“The miracle of Islam is words,” explains Mohammed Bozorgi as he walks me around his show at the Ayyam Gallery in Al Quoz, Dubai. Softly spoken and in hesitant English, Bozorgi proceeds to map out the efforts that went into the large-scale calligraphic paintings that surround us, explaining that he took great pains to keep the rules and to break them.
“Calligraphy has two aspects, meaning and form,” he says. “We have traditional strict rules for the formation of letters that I try to break with my own style. But while I release myself from the form, I never deviate from the meaning. Because the meaning of the words is extremely important.”
Bozorgi’s exhibition, Transcendental Strokes, is his first solo show at the gallery, and his works fill every inch of the vast warehouse space – not an easy task for any artist. Most of the paintings take Islamic calligraphy as a starting point, and are inspired by the tenets of his faith. His methodical techniques transform some of the names of Allah and other key words and passages from the Quran into powerful visual manifestations that allude to metaphysical existence.
“When I see the stars in the sky and how they move around each other, I am inspired by the magnificence of Allah’s creation. It is things like this that inspire me to make paintings that reflect this in its composition.”
One piece in particular that captures this idea is titled He Will Provide. At three metres in height and five in length, it is an interlocking network of hexagons. The words Bozorgi has used are almost illegible, even to an Arabic speaker, and resemble the kind of optical art illusions that became popular in the 1970s. The effect now, as it was then, is mesmerising.
“The letters are loose, I play with them, and so the eye wanders around and gets drawn in. But the paintings themselves are very precise,” he says.
Often rendered in bright colours, Bozorgi says his choice of palette visually captures the radiating energy, and adds spiritual weight.
Each painting is symmetrical and planned out first with meticulous measurements, points of compass and ratio of scale. Bozorgi, who graduated in biomedical engineering, credits his educational background for this approach. His sketches, also exhibited in the show, reveal this precision.
“It is possible to see my works as a product of engineering,” he says. “For example, it is important for me to have an exact circle at the centre of the art work, but inside that circle the words and letters can dance and have a very free movement.”
It is because of this freedom, says Bozorgi, that anyone can appreciate his art, regardless of whether they understand what it conveys.
In The Oracles of Truth, he has used the many names of Allah.
“Because the holy book and the words in it are the miracles in Islam, the words have a kind of spirit. Therefore, you can appreciate my work even if you don’t read Arabic or Farsi and don’t know the translation, because it has its own energy.”
• Transcendental Strokes runs until July 30 at Ayyam Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai.