Inky lines: Transcending traditional calligraphy

The ‘Supremacy of Letters’ series comprises of 164 pieces of modern calligraphy.

Maryam Usman May 02, 2014
Jamil Naqsh employs myriad of textures and techniques in his works. PHOTO: EXPRESS


An exhibition of recent works by the critically-acclaimed artist Jamil Naqsh opened at the Tanzara Gallery on Friday.

Titled “The Supremacy of Letters,” the series comprises a total of 164 pieces of modern calligraphy, which spilled over from the exterior of the gallery to the split-level interior.

Deviating from the traditional style of calligraphy, Naqsh has imbued a modern element to the collection which took him about two years to complete.

His son and architect, Cezanne explained that Naqsh has focused on the painterly aspect of the Arabic script instead of a spiritual feel which comes through in the portfolio of classical calligraphy painters of Persia, Turkey or India. This is what lends him an edge in the medium.

With a plethora of solid colour, chunky shapes to fine inky lines, the script and individual letters stand out boldly or blend in softly, from one painting to the next. In between the sketchy details and outlines, the artist has employed myriad of textures and techniques which are best known to him. In turn, the script seems to follow a rhythm of sorts, from curves, loops, arcs and circles, allowing meandering lines to create a pleasing effect. Movement and dynamism are two characteristics of the Arabic scripts.

Meanwhile, the artist’s free use of the Arabic “Naskh” and the Persian “Taliq” merges into an innovative “Nastaliq” whereas in modern calligraphy, the border between calligraphy and painting is getting blurred, according to the art critic Dr Annemarie Schimmel.

Some artists tried their hand at “Kufisque” style for its architectural structures; Naqsh is using Arabic characters as a vocabulary of forms, devoid of any spiritual meaning. His is a secular exercise, treating letters strictly as a form and nothing else, using interplay of lines, textures and tone.

“These are absolutely stunning,” Amir, a guest remarked looking at a wall that showcased the artist’s renditions of the prophet (PBUH) in cool, contemporary tones.

Gallery curator and owner Noshi Qadir commented on the exhibition saying, “Jamil Naqsh is an artist of eminent stature, who holds a key position in the rapidly-changing art scene in the country and abroad.”

Last year, Naqsh exhibited a total of 400 artworks fusing abstraction with text at Albemarle Gallery in London, followed by an exhibition at Momart in Karachi.

Each separate collection has been showcased in a book. The late Pakistani art critic Hameed Zaman wrote the introduction of the book which was initially an article in the newspaper and later reprinted in the London-based magazine, Arts and the Islamic World.

The exhibition will continue till May 29 from 11:30am to 7pm.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2014.


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