Clash of two worlds: Calligraffiti by Abdulrahman Al-Nugamshi

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Updated 23 June 2014
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Clash of two worlds: Calligraffiti by Abdulrahman Al-Nugamshi

The art world is a diverse world full of expectations, surprises, collaborations and ingenuity as well as a heady mix between ancient and modern. There are no limits when it comes to producing pieces of expressionism that define what the artist is trying to portray. What defines an artist is not only his work, it’s also his passion in the pieces he produces and the personal touches that make his piece what it is. Calligraphy is one of the oldest known arts of the Islamic world as well as other cultures such as the Japanese, the Indians and old European too. Calligraphy has since seen a major shift in progressing movement, specifically Arabic calligraphy. With veterans of old Arabic and Islamic calligraphy such as Ibn Muqlah in Iraq during the Abbasi Caliphate or Isaac bin Hamaad in the Syria Region in the early years of the Abbasi Caliphate as well, considered to be the peak period of experimenting and perfecting the Arabic Islamic font. Fonts in the Islamic world have not seen much change except for additions to the number of Arabic fonts until recent times when experimentation has been upgraded to a whole other level.
Many who venture into the world of typography and fonts are introduced to a variety of methods and tools that help them create a font line that portrays their level of creativity, that does not mean that one must find a complex creation for it to be great work. Some of the simplest lines and strokes can be beautiful pieces like in the Japanese or Chinese fonts. One of the bold artists to venture into this world is Abdulrahman Al-Nugamshi, a Saudi calligraffiti artist who by no means found his love for calligraphy from a young age during his elementary school years. “One of my first calligraphy teachers was very passionate about it and for some reason he kept encouraging me and pushed harder with my assignments and school work regarding calligraphy, I didn’t understand his passion at first but now I do,” says Abdulrahman. His interest then expanded into more foreign arts. “I was always fascinated by the Japanese and their use of drawings like their manga and their calligraphy and how smooth and silky it looked, it was very appealing and attracted me at a profound level. I’ve never studied Japanese art form or calligraphy but I was a fond reader and admirer and educated myself through reading and understanding their methods and reasons why they use such materials.”
Though without a university degree, Abdulrahman was able to get into the branding business and then moved on to discovering the strange art of graffiti, and combining it with calligraphy. “I discovered my love for Arabic calligraphy about seven years ago and found that it’s not being used by many in this day and age, it’s been misused and put aside. So I made it my mission to use Arabic in my work because that is what makes me who I am, it makes my work what it is.”
Throughout the discovery time that Abdulrahman was engrossed in, he found it a bit restricted when it comes to use of materials, he wanted to expand and wanted more diversity. It was then that he met what he calls “the godfathers” that influenced many of his ideas, Yoji Shinkawa, Hassan Massoudy, Mouneer El Shaaeani and their influence helped him find what it was he was looking for, thus starting his career into the world of Arabic calligraphy. He was then introduced to Neils Shoe online, the creator of the word “calligraffiti” and method. There was a shift in his style then and there. “I was fascinated with his use of materials, so I started to experiment, starting with a broom on the outside walls of my home. The lines that are produced from a broom have interesting patterns, I trained in using it for three months with frustrating results at first, until slowly I started to understand the use of it and how to manipulate the brush strokes of the broom to get the results I want. It was an accomplishment that I found myself keenly interested in. That was my introduction into the world of calligraffiti,” said Abdulrahman.
“A real artist creates his own material,” is what Abdulrahman believes because of his experiments using different materials such as pieces of silk or fabric in a broom or brush to elongate the paint. Abdulrahman’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, his work has been the talk of many workshops and designer meets in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and many more places. His work is very personal and yet very much out there for everyone to see and appreciate, you can truly see the beauty of the Arabic language in the unprecedented strokes provided in his work. It is his commitment to the Arabic language that makes it more than special, it makes it unique.
Be sure to follow Abdulrahman’s work on is Instagram and YouTube under the name of Nugamshi. Stay tuned to more of his projects coming up in the next few months.

