Reflections on the art of calligraphy

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Arabic writing – an art of beauty and creativity

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 18: Yarmouk Cultural Center recently hosted renowned master calligrapher, art critic and poet Sameer Sayegh who delivered a lecture entitled, “Reflections on the Art of Calligraphy,” as part of the activities lined up for the 24th Dar Al-Athar Cultural Season.

The lecture tackled the relationship between Arabic calligraphy, religion and language; in addition to the impact as an art on its own and if this art (calligraphy) received any benefit during the period when writing, authorship and making of manuscripts prospered.

Sayegh justified the need for reflection on the art of calligraphy; attributing it to the grim and disorderly view on artistic heritage, especially the art of Arabic writing throughout the past centuries.  This entails looking at Arabic calligraphy as an art on its own.

He pointed out this Arabic art of writing lacks an independent approach towards the role of a calligrapher or even an artist who has a view on understanding the universe and mankind.  This is in addition to concepts on arts known in past civilizations or witnessed in various civilization turns among humans in contemporary history.

According to Sayegh, the lack of looking at the art of writing as an art on its own has deprived it of its unique view on understanding Arabic culture from the point of its writing.  To be precise, the art of calligraphy has long suffered from the duality of image and meaning, form and language.


He indicated that whatever honor given to this art came in a descriptive manner found in Arabic heritage books in the form of parables and poetry which render people to glorify the role of Arabic writing; whereas mosques, castles and monuments have more to give in honor of this fine but complex art of Arabic writing.

Nonetheless, this narrow path to Arabic writing fails to open the path towards it as an art on its own with a vision.  It also fails to enable comparison with the art of poetry, drawing, carving, architecture and other types of arts known to mankind.

Furthermore, the lack of critical stance on this art rendered it submissive to contemporary Western beauty principles and values of writing, in addition to lack of relationship with Eastern artistic writings; hence, the need for reflection and new deductive approach.

Arabic calligraphy or the art of writing goes back to the early days of Islam.  Despite the fact this art cannot be considered sacred, Arabic calligraphy carried a spiritual concept through writing of the Holy Quran; and later, it became an art of beauty and creativity.

Arabic calligraphy developed from being an art on paper to an art applied on coins, cloth, walls and other decorative platform.  At some point, it ceased to be an art that encourages people to read and became an art that encourages people to focus on creative and demonstrative beauty.

Unlike other forms of writing, there is no record in history of Arabic calligraphy which indicates it has had conflict with the State or religious authority through time.  It continued to grow magnificently and authoritatively into our contemporary history.

Lebanese artist, critic and poet Sameer Sayegh is a pioneer of modernism in the Arab world.


Driven by a deep interest in the formal power of letters, Sayegh sought to liberate calligraphy from language and meaning.

The artist instead focuses on the aesthetic properties of the written word in an effort to create a universal visual language.

Often uniting ornamentation with calligraphic script, Sayegh has developed a distinctive practice.  Through the formal elements of line and space, the artist abstracts Arabic letters and words into dynamic geometric compositions, which often cover the entire surface.

Visually engaged with the modern art movement, geometric minimalism, Sayegh’s works bridge two artistic traditions to forge a unique contribution to the history of modernism.

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