Celebrating the essence of Ramazan, Satrang Gallery presents an exhibition of calligraphy titled ‘Hurouf’. The exhibition opening on Monday features eight exceptional artists of international repute, Tajammul Hussain, Gohar Qalam, Rasheed Butt and Ahmed Khan along side emerging artists Arif Khan, Bin Qulander, and Mussarat Arif.
Introducing the artists to the visitors and giving details about the exhibition, Asma Rashid Khan, the director of Satrang Gallery, said that the title ‘Hurouf’ which means ‘Letters’ conveys the true concept of the exhibition as the ‘Art of the Letters’. She said that the title of the show has been illustrated by Professor Khurshid Gohar Qalam, who along with being a calligrapher of international repute, also has the distinction of having his work in the collections of the British Museum in London and the Ashmolean in Oxford.
Calligraphy or ‘Khushkhati’ is a part of most cultures and languages. It is deeply embedded in Islamic traditions, perhaps because of the emphasis on writing, reading and knowledge-seeking in Islam. In addition, Islamic Arabic calligraphy was originally used to write the Holy Quran, religious prayers and the names of God. As the Islamic empire expanded over centuries to include the Ottoman Turkey, Iran and India, the Arabic calligraphy script absorbed new influences. The Ottoman, Persian and Mughal dynasties celebrated and explored the practice of calligraphy, and held calligraphy in high esteem. Eventually different styles of calligraphy became identifiable, the Kufic, for example, is a more geometric and distinctly rhythmic form which was preferred in the Arab peninsula. In Iran, the famous scribe Muqlah Shirazi developed a cursive technique called ‘Nashk’. Other varieties such as the ‘Diwani’ style of calligraphy which was invented by the Ottoman scribe Housam Roumi during the late 16th century were also popularised. However, despite the changing methods and scripts, calligraphers continued to adhere to the strict guidelines, including the geometric proportion to the Arabic letter, which is measured by ‘Alif’.
The participating artists in ‘Hurouf’ carry a distinct signature or manner in their artworks. Ahmed Khan, one of Pakistan’s most distinguished calligraphist, presents complicated and perfectly rendered red, gold and green canvases. Visually, his paintings reflect the splendour of sun-lit clouds upon the earth, and are passionate in their praise of God.
Tajammul Hussain is a London-based Pakistani artist, whose work can be found in the collections of the Ashmolean, Glasgow Museum, the British Museum, the National Museum of Lahore and the Tunisian collection. There is often a striking simplicity about his work which he developed from his earlier interest in geometric designs, before moving on to a keen appreciation of various kinds of papers and textures. James Allan, professor of Islamic Art at the Oxford University, says about his work: “Tajammul’s aim is to give visual expression to the verses of the Holy Quran. For this purpose, he uses traditional and contemporary approaches. This, of course, leads to a great clarity in the Arabic text itself, and Tajammul aim is to make that text, and the painting which contains it, wholly accessible to the viewer.”
Professor Khurshid Gohar Qalam’s script vacillates between large sweeping stroke jail-like portrayals over translucent backgrounds. His canvases are overlaid and interspersed with bright patches of colour, coaxing the viewer’s eye.
Eminent calligrapher Rasheed Butt presents his plain black canvases that are the perfect backdrops for the thick, gold-painted Quranic verses. His work is minimal and text-like.
Mussarat and Bin Qulander use traditional arabesque or spiral-like patterns in their pieces.
Musarrat Arif reminds her viewers of the history of successful and talented female calligraphists. She paints in the ‘Kufic’ style and utilises vivid colours to offset the thick black lines of her writings.
Bin Qulander who was originally trained as a miniaturist, works in the ‘Diwani’ style. His work is particularly striking as he creates intricate representations of visual patterns within his larger framework or dramatic red and blues.
Arif Khan’s art is reminiscent of musical scores where energetic, thick swipes of raw paint are used to create beautifully-crafted delicate script.
In Bushra Zeeshan’s work, the strong element of design in form and colour can be witnessed by the viewer. After experimenting with numerous forms of art, she has found comfort in a religious adherence to the geometric styles which are a signature of the Islamic art.
Quoting an anonymous writer, Asma Khan, the curator of the exhibition, said that art should be timeless, command attention, make an artistic statement, trigger an emotion, engage and acquire the true personality and essence. The exhibition ‘Hurouf’ reflects the same power and spirit of art. The exhibition will continue at the Satrang Gallery through the holy month of Ramazan.
The display will run till August 29.