Calligraphy is text that is art and art is a language of its own one might note

I want to take these ideas out into Istanbul. I’m not sure whether I want to create large scale works as performances or whether they ought to be residual installations or durational works. Of course there is much room for adaptation here.


I have recently been able to research into the art of Calligraphy at the Beyazit State Library which has been invaluable to the development of my research into this practise. I have to explain that even though Calligraphy is very widely available to the public there is actually very little written on the practise beyond biographies and some art history which seeks to put calligraphers into a historical context. It may be argued that Calligraphy has had its day and is incapable of developing beyond the form that it currently holds. What I mean by this is that Calligraphy does not seem to have undergone any revolutions for around 200 years. Before then the ‘art’ aspect of the practise was given some space to breathe. After that Calligraphy seems to develop into a practise in stasis, the emphasis became one of skillful and accurate replication. In other words, Calligraphy had a definitive form and deviation became abhorrent, this is even though progress, so to speak, may be perceived as being deviant and incorrect. [note that I am referring to Turkish Calligraphy exclusively.]

There seem to be a few reasons to explain this. Probably the banning of the arabic alphabet in the 1920’s which meant that people were obviously not going to continue learning and understanding the langauge as ubiquitously. The Art of Calligraphy in Turkey would really have far less relevance to people after that. So one would imagine that the Art of Calligraphy could be pursued to new heights without the constraints of meaning. Another possible reason for the paused development of Calligraphy could also be that its purpose in an Art sense was to adorn the walls of Mosques; the people funding the development of this practise were requiring a very specific thing from calligraphers. Again, the potential for a departure of the arabic language from meaning could contribute to a revolution of the Art.

In the 1500’s, the Calligrapher Seyh Hamdullah introduced, amongst other things, a slanted line and spacing system that meant Calligraphy could be assessed and standardized. Whilst this could be seen as repressive to the development of the Art, it actually leant itself to the development of a particular aesthetic within Calligraphy. Much later, the calligrapher Mustafa Rakim built upon Seyh’s established architecture for characters and produced a stylised kind of Jali Thuluth calligraphy that was both dramatic and visually impacting.

The below images show some examples of simple calligraphy and then how one may measure the characters. These are a part of my own subjective exploration into the architecture of the characters. I am not looking to explore the characters as a part of a textual language. It is my intention to develop an understanding of the calligraphy in terms of its patterns, self-similar forms, its flow. In other words, the architectures of particular calligraphic texts.

I am also interested in the use of calligraphy as symbol and its significance in Turkey to Turkish people who have no choice but to cohabit spaces with this archaic language.

The red lines show that there is a trend within the calligraphic figures to rise left to right at 66.6 degrees. The green lines show the presence of another trend by illustrating the clear alignment of figures on a 95.5 degree line.


This image's red diamonds, and the smaller circles, are used for measuring out the figures and the spaces between figures. The green lines show a 65 degree trend in the character's formation and the blue lines show a similar trend on 128 degree lines. These lines can be used for taking measurements that seem to be determined through relations between the figures. For example the size of one figure will determine its neighbours size by suggesting where it may begin or finish (or where a stroke may need to turn) and so on and so forth.
The red lines show this texts trend to follow a 61.5 degree angle. This text was written by Sheyh Hamdullah and although it is just a sample we can see how he put his technique into practise. The large circles mark the end of a sentence.

These images attempt to show a common trend in the text. I would like to develop my study further so that I can find elements of self-similarity within the text. I ultimately hope to generate an experimental form of calligraphy that is by definition still calligraphy yet is clearly an exploration of the form or symbolic value of calligraphic characters.

A problem might lie in the fact that calligraphy is of course a language and language has pattens of its own. If I am just taking a language and bastardising it then what good is that to anyone? I have some faith that what I am proposing is of value but what the value is, I can not be sure. I imagine that attempting to take calligraphy in a new or uncertain direction has the potential to revolutionise the use of calligraphy in the arts. It may be politically significant in Turkey due to the nations secular identity and the ubiquitous presence of arabic texts that are semblant of the country’s Ottoman past.

Something that I have been working on is the appropriation of text that I have found in Mosques for it to be used in other spaces. This idea is in its infant stages and is potentially very interesting. The way in which the text is re-contextualised is very important and at the moment I have began to experiment with the text by creating it as a mark in dust or as a residual mark left by sweeping an area with a water soaked brush. These marks fade with time yet have a definite presence in a space.

Water based marks created on a wooden floor. I am trialing using residual images that will disappear over time. Dust and dirt will soon mask this piece of work but I wanted to view and experience the creative process first hand. The text in the background is nearly dried out.
This script has been written in dust on a glass table and was made to trial the concept of working with dust as a medium. This would be ideally created on a larger scale but it would be publically placed and would be on the ground rather than on a table. This piece is very different from the test carried out using water. Here materials are being displaced whilst the water creates an actual stain. Both situations create marks but can mean very different things.
This is a detail from the script made on the glass table. Here harakat (meaning motion or movement) notation is being focused upon.

I want to take these ideas out into Istanbul. I’m not sure whether I want to create large-scale works as performances or whether they ought to be residual installations or durational works. Of course there is much room for adaptation here.

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