Special Reports

A solo exhibition of calligraphic art

Aligarh: A solo exhibition of Islamic Calligraphy by Afzal Ahmad titled Reflections was held recently in the Kennedy Auditorium of Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh .Afzal Ahmad who comes from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh did his graduation and post graduation in MFA from Aligarh Muslim University. From an early age he became fascinated by Islamic Calligraphy. The recent exhibit was the result of his passion and creativity in art rendered through Islamic Calligraphy. Islamic Calligraphy is a very revered art form that was created primarily to give expression to preachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith. The fact that art in the form of figures was considered idolatrous in Islam, gave rise to an art form involving use of Arabic letters. Through the forms, shapes and interconnections of these letters the essence of Islamic belief and the Qur’an are conveyed. For the discerning eye Calligraphic representations have within them layers and layers of mystical and spiritual dimensions.

Afzal Ahmad’s solo exhibition was unique and innovative in many ways. Through this exhibition he attempted to bring the age old art of Calligraphy which was once done with ink and reed pens on stone or papyrus towards a modernized application and interpretation. In his paintings he has made use of papier mache, ply board and acrylic colours. But he has not lost touch with the Qur’anic content which is the essence of Calligraphic art. The paintings were thus labeled Bismillah series. True to the meaning of Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, his paintings display the elements of God’s universe infused with God’s light.

The painting of a human eye rendered through the letters Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim highlights symbolically the all encompassing mercy and benediction of God manifest in the human vision. In yet another painting Bismillah letters create the figure of a pigeon. Afzal has in this painting tried to recreate the texture of old calligraphic art done on rough walls. In the painting where Bismillah takes the shape of a boat the use of calm and suffused tones brings out a spiritual dimension. In yet another painting where Bismillah takes the shape of a fan the essence of the mercy of God is conveyed. Through experimental use of subtle strokes, colourful washes and innovative backgrounds Afzal has given new life and meaning to an old art form.

The exhibition happened to be so successful that Afzal’s largest painting showing the Qur’anic letters “Qul a’uzo bi rabbil naas” got sold. Thereafter he got many more calls. Afzal’s main purpose in holding this exhibition was to highlight the beauty and uniqueness of an art form which he feels is losing significance in the modern world. Afzal has also put in painstaking efforts to display to the world the essence of Islamic culture, faith and spiritual sublimity through Calligraphic art in a world where Islam has become a misnomer for violence and hatred. (Sami Rafiq, AMU)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2010 on page no. 17

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