At first glance, it would be hard to tell that Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej’s vibrant strokes in his latest work are actually a form of calligraphy. Unlike the curving forms typically found in Arabic writing, his script is sundered, almost confetti-like on the canvas. It is so much his own, in fact, that the artist is calling it the “Mattar Font”.
The new abstract work, unveiled at the Etihad Museum on Tuesday, was made specifically for the occasion of the UAE’s 50th National Day, which is on December 2.
Bin Lahej spent five years researching and creating more than 28 Arabic letters and symbols for Mattar Font. He says that while he did not specialise in classic Arabic fonts such as Al-Thuluth or Req’ah or Nasikh, he researched all of them, but also tried to forge his own style.
What makes the Mattar Font unique is not only its abstract forms, but also how it breaks the tradition of interlocking letters in Arabic writing. Instead, it borrows more from Japanese writing. “The moment of truth dawned on me when I realised that the Mattar Font should be abstract; letters are individual pieces that can be used intertwined or separate when making words and sentences, a rarity in most Arabic fonts, but it is common in Japanese fonts, which are closer to my heart,” the artist said.
For his painting at Etihad Museum, the artist chose to render the words from the UAE National Anthem because they are, as the artist called them, “the perfect expression of love and belonging to my homeland”.
His chosen colour palette was also very deliberate, selecting primary and secondary colours. “They reflect and communicate joy and happiness and add at the same time a touch of aestheticism and elegance. I personally like joyful and happy colours and this is a now recognised signature in my work and one of my values,” he explained.
Bin Lahej has also collaborated with Italian clothing company Loro Piana, which specialises in luxury cashmere and wool products, and his painting will be the print of a new series of plaids from the brand. A total of 50 cashmere plaids will be made, each one numbered and signed by the artist.
In addition, he has also worked on a stainless steel 3D sculpture of his artwork that will go on display at the Loro Piana store in The Dubai Mall on Thursday, December 2, and will remain on view until the end of the month.
A prominent artist, Bin Lahej has previously worked with larger scale pieces, including his golden and silver Power of Words sculptures in Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Watan, a cultural landmark in the presidential palace compound. For that work, he transformed quotes by Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, into immersive structures.