Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Redefining Traditions for a Modern World

“Art is a universal dialogue which is shared with an audience
capturing the beauty and form within each piece.”
Sabah Arbilli

The Iraqi born, United Kingdom based artist Sabah Arbilli is a recognized master of Arabic calligraphy whose exposure to such American artists as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol has seen him redefine the genre though his abstract interpretations of these artistically written words and the use of a variety of non-traditional media.

For many traditionalists the calligraphy of the Arab world excelled during the Ottoman era with its center of excellence being based in Turkey in general and Istanbul in particular.

When, as a 19 year old, Arbilli received second prize in an international art competition in Istanbul his confidence to pursue a career as an artist was boosted enough to make it a reality.

As he told Islamic Arts Kenan ŠurkovićThe awards started when I was given an opportunity to take part in 1997 in an International art competition in Istanbul. This had become a turning point in my life; I won the second prize at the age of 19. This was overwhelming and gave me an insight into how this could lead to art as a career rather than just a passion.

Throughout his childhood Arbilli enjoyed drawing the written word and wanted to express the positive beauty inherent in the texts he was drawing rather than the negativity of the traumatic daily life that surrounded him.

“At a very young age my teacher pointed out my natural ability to write and draw to a high level. This later developed into a passion of enjoying writing in a beautiful way. My upbringing in Iraq has also vastly contributed to the inspiration of the cultural background I grew up in. The situation in Iraq had become turmoil and with the passion inside me I wanted to portray positivism and combat negativity through the words which echoed around me. I saw the richness of my country which was adorned by beauty and these were the memories I wished to portray though my art works,” he explained.

It was whilst Arbilli was studying in England that he was exposed to contemporary art which inspired him to expand and redefine the traditional limitations of his chosen genre.

About which he has said “When I settled in UK, I studied art at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. This gave me much broader knowledge to advance and get to know a lot of masters. Visiting the museums gave me a big boost to go further in to it. Despite starting as a traditional artist I was always struck by the beauty of contemporary art and in my opinion both are essential for the inspiration. The artists such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and many more gave me a lot of confidence to think outside of the box.

Working with a range of mediums that include sculpture, painting, works on paper, installation and computer generated prints Arbilli’s art seeks to use its words to communicate with a broader modern world.

As he says “The words in my work challenge you to explore the text, work your way around the 
meaning looking at the color, composition and space. The secret thought of the audience prods to make you think beyond the often superficial messages beneath the surface.” 

Arbilli’s current exhibition 99 Names is on show at Ayyam Gallery Dubai (DIFC) until the 10th of September.

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