Alphabeticalism

I once had to choose Arabic or Greek, the sole elective, in a course of study. It made a lot of difference in what I did next. I enthuse time and again over instances of letters lateraled into graven imagery in whatever tongue.

With its lacy interlocking and dotty swoopiness, Arabic script cries out to be pictured. A culture that scripturally abjures the human image has vented itself gloriously in calligraphic fashion. These artists take tradition to modern lengths.

Most of these artists had some European or American training, and alongside unusual sandy palettes and a few unexpected details, you’ll see plenty of approaches that look familiar: lucid colors à la Josef Albers, crimson bursts of impasto similar to early Abstract Expressionism. But unlike European artists, they also have an alphabet with an ancient history in visual art — and this gives their abstraction a very different effect.

(Will Heinrich, “How the Arabic Alphabet Inspired Abstract Art,” NYTimes, 2-20-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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