Calligraphic and Typographic

Generative Arabic Letterism works might appear callgiraphic, yet they retain a strong typographic element. This image also retains the JavaScript code that was used to generate the work. (Hint: try viewing the image's jpeg discription.

Generative Arabic Letterism works might appear calligraphic, yet they retain a strong typographic element. This image also retains the JavaScript code that was used to generate the work. (Hint: try viewing the image’s jpeg description).

The original intent of Generative Letterism was to mimic Arabic Letterism that is mostly calligraphic. I started building a database of calligraphic shapes by tracing the calligraphic elements used by the Iraqi calligrapher Khaleel Zahawi in his Letterism works. I then used computer code to arrange these letter elements in artistic compositions. The code I wrote did not generate calligraphic form by itself nor did it modify Zahawi’s calligraphic forms.

Arabic typographic art is still in its infancy.

Arabic typographic art is still in its infancy.

The approach of using unmodified “glyphs” is more akin to typographic usage of letter forms than it is to a calligraphic approach. The resulting works of Generative Letterism so far is quite close to mainstream Letterism works and the calligraphic versus the typographic basis might not matter much thereof.

Typographic art by a Persian artist.

Letterism work by a Persian artist. The effect is very typographic, especially in the ellipses. The means, however, might have been calligraphic.

One of the technical aspects of traditional Arabic calligraphy that was preserved in Letterism is the even distribution of shapes in the visual field. Solid form is usually evenly balanced with void space in calligraphic works. Conventional typography also aims to achieve this balance and hence the notion and practice of kerning is an essential element of typographic layout. The even distribution of letter forms is still a goal I am trying to achieve in Generative Arabic Letterism.

zahawi

Textural effect in Letterism results from the balanced distribution of solid and void

The code controlling the placement of letter forms in Generative Letterism includes variables that help achieve homogenous density of letter clusters in a given area of the art work. The artistic expression is very much the result of tweaking these variables as much as it results from the design of the generating algorithm. This is common in generative art.

Generative Arabic Letterism bunches the Arabic characters using mathematical formulas and a random number generator.

Generative Arabic Letterism bunches the Arabic characters using mathematical formulas and a random number generator.

In Generative Letterism the calligraphic expression is mainly preserved in the individual letter shapes that are used. The code also aims to achieve calligraphic expression by recreating the rhythm and sweep, that is characteristic to Arabic calligraphy, in the distribution of letter shapes on the art board. The difference however is easily seen and the Letterism generated so far is quite distinctive.

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Expression

My approach in art and design usually originates in the aesthetic rather the symbolic. I personally value works of art with a good aesthetic appeal and bother little about the meaning of the work.

If it is beautiful, then it is art

If it is beautiful, then it is art to me. Paul Klee, Ancient Sound

But that does not mean that I do not enjoy works that embody symbolic representations. In fact I find that most people seek meaning in art and seem to value meaning over the aesthetic quality of an artwork. This has led me to consider the expressive qualities in the work I am doing in Generative Arabic Letterism.

One day I am going to be a surrealist. A work by Magritte.

One day I am going to be a surrealist. A work by Magritte.

The central driving force that has taken me through toil of making Generative Arabic Letterism work was the simple idea of making computers generate art work that looks like Arabic Letterism. As I mentioned earlier, conventional works of Arabic Letterism had the randomness that computers could easily mimic, thus encouraging me to pursue the idea to produce the works I had in mind.

When I saw these works by Wissam Shawkat, I knew I could generate them with programming.

When I saw these works by Wissam Shawkat, I knew I could generate them with programming.

In spanning the two realms of Generative Art and Arabic Letterism, I am tempted to review my work on the basis of the expressive qualities of each of these art styles.

The expressive power of character clouds

The expressive power of unpredictability. Something else was actually intended in the programming of this work. The output, however, was a pleasant surprise.

I find that most of the Generative Art works express spatial structures ranging from molecular to cosmic. They are expressive of the science and the mathematical basis of natural forms. The aesthetic and symbology of matching art with science is appealing to me and has always been an idea that I try to express in my work.

Spatial structures generated by mathematical formulas

Spatial structures generated by mathematical formulas

Being a novice in the area of generative art, my current work at this stage is rather more “Letterism” than “Generative”. Here again I find that my work retains the main expressive values of conventional Letterism in terms of deconstruction, the beauty of Arabic calligraphy, and local identity.

Art is also a product of its time and Generative Arabic Letterism, by means of its process at least, expresses many contemporary paradigms. Among these are the internet and computer paradigms that are explicitly expressed, such as the use of public knowledge available on the internet, QR code access, and USB technology.

Perhaps the strongest first impression that viewer has from a single collection of Generative Arabic Letterism works is the variety of the color schemes used. The work of artists usually show a limited spectrum of color, as they usually focus on certain color schemes in the periods of their creativity, or even on one scheme for the entirety of their work. I followed a different approach.

I habitually use the internet to brainstorm and shop for ideas. For Generative Arabic Letterism I went even further to include the internet as a direct generative variable. I can download from the internet color schemes that I use to color the generated art. This is probably a new paradigm which I also consider part of the message that comes out of Generative Arabic Letterism.

Color schemes in Generative Arabic Letterism are mostly prefabricated and downloaded from online color scheme utilities.

Color schemes in Generative Arabic Letterism are mostly prefabricated and downloaded from online color scheme utilities.

The next step I intend to implement in relation to the internet is the extraction of the digital genetic code of each work and store it on the internet. The code will live in the internet until such time comes when I want to reuse the genetic code of a certain work to generate more art from it and in relation to the original work. Owners and viewers of the original work could access the digital genetic code through a QR code stamp that appears on the nameplate of the work.

QR code will be used to access the digital genetic code of Generative Arabic Letterism works.

QR code will be used to access the digital genetic code of Generative Arabic Letterism works.