Within the Middle East, calligraphy holds a special place – both spiritually and artistically. The script of the Holy Qur’an, it has been used for centuries to convey not just God’s word, adorning the book itself, but blossoming through the rich tradition of the Islamic decorative arts. It is also, however, an intensely contemporary art form, with its strict geometric rules lending themselves well to innovative new interpretations. From the abstract to the literal, from traditional painting to calligraffiti, the power of the word is explored in myriad ways through the works of today’s generation of artists. In Illuminating the Word (10 June – 31 August), running in the Project Space alongside the gallery’s summer show, Lumiere, a selection of artists from Iran, Syria and Tunisia encompass multiple generations and styles to create an illuminated space where the power of the word holds centre stage.
From the large-scale canvases of Mir Yaghoub Sangtarash and Azra Aghighi Bakhshayeshi to the small, delicate works on paper of Khaled Al-Saa’i and Hadieh Shafie, the Arabic script is explored in numerous ways – at times able to be read, at others, completely abstract. Some works repeat a single letter form or word, while others bring to life entire phrases and poems.
Kashya Hildebrand was one of the first galleries to showcase calligraphy as a Contemporary art form from the Middle East in Europe, presenting the works of such vanguards as Farhad Moshiri, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Ali Omar Ermes, Ahmed Moustafa, Mohammed Ehsai and Nja Mahdaoui. Now, Illuminating the Word pays tribute here in London to some of a new generation of calligraphic masters, who so evocatively combine the power of the written word with the power of art.