x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Writing is on the wall

Mussawir Gallery is the only space in the UAE dedicated solely to Pakistani art.

A piece by M.A. Bukhair at the Mussawir Gallery.

CREDIT: M.A. Bukhari/Mussawir Gallery
A piece by M.A. Bukhair at the Mussawir Gallery. CREDIT: M.A. Bukhari/Mussawir Gallery

Mention the word calligraphy and the mental image you conjure is is probably a clichéd portrayal of something considered to be very Arabic and very traditional. Not so with the latest show at Mussawir Gallery in Al Quoz in Dubai. Resonating Script showcases the work of 11 artists from Pakistan who have all taken Arabic lettering and interpreted them in fresh, inspiring ways.

“We have a lot of diversions of calligraphy here; every artist has a different style, which is really not easy,” says Mohamad Ramzan, a co-founder of the gallery. “Usually with calligraphy you see artists following one style and copying from each other but in Pakistan every one has their own style and that’s what we want to show.”

Different strokes

Another special element to this exhibition is that it includes such a vast range of artists – from Noreen Akhtar, a 27-year-old who enjoyed her first exhibition in Dubai just last month, to the late Sadequain and Gulgee, both Pakistani masters whose works are considered highly coveted collectable items.

“These artworks are not easily available even in Pakistan because these artists are dead. I had to acquire them from private collectors,” says Ramzan.

The two Sadequain works are painted on leather and the Gulgee pieces are composed of abstract calligraphy, made from mixing colour and painting with one wide brushstroke.

Made for Dubai

Every artwork in the show, other than the pieces from the masters, was completed with the Mussawir show in mind. Highlights include Jamshed Qaisar, who is a teacher at Lahore’s famed National College of Arts and who uses a freehand single stroke and repetition of one or two words in different compositions. From a distance the pieces make up images that appear abstract but up close the shapes are made from words.

Then there is Shakil Ismail, who works with glass and ornamental items to make incredibly detailed sculptures and wall hangings that stretch the boundaries of the forms of the letters. Akhtar’s fine detailed minimalist works are also masterfully executed and show great promise.

“The main motive is to introduce Pakistani artists to Dubai and to open the door to them on an international level,” says Ramzan.

Another artist, M A Bukhari, who carves Islamic phrases into thick paint with a knife, sold all four of his paintings before the exhibition had even opened, which illustrates the popularity of this kind of work.

Ejaz Gallery

In 1998, Ramzan founded Ejaz Gallery in his home city of Lahore. At the time, it was the largest private gallery space in Pakistan, with an area of more than 12,000 square feet. It is thanks to his connections and passion for the art from his motherland that Ramzan has managed to host such a comprehensive exhibition in Dubai.

When he founded Mussawir in December last year, with the other co-founder Naila Fancy, they both wanted to show the rest of the region and the world what Pakistan had to offer.

“We have a lot of artwork in a lot of different directions, not just calligraphy – we hope to showcase a lot more artists over the next few months,” concludes Ramzan.

• Resonating Scripts runs until September 30 at Mussawir Gallery on Al Marabea Road in Al Quoz. Visit www.mussawir.com

aseaman@thenational.ae