Artspace's Ramadan exhibition showcases calligraphic works
The latest exhibition at DIFC gallery Artspace revolves around calligraphy, but isn’t defined by it. The four Arab artists (all men) on show each take Arabic script as either an inspiration or a tool, but in a manner as diverse as the region they represent.
Alaa Ismail, 37, Iraqi The youngest artist in the exhibition, it’s no surprise that Alaa Ismail’s graffiti-esque compositions are the most contemporary of the lot. Having practised calligraphy from an early age, Ismail studied arts in Baghdad but now lives in Syria. He chooses words not just for their form, but also for their linguistic power, and paints them with fluid, elongated strokes that flow off the canvas with movement.
Omar El-Nagdi, 80, Egyptian A true renaissance man, El-Nagdi is a sculptor, painter, calligraphist, illustrator, director, musician, composer and philosopher; his calligraphic works seen at Artspace represent a tiny part of his creative output. The bold works are symbolic and repetitive (he will often take one Arabic calligraphy letter and use it multiple times in his composition). Most of the works in the exhibition were painted in the past five years, showing that El-Nagdi’s mastery of colour is stronger now than ever.
Hussein Madi, 73, Lebanese
The Matisse of the Middle East, Madi was born at the foot of Mount Hermon in south Lebanon, and went on to study fine art and the heritage of the Arab world in Rome. We find his carefully calculated compositions most exciting when figurative, but his works that hone in on the curves of Arabic script still have a visual impact unmatched by many of his time.
Kamal Boullata, 69, Palestinian Boullata’s silkscreen works are primarily abstract, with a geometric grid style that alludes to the divisions evident in the life of a Palestinian today, as well as to the straight lines and angles of the Kufic script (the oldest calligraphic form of Arabic).
The lowdown Artists: Omar El-Nagdi, Hussein Madi, Alaa Ismail, Kamal Boullata From: The Middle East and North Africa Price range: From Dhs22,000 (for Alaa Ismail’s work) to Dhs202,000 (for Omar El-Nagdi’s work) Exhibition: ‘Group show’ continues until August 31 at Artspace, DIFC (04 323 0820) For more details about the exhibition, see www.artspace-dubai.com