Arabic Letterism

Arabic Letterism is a contemporary style of abstract art created by Arab artists. As the name implies, it features Arabic letters and Arabic calligraphy as the main expressive element. Arabic Letterism attempts to establish identity in Arabic abstract art and invests in the beauty of Arabic calligraphy to achieve novel forms of expression.

One of the early Letterism works that influenced me. The work is by the Tunisien, Nja Mahdaoui. Mahdaoui who was seeking for a local identity discovered a novel and very expressive abstract representation of Arabic calligraphy. His work is actually purly calligraphic. The small shape atoms that he uses embodies Arabic calligraphic content, yet they do not represent Arabic letters.

One of the early Letterism works that influenced me. The work is by the Tunisian, Nja Mahdaoui. Mahdaoui who was seeking for a local identity discovered a novel and very expressive abstract representation of Arabic calligraphy. His work is actually purely calligraphic. The small shape atoms that he uses embodies Arabic calligraphic content, yet they do not represent Arabic letters.

Calligraphic shapes, modernly expressed. A work of Arabic Letterism by Wissam Shawkat.

Arabic Letterism deviates from traditional calligraphy and combines calligraphic motifs within modern abstract art themes. Traditional calligraphy is about the aesthetic representation of semantic content through the controlled and fluid drafting of letter shapes. Letterism on the other hand is not concerned with the semantic content and is freer in the use of medium and forms of presentation.

An example of traditional Arabic calligraphy. The famous Turgra implementing the phrase: “Bismillah arrahman arraheem” (In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate”.

Arabic Lettersim was not invented by calligraphers who were seeking new forms of expression. It was created by abstract artists who needed to achieve identity in the works they produced. It could also be considered as a modern interpretation of the traditional calligraphic styles. Arabic Letterism has also developed into many distinctive styles that reflect their cultural background and the approaches of their creators.

letterism

The spectrum of Arabic Letterism styles. From left to right, the shades of Arabic Letterism, range from the traditional calligraphic exercises (musawadat) to works that employ letter-like shapes. The works here from right to left include  Abbas Baghdadi, Wissam Shawkat, Nja Mahdaoui, Rasheed Quraishi, and the last on the left is by Hamza Bunoueh.

A final observation I wish to make about Arabic Letterism is its deconstructive nature. Arabic Letterism seems to be a critical and reconsidering view of Arabic calligraphy. It attempts to deconstruct the traditional usage of calligraphy in the attempt of finding a contemporary meaning and expression of the calligraphic vehicle.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s