Email: [email protected]


Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins. (Supplied)
Updated 42 min 34 sec ago
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Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

  • Inside the Emirati artist’s inaugural solo exhibition in London, ‘I Met a Traveler From an Antique Land’

LONDON: You are searching for treasure. Several potential locations are marked with an ‘x’ on your map. You move methodically from site to site, always to be met with disappointment — never striking gold. Are you, in following trails set by others, missing the treasure ‘hidden’ in plain view?

This is one of the conundrums posed in the artworks of Sheikha Alyazia Bint Nahyan Al-Nahyan, whose inaugural solo exhibition in London presented a thought-provoking range of work fusing the ancient past with modern life.

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins, reflecting Arab, Roman and Phoenician influences. She described the coins, embedded in the marble, as symbolic of the great treasures buried in secret locations that were sought out and fought over by many. 

Al-Nahyan named her exhibition — held at Pi Artworks from June 25 to July 7 — with the opening line of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias”: “I met a traveler from an antique land.” (Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II.)

Mishmash Dirham. (Supplied) 

The poem, published in 1818, imagines a meeting between the narrator and a traveller who describes a ruined statue lying in the desert. The description of the statue is a meditation on the fragility of human power and on the effects of time: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!/Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Maybe a positive thing from looking to the past is that it proves it is only human to repeat the mistake and the lesson,” Al-Nahyan told Arab News. “Studying the past is a realization of human nature, individually or in groups, right or wrong. This natural feeling of connectivity is something I usually aim for.”

There is humor in some of her work — particularly the depictions of old commercial airline advertisements from the 1950s and 60s with ancient figures superimposed in the frames. They certainly give the viewer pause for thought about how much our world has changed in the short time since air travel became widely available.

The exhibition’s curator, Janet Rady, said of Al-Nahyan: “She has been practicing art from a very young age and is self-taught. She is incredibly talented, and you see this in the wide range of her work, which uses all sorts of different media. I can’t necessarily call her a pop artist or a collage artist or an installation artist; she is in fact all of these things, but it is the concept behind her work — connecting the past with the present — which is important.”

The UAE’s UK ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul, was present at the opening and he particularly admired Al-Nahyan’s works based on the classic wooden board game Carrom paired with a modern video game.

Carrom Station in Motion. (Supplied) 

“I first played Carrom with my cousins as a boy, and she has combined it with modern computer games, which is very creative,” he said. He pointed out that her innovative work ties in well with the dynamic of the UAE.

“Next year we have EXPO 2020, with its theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ It’s very much about our roots and how we take them forward, how we develop the mind and global cooperation,” he said. 

The exhibition included a short clip from Al-Nahyan’s upcoming film “Athel,” written by Al-Nahyan’s sister, Sheikha Shamsa. It centers on a strange encounter in the desert between a pre-Islamic poet and a modern-day TV presenter. “Athel” is set for release later this year and stars Hala Shiha and Mansour Al-Fili.

“The idea behind it all is taken from the tradition of Arabic poetry — its wisdom and, sometimes, risks,” Al-Nahyan explained. “And ending with a realization of one tribal law putting redemption and family before all.” She added that there are some “light-hearted” moments in the film too.

Arabic poetry is an ongoing inspiration for Al-Nahyan’s work, adding another layer of meaning to many of her pieces.

“The Arabic language is poetic, and Arabs and other cultures around the world have documented their lives through poetry,” she said. “So, for example, when tackling the topic of what is considered treasure, we found different meanings in various verses. Like when (pre-Islamic poet) Zuhair Bin Abi Salma refers to glory as the only true treasure.”

There is a much to absorb and reflect on in this exhibition which opens windows into many facets of Arab history and culture and poses universal questions about humanity and what constitutes real treasure.