Art of Letters at VCUarts Qatar

VCUarts Qatar is currently hosting ‘Inner Structures – Outer Rhythms: Contemporary Arab & Persian Graphic Design’ at its campus in Education City in its Gallery space as part of its design festival Tasmeem 2024, celebrating the world of letters in graphic design.

“Letters are a beautiful abstract thing” says Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, a Lebanese-Dutch typographer, writer, researcher, graphic designer, and the curator of the exhibition ‘Inner Structures -Outer Rhythms, “I find that it is a fine balance between poetry and graphic design.”

“There is something about it that is very physical, it reminds me of dance, but it is silent, and the music is in your head,” continues Dr. Smitshijzen AbiFares, the founding director of Khatt Foundation. eloquently reminding us about the power of graphic design, in an interview she gave to Al Jazeera.

The exhibition she curated at VCUarts Qatar presents the work of over 30 leading SWANA designers and reflects the growing interest in graphic expression from under-recognized creative regions of the world. It contains works by more than 30 of a select group of contemporary designers from the Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region, and its diaspora, including Mohammadreza Abdolali, Reza Abedini, Mariem Abutaleb, Akakir Studio, Yusef Alahmad, Azza Alameddine, Khajag Apelian, Lara Assouad, Acil Benamara, Naïma Ben Ayed, Nadine Chahine, Omaima Dajani, Tawfiq Dawi/Hey Porter!, Homa Delvaray, Naji El Mir, Karim Farah, Ayman Hassan, Studio Kargah, Amir Karimian, Kemistry Design, Muiz Studio, Yara Khoury Nammour, Wael Morcos, Hussein Nassereddine, Hamid Mirza Qorbanpour, Studio Safar, Kristyan Sarkis, Nisrine Sarkis, Bahia Shehab, Jana Traboulsi, and Turbo.

The Exhibition poster of Inner Structures – Outer Rhythms is a work that needs special mention.

The exhibition gives voice to a central and more inclusive global design discourse that recognizes the power of graphic design and typography in communicating social change, local cultural concerns, and universal human and environmental challenges.  The Arabic script is  a shared cultural asset that constitutes the ‘inner structure’ that binds a vast region that is diverse in the linguistic, cultural, religious and ethnic constitution.

Dr. AbiFarès explains, “The diversity of graphic expression in Arab and Persian graphic design is linked by the creative use of the Arabic letterforms in an ever-evolving and playful manner. Developments in Arabic typography of the 21st century have been marked by a division between fluid calligraphic designs and structured geometric compositions. Sometimes the two mix in intricate and unexpected ways, revealing complex and engaging rhythms.”

Work of Kristyan Sarkis, Bohemian Ideals a the exhibition at VCUarts Qatar.

The exhibition at VCUarts Qatar charts certain trends that reflect the specificities of Islamic visual culture, local aesthetic trends and contemporary design applications that respond to current events and socio-political concerns.

The exhibition features posters, videos, graffiti, books and typefaces, and is framed by four broad themes:  Visualising rhythm in poetry and music; Type and lettering for political activism; Designing for culture and the arts; and Beyond Arabic calligraphy.

Work of Mariem Abutaleb, Folk Songs Archive at the VCUarts Qatar Gallery Space.

The exhibits range from beautiful concepts as documenting Egyptian folk songs from different regions, and visualising them through Arabic lettering in a beautiful set of black and white archive by Mariem Abutaleb to social protest through calligraphic posters by Naji El Mir. In this work by Mir, he creates work in memory of Fadi Abu Saleh, through an excerpt from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Lover from Palestine” and through another creation says “Sorry Palestine, I have nothing but ink to give to you”.

Work of Aria Kasaei – StudioKargah at VCUarts Qatar, The Gallery.

On the walls of the Gallery at VCUarts Qatar are works by Hani Charaf of Kemistry Design from posters created for arts festivals and another presentation by Muiz Studio is a series of Arabic lettering experiments for various self-initiated personal and cultural projects, carrying cultural messages.

It is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in graphic design and visual print medium and also for those who have an affinity for art art for this exhibition is art through play of letters.

The ‘Inner Structures – Outer Rhythms’ is organized by The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar.