Capturing devotion: Weaving culture into calligraphy

Exhibition at Ejaz Gallery showcases the best work of choice calligraphers.

Sonia Malik August 09, 2012


MA Bukhari’s calligraphic designs capture the sharp colours preferred adorned by Punjabi women in their dresses.

Of his four pieces on display, Bukhari says he aimed at using the colours prominent in Pakistani culture. “The message of most calligraphic works is the same: God enlightens the heaven and the earth and his creation submits to Him in His remembrance. Artists can be creative with their medium, skill and use of colour,” says Bukhari, who has been painting calligraphy for 34 years.

The calligraphy exhibition which opened at the Ejaz Gallery showcases the works of 10 artists, including professionals and students.

Ten pieces by Noureen Akhtar, a recent fine arts graduate from the Punjab University, had primarily inscribed Arabic alphabet, instead of the Quranic verses. “Alphabet is the essence of calligraphy, I wanted to keep it simple but creative,” said Akhtar.

Akhtar had put together alphabets produced using laser-cutting technique.

She said marker-writing in calligraphy is also getting popular. For one of her pieces, she had spilled an espresso shot to create a natural dark brown tint in paper and then inscribed it with jeem and kaaf.

“The beauty of mixed media is one can use water paints, a black marker or laser-cuts and use as many textures as one like to make the work stand out,” said Akhtar.

Shahid Rana, the recipient of a gold medal in fine arts from PU, said calligraphy runs in his blood. He said his forefathers had been in the business of writing the Quran. Rana received his initial training from renowned calligrapher Sufi Khursheed.

“This is my first attempt at modern calligraphy. Until last year, I painted traditional calligraphy,” he said.

Rana said he had not used many colours. “Too many colours sometimes confuse the viewer, it is better to use two to three colours and focus on the technique,” he said.

All of Rana’s work is acrylic on canvas. He said each piece had taken about a month to finish.

Arif Khan, a graphic design professor at PU, had splashed paper with acrylics and water paints and then used traditional fonts shikasta thulth for painting mostly muqaltiat letters with no dictionary meaning.

Khan, who has been painting for 15 years, appreciated the gallery’s effort in picking the best works of artists for the display. Khan said major art schools, the Punjab University, the National College of Arts and the Lahore College for Women University now offers calligraphy as a subject in their bachelors program. “This trend has picked in the last 10 years. I have heard Kinnaird will soon offer a course too. This will lead to schools churning out more artists every year with an interest in calligraphy,” he said.

Professor Ahmad Khan, a graphic designs teacher at the National College of Arts, inaugurated the event. He said he was impressed with the works.

He also said displaying only four to 10 pieces of an artist was a good idea. “Every piece offers something special,” he said.

The works will remain on display for another week. They are priced between Rs25,000 and Rs140,000.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.