Journey Letter Wissam Shawkat
Journey of a Letter by Wissam Shawkat
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Sharjah Calligraphy Museum is hosting Journey of a Letter, a solo exhibition by renowned Iraqi artist and calligrapher Wissam Shawkat which allows one to examine his journey in the world of Arabic calligraphy. The show will be open to the public until 30 November 2023.

In the exhibition, on view is a collection of Shawkat’s paintings encompassing different scripts like Thuluth, Diwani, Jali Thuluth, Ruq’aa, and the Al Wissam script that he created himself. This script, on which the artist has been working since 2003, references several traditional ones: Sunbuli, Jali Diwani, Eastern Kufic, and Thuluth. 

Among the exhibits are also Shawkat’s works executed in his distinctive Calligraform style. He began to work on it in 2014 and coined the term in 2016. Representing “the birth of calligraphy in the world of abstract art”, the style combines the graphic qualities of classic letterforms and western Abstraction and Cubism. It focuses on the precise forms of the letters (on the enlarged calligraphic details of the letters, to be precise) and also concentrates on the abstract shapes. These are created by examining the geometric spaces inside and outside of their structures.

Wissam Shawkat, Love 2, 2011. Soot ink and acrylic colors on paper. 48 x 94 cm.

The show also displays a collection of calligraphy tools which the artist uses in his practice and his early drafts and daily exercises. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to have a look at the logos he designed for local companies and those abroad.

About the artist

Wissam Shawkat (b. 1974, Basrah, Iraq) is an artist, designer, calligrapher, and typographer based in Dubai (UAE) whose works can be found in many museums and private collections across the globe. At the age of ten, he got fascinated with Arabic letters in school and began practising calligraphy in 1984 under the guidance of his primary school teacher Mr. Muhammad Ridha Suhail. When he was 14, Shawkat worked in a local sign shop. It became a perfect opportunity for him to practise calligraphy with different mediums including writing on cloth with a flat brush and writing on marble flat pieces then engraving them with acid.

Wissam Shawkat, Basmala, 2014. Ink and acrylic colors on handmade paper. 60 x 80 cm.

In 1990, Shawkat started a career as a professional calligrapher and graphic designer. Although he studied at the Civil Engineering Department at the Basra University, after graduating in 1996, Shawkat continued to hone his calligraphic skills by himself. He thoroughly studied the works of such Turkish calligraphy masters as Sami Efindi, Mohammed Nazif, Hamid Al Amadi, and Halim Efindi. Besides, he visited different calligraphers and attended museum and library collections throughout the region.

Employing handmade paper reed pens and traditional inks, Shawkat produces artworks in which he pushes the boundaries of Arabic calligraphy and explores its new possibilities. He draws his inspiration from numerous sources: from work of prominent calligraphy artists to Bauhaus, Geometric Abstraction, Futurism, Cubism, and the art pieces of American collage artist Cecil Touchon. 

Wissam Shawkat, Lost In Love 14, 2023. Ink and acrylic on treated handmade paper. 90 x 57 cm.

Today, Shawkat works as a senior designer and consultant specialising in brand identity and Arabic typography with global branding and advertising agencies in the UAE and abroad. He has designed logos for multiple companies (for example, such famous brands as Tiffany & Co., Chopard, Hermes, and Jo Malone), institutions, books, magazines, and newspapers.

Shawkat has taken part in a lot of local and international exhibitions: Dubai International Calligraphy Exhibition (2004, 2005, and 2007), Visual & Audible (Sharjah, UAE, 2001, 2002, and 2003), and Nasamat Min Baghdad (Saint-Angelo, Italy, 2000), to name a few. Besides, the artist has received numerous awards and prizes. The list includes the Al Burda Prize (Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2007); the 3rd place Award in Jally Thuluth style (the Al-Baraka Turk Bank Calligraphy Competition, Istanbul, Turkey, 2005); the Iraq Calligraphy Society Prize (Baghdad, Iraq, 2002); and many others.

To get more information about Journey of a Letter, please visit the exhibition’s official web page.

You might also be interested in attending Brushstrokes & Perspectives at Elmarsa Gallery.