAE, Oman, India, USA and Australia.

The diverse group shares a passion either for traditional calligraphy, or a more contemporary approach to everything from hand-painted calligraphy to digitally produced and printed lettering and textured works.

“Calligraphy exhibitions are not difficult to interpret,” says Fathima Mohiuddin, DUCTAC’s visual arts and special projects manager. “It’s a beautiful art form after all. We want to show how artists from different cultures have really developed it to create some contemporary and stunning work. All the work on display is extremely colorful, vibrant and original.”

The artists taking part include Ahmet Kocak, Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Atiq Ansar,, Hind Mezaina, Jacky Menhennet, Kelly Izdihar Crosby, Khaleelullah Chemnad, Peter Gould and Salman Alhajri.

Mezaina has made a name for herself in recent years as an accomplished Emirati artist. The photographer, who uses low-fi analog cameras, has exhibited in the UAE, Mexico, London, New York, Berlin and Tokyo. “I love experimenting with techniques like multiple-exposure and cross-processing because the results are always surprising — the mundane can have a fresh, new look.”

Menhennet has exhibited examples of her pictures and jewellery in galleries in Malta and Dubai over the last 10 years. She creates wedding jewellery using crystals and semi-precious stones. “What I’m showing is my Arabic calligraphy made with tiny Japanese beads, “ she says. “Each picture consists of about 22,000 beads with each bead holding the next. These pieces are free-beading, meaning they are Inot sewn on to the fabric or canvas.”

Indian artist Chamnad specialises in anatomic calligraphy. He began his experimentation with the art form at the age of 15 when he would draw calligraphic pictures for publications in his native Kerala. To date, he has created more than 1,000 calligraphic works and logos. He has also drawn 100 works using the name Dubai in Arabic. “I believe my best work is yet to be drawn,” says Chemnad.

Alhajri describes himself as an artist, designer and researcher in the field of art and design. An Omani PhD student, the most important elements of his work are innovation, colour, harmony, simplicity and composition. “I am fascinated by Arabic calligraphy art forms which combine both spiritual meaning and aesthetic beauty simply because it is the main, unique icon of Islamic art,” says Alhajri. “Arabic writing is related directly to my identity and cultural background.”

Sydney-based graphic artist Gould echoed Alhajri’s love of Islamic art. “For centuries, Islamic art has captivated and inspired hearts. It is important to continue this tradition within a contemporary context and embrace the digital canvas. I believe it can be a catalyst for positive change in a time of and misunderstanding.”

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