KALAM, in Arabic means a type of mark making tool, composed of dried reed used for writing Islamic calligraphy. In the modern Islamic languages, it simply means “pen”. Islamic calligraphy, or ornamental writing, has emerged in the Malaysian art setting for some time, and has nestled itself comfortably in many homes and museums’ collections. Contemporary Muslim artists in Malaysia have taken a step further by combining indigenous culture (Silat and witchdoctors), nature and modern dialogue into their work. Verses from the Quran and Arabic characters depicting Malay poetry are fused with geometric design, arabesque and the sense of mystery derived from Nusantara myths and local folklore. Sufism, which is the introverted and mystical dimension of Islam, serves as an artistic and pious rubric for artists involved in the calligraphy practice. They believe by indulging, writing and memorizing verses form the Quran, their soul will be lifted and brings them closer to Allah.
In the spirit of Ramadan, Galeri Chandan will host a group exhibition organized to pay tribute to Mohammad Din Mohammad, an artist who recently passed-away and had steadfastly dedicated his life to modern Islamic calligraphy and regional art and Ahmad Khalid Yusof, a modern calligrapher. Their brightly colored canvases will be displayed among diverse Islamic calligraphy-influenced works by fellow artistic comrades such as Ahmad Zakii, Yusof Ghani and practicing contemporary calligraphers that are posthumously acquainted with Din, Shukor Yahya and Husin Hourmain.
Mohammad Din Mohammad, born in Malacca, on the 24th of May, 1955 – 2007 is a Singapore-based artist who was also a one-time theater performer, Silat guru and a practitioner of alternative medicine and spiritual healing.
Din Mohammad’s paintings combine elements of action painting, bold strokes and the act of painting with his bare hands, indigenous mysticism, knowledge of traditional medicine and nature, and Islamic calligraphy. Din’s energetic colorful landscapes and Islamic calligraphy works brim with primordial energy, thick straight-from-the-tube acrylic melt in a cacophony of lines, colors and shapes. Rough surfaces and thick layered paint swirl in all directions, the paint intimately pushed around the surface of the canvas with the artist’s fingers. Din caresses the Jawi script with ardent respect and grave concentration, forming simple and powerful verses believed by the artist to hold talismanic properties. An artist obsessed with the mystical and spiritual, Din is an avid collector of local aboriginal art, Nusantara paraphernalia such as Krises and ancient coins, as well as natural objects that are said to contain talismanic magical qualities.
Ahmad Khalid Yusof was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1934 and passed away in 1997. Ahmad Khalid’s poetic jawi works, modern in its finish and approach, aptly illustrate the merging of Malay culture and traditional Islamic calligraphy. Love poems in jawi are painted in an all-over composition on mono-colored backgrounds, hinting contemporary art practice.
Ahmad Zakii Anwar was born in Johor Bahru in 1955. He is a graduate of the School of Art and Design, MARA Institute of Technology, Malaysia. A well exhibited artist who’s main repertoire include figures, still life, landscapes and juxtaposed objects in a minimal and calm setting. Attentively and delicately rendered images are often placed singularly in a stark empty setting, exuding a humming visual noise. Ahmad Zakii and Mohammad Din Mohammad were artistic companions.
Yusof Ghani was born in 1950, in Johor. Originally a graphic artist, Yusof’s transition to fine arts started when he received a loan to study graphic design in the States.
However, while in the U.S, the calling to paint became irresistible, Abstract Expressionism serves as a catalyst for Yusof Ghani’s artistic development. Dancers, exotic masks, nature, moving figures and pugnacious roosters dominate the painted world of Yusof Ghani. Muscular strokes, hot and bold colors, rough textures and quick-assured lines compose semi-abstract figures that jump and whirl-pool in energy-charged compositions. KALAM serves as a point of departure for Yusof, diving into pure abstraction, the Islamic calligraphy verses melt on the canvas, feeling each character’s strokes, Yusof exaggerate the flow of the brush. Different consistencies of oil paint are smeared, poured and nudged, creating a jangling atmosphere. Structure and chaos, raw masculine energy is put on display in the monstrous canvasses.
Shukor Yahya, was a graphic artist and had worked in various advertising agency before committing full-time to Art. Shukor’s geometric calligraphy paintings took advantage of the hard-edged and rigid nature of the square kufie and apply modern art practice in the choice of color and composition. Savvy design sensibilities balance Pop-inspired colors and centered composition to create serene yet playful pictures for the purpose of contemplation. In some pieces, edible colored squares twitter on Pollock inspired ground while more geometric and controlled pieces exude introvert tranquility. Random, erratic surfaces pierce through hard-edged square kufie, between order and disorder. His paintings serve as a vessel to carry the words of Allah or Quran verses.
Husin Hourmain, born in 1963, Perak, worked as an Art Director until 2001, which while working as a Visual Merchandising Manager and Creative Consultant, he began to paint seriously. In 2003, he quits his steady job and ventured into Art. Husin Hourmain abstract works combine elements of abstract expressionism with Arabesque design. Hundreds of obsessively painted jawi scriptures are thrown into cluttered composition, while in quantity, they form discernible basic characters such as ta, ba and sa. Harmonious and symphonic, the chaotic placements of the scripts renders them almost unrecognizable, thus transforming them into an orchestra of dynamic lines that swoosh and tangle into each other. The surfaces are heavily worked, profusely layered, giving a sense of physicality to the pieces.