Colourful language

Pop-art meets calligraphy in Salar Ahmadian's latest show


Having spent three decades of his life in the west, Iranian-born calligraphy artist Salar Ahmadian’s art is a product of cross-cultural symbiosis. Today, his colourful, unconventional calligraphy-based acrylics reflect both his past and his present.

‘Calligraphy is a long-standing linguistic and visual art form that has been popular in the Arab world for centuries. It’s something I’ve been familiar with in my immediate Persian context through culture and religious references,’ he says. Yet it was his studies in Canada, of the pop-art movement prominent in the US in the ’50s, which began to shape his work into graffiti-like swirls of overlapping colour and contemporary movement of text. These characteristics are particularly apparent in his new exhibition, ‘From Past to Present’, which runs at Gallery Etemad until Tuesday March 12.

‘In this exhibition, calligraphy is reworked into something beyond text. It’s not just about the text, but about the colour compositions of these reworked texts,’ says Ahmadian.

‘It’s contemporary in the sense that it uses colour as a means of interpreting what is essentially text-based work. I have reworked traditional calligraphy into a unique and new visual language.’

Ahmadian, who lists colour-field paintings and minimalism as his biggest influences, explains it took many months of research to transition from traditional calligraphy to modern and postmodern styles. ‘It requires an in-depth visual study of colour, experience in technique and lots of research,’ he reveals. ‘I’ve studied calligraphy, painting and sculpture and spent an extensive period researching the visual in relation to colour. I have a thorough perception of colour and have been inspired by the books of Wittgenstein and American painters such as Mark Rothko.’

So what exactly does the script say? ‘Some of the words come from historic text, but I’m mainly attracted to words that I can manipulate and change into something that doesn’t have a translated meaning. They are now mutated words and purely visual,’ he says.

The monochrome image pictured above is even more abstract. ‘This is a departure from more recognisable calligraphy work,’ he explains. ‘It’s an experiment into a more postmodern form of my take on calligraphy.’

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘From Past to Present’, until March 12 at Gallery Etemad, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 346 8649).
Artist: Salar Ahmadian.
Price of works: On request.

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