Lebanese art critic and historian Samir Al Sayegh is often cited as a pioneer of Modernism in the Arab world. Fascinated by calligraphy, the artist has sought to free Arabic letters from any restrictions imposed by language or meaning, focusing purely on the aesthetic properties of the script and create a universal, visual language.
In this new Bahrain-based exhibition, being housed at Muharraq’s Bin Matar House, Alef in Many Letters is based on the book of the same name by the artist, whereby he transforms the words into dynamic geometric compositions.
Saleh Barakat is the curator of this exhibition, as well as the director of Agial Gallery in Beirut, Lebanon, where Samir is also based. He says, “The artworks of Samir Sayegh are a culmination of many years of wondrous exploration.
“Letterforms, to him, are a living entity to be explored, felt and experienced. He is a master of shape.”
Yet these stunning works are more than just aesthetically pleasing. Tapping his inner historian, Sayegh also pays tribute to traditions and cultures of the Arab World, reflecting the artist’s depth and poignant perception on subjects that matter in the region.
To understand more behind his motivations in this exhibit, we asked Barakat to take us through four of the artworks that are hanging on the walls of the Bin Matar House right now.
Alef in Many Letters is at Bin Matar House, Muharraq until Sunday January 31. Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, 4pm-7pm. Visit www.shaikhebrahimcenter.org.
The works In review
“Ghina pays homage to the cities of Mosul, Northern Iraq and Aleppo, Syria after the news about the ban of music. Sayegh is interested in the relationship between calligraphy and music, influenced by an ancient way to write music using letters.”
“Jeem is a typical example of Sayegh’s artistic school to use the aesthetics of Arabic calligraphy. The use of gold leafing is reminiscent of the art of illumination that has characterised the glorious years of miniatures in Arabic history.”
“Sayegh’s work is one of deep tones and controlled composition. The shapes are predetermined, geometric, and saturated in colour. It is an architectural line of work rooted in the Kufi styles and the geometric maze of Arabesque designs.”