LAHORE: On a 36 by 84 inches canvas, Saima Ashfaq Abbasi, has rendered the 99 attributive names of God in Kufic style. Each name is written four times along with Surah Al-Rahman against a turquoise backdrop. The piece, the artist says, took four months to produce.
The painting part of an exhibit of 46 paintings at Ejaz Gallery is priced at Rs200,000. Many guests praised it on Sunday for its painstaking detail.
Dense colours such as rust, deep green, violet, powder pink and orange have been employed for the backdrop in the painting and silver and gold for the scripture.
Abbasi, who wears a veil (“I believe calligraphy to be the only art permitted in Islam,” she says) said she had attempted to incorporate all the colours of nature into her work.
“It’s a big planet and colors of nature such as shades of blue for water and sky; rust, browns and greens for mountains and the multiple shades in flowers are limitless and so inspiring. I felt a need to use as many of nature’s colours as possible.”
Another reason, Abbasi said, for using so many colours was that people could match the painting with their décor. “Most buyers like to hang my work in their drawing rooms.”
Other calligraphic styles Abbasi has used are nasakh, shikasteh, diwani and thulth.
Rectangles, circles and squares, and a praying mat feature in most paintings.
Abbasi said, “Every verse in the Quran in most prints ends with a circular motif. . . . It also is the shape of the sun, a source of illumination. Here, the connotation for illumination is knowledge.”
Khalid Farooq, a business man who collects calligraphy, believes no artist is as daring with choice of colours as Abbasi.
“Her work makes a bona fide statement. She can be counted among the best calligraphy artists in Lahore,” Farooq said. Farooq said he had already collected 30 of Abbasi’s paintings, including the most expensive piece displayed at the current exhibition.
Ahmad Khan, a calligraphy teacher at Punjab University’s College of Art and Design, said intensive use of thulth showed the artist’s persistence. He said she was likely to improve.
Khan said the colour compositions were beautiful but also felt that the work had a somewhat commercial appeal.
“Some artists use very little colour and their emphasis is more on the letter. In Abbasi’s work, I think the focus is slightly more on colours. To me, this is a sign of trying to reach a larger audience.
Abbasi plans to showcase her paintings in UAE once the current exhibition wraps up.
“Calligraphy is like ocean diving. … The challenge for a calligrapher is to pick the best pearls,” said Abbasi.
The exhibit, Rang-o-Harf (colour and letter) will run till May 30. The paintings are priced between Rs25,000 and Rs200,000.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.
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