Season opener at Etihad Modern Art Gallery examines the spirituality of calligraphy

Words Are Rain that Grows Flowers exhibit brings together some of the best-known artists in the region to celebrate the ancient art of calligraphy.
Love by Wissam Shawka. Courtesy the artist and Etihad Modern Art Gallery
Love by Wissam Shawka. Courtesy the artist and Etihad Modern Art Gallery

The carefully executed strokes of black almost dance across the page, while the precise red squares, with occasional sections of white, balance the rhythm of the beautiful piece of calligraphic art.

The work – Love, by ­Dubai-based Iraqi artist Wissam Shawkat – is part of Words Are Rain that Grows Flowers, a group exhibition at Etihad Modern Art Gallery that features works by some of the best-known calligraphy artists in the region.

“Shawkat’s colourful paintings based on Arabic writing take calligraphy to another level of artistry,” says Zsuzska Petro, the gallery’s new in-house curator.

She explains that she selected the artists based on their varied styles, as well as her knowledge of their work.

The exhibition is an attempt to celebrate the ancient art of calligraphy, which is revered across the region not only for the great skill it takes to execute well, but also its spirituality.

In Baghdad, where Arabic calligraphy has its roots, it was believed that only a person of spiritual devotion and clear thought could achieve the skill required to master the art form. As a result, to this day, calligraphers are respected as being among the greatest artists.

Although traditionally a male-dominated field, many women have acquired the skills. In this show, however, Khulood Algosaibi, a Saudi artist born in Bahrain, is the only woman exhibiting work.

Her background in interior design informs her pieces, which contain the blocky Kufic script and are decorated with antique wooden elements and ornamental drawings.

“Her art is linked to elements of a bygone era,” says Petro, “making the art extremely ­interesting.”

Iraqi artist Hassan Massoudy, who lives and works in Paris but often shows his work across the region, also has some striking pieces on display, with wide strokes in primary colours combined with smaller text that grounds the slightly abstracted letters.

There is also a series of more traditional works by ­Baghdad-born Uday Al Araji on display.

The other artists in the show are Abdul Razak Mahmoud from Syria, Moamen Hasan from Egypt, Kuwaiti Mohamed Adeeb and Iraqi Zaid Al Azami.

The show opens on Monday, September 5 and continues throughout this month.

“The opening of the new season almost coincides with Eid, therefore we wanted to show a traditional art form, encouraging spirituality and a meditative state of mind,” adds Petro.

Words Are Rain that Grows Flowers runs until September 27 at Etihad Modern Art Gallery. Visit for more details

Published: September 4, 2016 04:00 AM


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