Tashkeel opens 2019 season with Iraqi artist Wissam Shawkat’s show ‘Disciplined Insurgence’

A comprehensive exhibition by Iraqi calligrapher Wissam Shawkat will open Tashkeel’s new season on January 22.

Disciplined Insurgence marks the second solo exhibition at Tashkeel by Wissam Shawkat, the Basra-born, Dubai-based, award-winning artist and designer. His craftsmanship and practice is testament to the innovations being made in Arabic calligraphy and typography in the 21st century. On one hand, it can be interpreted as rebellious and bold, and on the other it feels completely natural to an artist who has fostered a life-long relationship with the letters themselves” said Lisa Ball-Lechgar, Deputy Director of Tashkeel.

“Wissam joined Tashkeel in 2009, a year after we opened. Since then, he has run various workshops in Arabic calligraphy, inspiring new generations of practitioners. He has also exhibited with us in the group show ‘Hurouf Al Noor’ (2011) and his first solo exhibition ‘Monumental 11/11’ (2015).”

Shawkat was 10 years old when his teacher introduced him to calligraphy. Largely self-taught, he mastered the art through meticulous research, using books, meeting master craftsmen and visiting museum collections across the Middle East and North Africa. He has since received numerous prizes for his calligraphy and has participated as both an artist and committee member at multiple editions of Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial and Dubai International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition. Letters of Love, Shawkat’s 2011 solo exhibition at Manhattan, New York City gallery Reed Space, introduced his contemporary compositions to a global audience.

Tashkeel’s new exhibition will reflect back on Shawkat’s pioneering career while maintaining a modern stance with the inclusion of current works. Whilst not a retrospective as such, it contains pieces from several series using his eponymous Al Wissam script, which he began working on in 2004, as well as new experiments with the ancient Thuluth script. Believed to have originated in 10th-century Baghdad, the form, has long been revered amongst calligraphers.

The exhibition includes pieces from Calligraforms, a body of work that fuses calligraphy and abstract letter forms. In this, Shawkat focused not only on the individual letters’ precise forms, but also on the abstract shapes generated by examining the geometric spaces inside and outside of their structures.

Shawkat’s work is regularly featured in books on Arabic calligraphy and typography, included in museum exhibitions, and acquired by private collectors. Now engaged full-time as an artist, designer, and Arabic typographer, he will return to Tashkeel two years after his debut there, Monumental 11/11, demonstrated his departure from traditional calligraphy and dynamic shift towards abstraction.

“The ability to read Arabic is irrelevant when it comes to appreciating Wissam Shawkat’s work,” Ball-Lechgar added.

“With his vivid, playful compositions, Shawkat consciously positions himself on the outskirts of both the calligraphy community and the Middle East’s contemporary art scene.”