To celebrate the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, the Athr gallery in Jeddah will be hosting three simultaneous exhibitions starting at the end of the month. Each exhibition has been designed to take visitors on a journey; two through the creative aspects of calligraphy and the other through the world of furniture design.
Aya Alireza, the gallery’s art coordinator, says Ramadan is a time to ‘breathe life’ back into the national culture. ‘Ramadan is always an incredibly lively and active time of the year, when there is a unique spirit of community, family and getting together,’ she explains. ‘So Athr gallery had the idea to provide a platform for people to get together and to socialise but within an enriching and much more cultural context.’
The first exhibition is a solo show of calligraphy from Nasser Al Salem, titled And it Remains… Here, Salem explores the art of calligraphy by drifting away from the ordinary and using unpredictable media to create his designs.
Having grown up in Mecca, Salem uses his surroundings of Islamic traditions to capture the attraction of Arabic script. Not only has he created beautiful pieces, but also expresses a strong interpretation of where calligraphy stands in conceptual art today.
“Since Ramadan is a time of tradition, we thought that it would be appropriate to demonstrate how the traditional art of calligraphy has withstood the ages,’ says Alireza, of the Salem show. ‘There has been a strong and steady increase in interest in Nasser’s work over the past couple of years. As he’s been consistently developing a conceptually strong body of work and has been collected by the British Museum, we thought that it was a good time to launch his first solo.’
A group exhibition is also being held at the gallery, titled ‘Journey of the Line’, which looks at Arabic calligraphy in the present day and its meaning and represents various typographic schools of thought.
‘I suppose there is a special significance in an Arabic calligraphy exhibition during Ramadan, not least due to its special status as the language of Qur’an, but also if I may say, due to the fact that it will be held so close to two of the holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina.’ Alireza explains.
Within the beautiful contemporary designs displayed, the exploration into new typefaces expresses a different view of the beauty of the calligraphy world.
In the third exhibition, Nada Debs showcases her furniture and home accessory designs. This marks the first design event at Athr and captures the message they are trying to establish this Ramadan – ‘There need not be a tug of war between tradition and modernity and with the right balance, they can be perfectly placed to walk hand in hand into the future with each other,’ says Alireza.
Debs has been influenced by her international surroundings throughout her life, which has helped mould her creative mind. Taking advantage of her multi-cultural background, she uses Eastern craftsmanship tips and Arabic heritage to influence her work.
Athr gallery will also hold both talks and workshops to go along with the exhibitions. Saleh Barakat will be giving a lecture on the history of the use of calligraphy while Dr. Hilal Kazan will talk about women calligraphers and their creations. They will also host a calligraphy workshop introducing all the tools needed for traditional designs and reveal how to perfect the elegance of writing.
‘So basically for a series of consecutive nights, Athr will be a hub of discussion, debate and learning that people can fill their evenings with in a relaxed and social atmosphere,’ Alireza concludes.
* The three shows will run from the 30th July to the 30th August