A Malaysian museum opens its contemporary Islamic calligraphy collection to the public.
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is displaying its private collection of contemporary Islamic calligraphy publicly for the first time. The exhibition, titled “Nun Wa Al Qalam: Contemporary Muslim Calligraphy”, is ongoing until 10 May 2014.
The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) established in 1998, is dedicated to Islamic artistic and cultural heritage, but has also been a patron of contemporary art. The museum’s private collection of nearly 300 artworks of Islamic calligraphy is diverse, and consists of scripts and styles from all over the world.
“Nun Wa Al Qalam: Contemporary Muslim Calligraphy” will exhibit over 100 artworks from the IAMM’s collection, featuring 36 artists from various countries such as Japan, Syria, China, Tunisia, Iran, Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. According to the press release, the diversity of artists and media presented will “undoubtedly spark interest and new ideas amongst the local calligraphy community.”
The diversity of Islamic calligraphy
The exhibition features work by both emerging and well-established artists from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Iranian calligraphers dominate, with 25 of the 36 artists being from Iran. Artists such as Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang (b. 1963, China), the first Chinese Muslim to receive the coveted Egyptian Certificate of Arabic Calligrapher (1997), and Japanese artist Fuad Koichi Honda bring regional and stylistic diversity.
Artists from Africa include Tunisia’s Nja Mahdaoui and Essam Abdul Fattah, Sameh Ismael, Rasha Qasim and Ahmed Moustafa from Egypt. Sameh Ismael is also a graphic designer and has recently designed calligraphy for the film Al-Masseer (The Destiny) by renowned director Youssef Shahin.
Mouneer el Shaarani (b. 1952) is a Syrian artist who is known for introducing innovative calligraphic styles and typefaces that arise from a modern re-interpretation of the traditional. He has designed several custom typefaces, and his works have been collected and exhibited internationally.
Malaysia is represented by renowned artist Haji Omar Rahmat (1942 – 2002), who was a well-known local calligrapher combining Qur’anic verses, motifs from nature, as well as geometric elements in his works. Another Malaysian artist, Ahmad Dhiya’ bin Abdul Ghafur (b. 1994) is the youngest artist in this exhibition. He is self-taught and trained in the Kufic, Naskh, Thuluth, Riqa’, Nastaliq and Diwani scripts.
Iranian artists in focus
The featured Iranian artists also bring a wide range of diverse styles and experience to the exhibition. Alireza Karimpour (b. 1968) is an experienced calligrapher who in 1999 founded the Khorshid Gallery in Iran. Ali Ajali (b. 1939, Mianeh) is the founder of the “Gol Gasht” school of calligraphy, characterised by a dense and interlocking play of the Arab script that is now adopted by many calligraphers.
Ali Reza Saadatmand (b. 1977) is an emerging artist who works in various media such as painting, photography, ceramics and calligraphy. His calligraphic compositions are experimental and abstract. In his artist biography, he says:
The main part of an artwork happens in the viewer’s eyes and mind; while in this process, the artist only leaves the trace of reality in the work.
Einoddin Sadeghzadeh (b. 1965, Babolsar) is a lecturer at Tehran Art College and the Association of Iranian Calligraphers. He has experimented with using tar on canvas, creating inspiring and creative calligraphy.
Mohsen Daeinabi (b. 1973) is an Iranian calligrapher and poet who often incorporates music in his works. He established the Hamrang Graphic Group and is currently based in Tehran.
Also featured are Pilaram Faramarz (1938 – 1982), who was the co-founder of the “Sagha-khaneh” style of calligraphy in Iran, and Mehrdad Shoghi (b. 1972), whose monumental murals and public art works can be found around Tehran and Toronto. Shoghi says of calligraphy:
The world of ideas cannot possibly be perfectly contained in words, hence the endless efforts of numerous calligraphers to alter and add to written words.
Female calligraphic artists
The exhibition includes a section dedicated to five female calligraphers, providing a platform for them to share their inspiration, and highlighting the role of female artists in developing and safeguarding Islamic calligraphic art. These five artists are:
- Maryam Ghanbarian
- Azra Aghighi Bakhshayeshi
- Ola Hejazi
- Golnaz Fathi
- Rasha Qasim
Rasha Qasim is an Egyptian artist whose work has been exhibited in Egypt, the U.A.E. and Kuwait, and is a member of the Egyptian General Assembly of Arabic Calligraphy. Ola Hejazi is a Saudi artist deriving inspiration from her travels, everyday life and artists such as Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp.
Maryam Ghanbarian, Azra Aghighi Bakhshayeshi and Golnaz Fathi are all from Iran. Golnaz Fathi (b. 1972, Tehran) was the first woman to win an award for the Ketabat genre of calligraphy in Iran, and has exhibited in Iran and the United States. Maryam Ghanbarian (b. 1987, Tehran) received her Master’s degree in Graphics from the University of Tehran in 2012. She is the creator of fifty new characters inspired by “khate kufie banaei” and an innovative set of Farsi typescripts.
- Landmark contemporary ink exhibition at New York’s MET – picture feast – December 2013 – the MET’s “Ink Art: Past and Present in Contemporary China” focuses on works influenced by ink painting, calligraphy and literati aesthetics
- Written in style: Golnaz Fathi’s calligraphic works debut in Shanghai – interview – September 2013 – the Iranian artist discusses the speaking stillness of her work
- Contemporary art in Iran: A history in 8 artists – July 2013 – Iran’s top contemporary artists command high prices at auction. Do you know who they are?
- Sotheby’s to hold first ever international auction house sale of calligraphy in Doha – July 2010 – Sotheby’s announces groundbreaking auction “Harouf: The Art of the World” dedicated solely to calligraphic works
- 28 Iranian women artists in 3 decade survey Masques of Shahrazad in London – February 2009 – the exhibition at Mall Galleries in London featured work by three generations of Iranian women artists
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary Islamic calligraphy