In The Press
The Resistance of Pen and Paper | GQ
Gracie Eastwood talks about how the exhibition commemorates the enduring beauty of handwritten expression, uniting artists from the Middle East and North Africa as they explore the complexities of identity, gender politics, cultural heritage and narratives of displacement.
The exhibition features works by Bita Ghezelayagh, Fathi Hassan, Shirin Neshat, Huda Lutfi, Maliheh Afnan, BRACHA L. Ettinger and Nasrollah Afjei.
“Thanks to the resistance of pen and paper, it does make one slow down and think.”
- Umberto Eco
With its roots in the preservation of the Quran and the spread of the Arabic language during the Islamic conquests, calligraphy
bears considerable weight in the region. The exhibition acknowledges this strength, inviting visitors to pause, reflect, and witness the resurgence of the Arab world’s rich cultural legacy in physical form.
While the digital revolution has become an intrinsic component of the industry, the artists understand that in an ever-evolving landscape, the act of handwriting is a quiet act of resistance.
Bita Ghezelayagh, an artist with Iranian roots, is renowned for her sculptural textile works infused with calligraphic elements. This time around, Bita’s silkscreen-printed calligraphic works on handwoven textiles take centre stage, alongside a new piece which incorporates antique pen nibs nestled between glass sheets.
Among those artists is Fathi Hassan, whose distinctive calligraphic art transcends multiple mediums. Born in Cairo and now residing in Scotland, Fathi’s art delves into ancient languages erased by colonialism, featuring intentionally indecipherable yet profoundly moving scripts based on Kufic calligraphy.
The exhibition also includes the seminal works of Palestinian artist Maliheh Afnan and two Iranian artists, Shirin Neshat and Nasrollah Afjei. While Neshat’s “Women of Allah” photographic series delves into the intersection of femininity and Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, Afjei’s meticulous arrangements of calligraphic forms contribute to the evolving trend of Naqqashi-khatt, fusing Arabic letterforms with elaborate artistic compositions.
The Resistance of Pen and Paper will be on view through 4 November 2023.
To read the full piece, please visit the GQ website.
October 24, 2023