Arabic calligraphy is a highly demanding and disciplined genre of Islamic art. Although it is, technically, a time intensive craft, classic calligraphy can be but very rewarding and gratifying experience for both, the calligrapher and his audience. For centuries, scribes of the archetypal scripts of Arabic calligraphy have been facing a profound professional challenge in their quest to pass a historic test of aesthetic balance. This very balance may have been inherently paradoxical since the core of such a task was formed by: 1) delivering artistic images which are supposed to be flowing in a poetic harmony and progressing in a rhythmic pace, and 2) employing a visual scope restricted by stringent elements such as the finite number of the alphabetical shapes, uncompromising aesthetic rules, and strict geometrical measurements and proportions. A successful outcome of this undertaking that can manage to strike such a delicate equilibrium would undoubtedly require a long-term traditional training, and high level of professional competence. I have been very lucky to have started early on, and continued to practice for more than four decades. I consider myself one of a few original Arabic calligraphers who are living in the West, and who foster classical calligraphy and emphasize the essence of manual skills. Also, I have been among a few who still resist the growing temptations of using the computerized letter-sets and design templates. Such a principled resistance cannot be easy, especially when many innovative computer programs have advanced to minimize the physical and mental labor, reduce time, and perfect the end results of the graphic design and many other types of art.
My strong influences and inspiration were the towering talents of several generations of magnificent calligraphers and their distinct styles. The most important of these influences have been the calligraphers of the contemporary Baghdadi school spearheaded by Hashim Muhammad Al-Khattat Al-Baghdadi, and the earlier Ottoman school, represented by Sheikh Hamadullah Al-Amasi and generations of his top disciples. However, I personally tend to describe my current style as “neo-classical” for maintaining the methods, manners, and techniques of the classic calligraphers since the 8th century, but introducing a quasi-modern and personal approach which could be characterized by:
* The utilization of Arabesque (Az-Zakhrafah Al-Arabiya) as an integrative element of calligraphy, compared to its traditional employment. I define the traditional employment of Arabesque as either an occasional and partial use of its elements in a decorative framework that is formed out of the calligraphy space, or an integrated use in a full Deco-art format, unconnected to calligraphy, but standing by its own merit. In my own integrative approach, I believe only a minimum use of selected motifs of arabesque is needed for a calligraphy piece to be functional and attuned. These motifs involve intricate ornamental patterns of interlaced lines and forms, often in botanical shapes such as stems, foliage and buds. They can perfectly lend themselves to the structural subtlety of lines and space of the written words, adding grace and luster, and allowing for the use of color. Colors of the backgrounds are mostly dark, specifically the traditional solid black, while the foregrounds are mostly white or other light colors. Bright colors are also selectively and carefully used, especially in the internal spacious frames, arabesque motifs, and in the grammatical dots (An-Nuqa’tt). All of these components are harmonized in a single integrative structure to present the artwork as one cohesive unit.
* I believe I use many more colors than what has been traditionally used. The major purpose of involving more colors is to enhance the visual sensory appeal and illuminate the basic consistency of the image. Moreover, along with the minimal use of arabesque, colors can boost the abstract forms of the epigraphically composed pieces, without forcing the stylistic design into becoming a mere decorative art.
* The minimization of the text is deliberately sought to maximize the effectiveness of using the words as single components in a whole and harmonized image. One justification for using a minimal text stems from my notion of the reverse relationship between the text length and image integrity. As the text becomes longer, the fragmentation of the image increases, and the control and manageability of the creative process become increasingly limited.
* There is a higher emphasis of the innovative use of image repetition, symmetry, and mirror effect. While these techniques are not new, reinvigorating and combining them with other methods and techniques in the context of calligraphy is a modified direction, and it is evident in most of my work.
© 2012 by SAMANTA JONES