Al Shaarani’s buildings
The work of Mouneer Al Shaarani, prior to being that of a calligrapher who is passionate about Arabic calligraphy, is the work of a designer, and the work of a graphic designer experimenting with calligraphy and using it in new and various functions.
Al Shaarani worked on each letter as a term by itself, a term perfected throughout the ages by many artists that had taken it to high levels of perfection and beauty, until it reached arithmetical and geometrical standards and rules, along extremely various layouts, as diverse as the cultures in the Arab world, from east to west. Al Shaarani resumes this long career with a refined artistic sense, and a vast knowledge in the history of Arabic calligraphy that has its modernization. He has revived many of the forgotten layouts, and found some in old manuscripts, and devoted special attention to the aesthetics of the lines used by potters, weavers and architects on different ores. Al Shaarani ventured and shaped letters that he modeled out of diverse layouts. Layouts he thought contained essence that he could suggest as an addition to the aesthetic of these lines, despite being distinct.
Furthermore, Al Shaarani, as a graphic designer, had to treat each letter as a term that leads to a word or text that he shall include in his designs as a geometrical mass in a dynamical reaction with other masses in the visual field of the design.
Within these two courses, working to embellish the Arabic letters, and working on widening the prospects of its use in new functions, the limit of the creative activity of Mouneer Al Shaarani is defined. Al Shaarani without a doubt will shake the stability of the Arabic tradition, in thought and practice, a tradition that has been as such for dozens of years.
The challenges that Al Shaarani and his counterparts face, and that motivate him and shape his calligraphic suggestions, lie upon two levels: first a practical level driven by an emerging technical development in the way the letter is used, and another theoretical one that leads to the formation of a new sensitivity that imposes itself in design, and whose creative conditions face an obstacle created by traditional letters. The artist had revealed this sensitivity numerous times by describing what he calls a tendency to prove the merit of Arabic calligraphy in stepping into modernity. But how do signs of modernity show itself in our artistic taste, and how do we point to it?
The technological development that sidelined the use of traditional calligraphy has created new demands for that same calligraphy. We can safely claim that Guttenberg is responsible for the development of journalism and not the evolvement of writing itself, and we can say that the development of printing has pushed calligraphers to venture into alternative worlds. On the theoretical and artistic levels, any shift in artistic taste inspires to modernize and pushes artistic shapes in new directions, which Al Shaarani’s sensitivity places at the heart of his creative project.
This tendency toward modernization and this transformation in the public taste are not just individual responses, but the result of a process of fermentation taking place inside a space of transformations that create new sensitivity. It is difficult to set its formation, but it is clearly visible in many subjects of the human activities and in recent times, and its texture in the world of design can be summed by the transformation of void into a negative repletion. Negative repletion is a presence with its own dynamics, whereas the void is a nonentity.
This cognitive shift has its effects in many fields; from astronomy to medicine, and in the change of interest of architecture from private dwelling to urban space. Furthermore it is present in the general interest in environmental issues, which is shown in new rules to study literature and consider that what the text does not say is no longer void, and what is not written in any discourse is one of many faces of repletion.
The distribution of poetry in many experiments makes the white an active component in producing this poetic sensitivity. Same thing applies to the shattering of the frame of the painting and the beginnings of installations.
We can situate Al Shaarani’s work in this context, and we can identify the effort he pours into it, and see the beauty in what he exposes. And later on, all elements of intervention can be explained, from the letter to the creation and vice versa. The interweaving of the masses results in coherent calligraphic buildings that open vast prospects and uninhabited lands to new designs. The careful observer cannot but notice how the masses of the painting are distributed and its axis formed, and amongst Al Shaarani’s work one can find many examples.
When there is no void anymore, the composition will have to take a path more complex and more responsive to the new sensitivity. The interweaving we mentioned earlier will not allow the positive mass, which in this case is the sentence present in the painting, to be sheltered from its creative behavior, and we will see its effects in shapes of intervention that only an accomplished and adventurous artist will succeed in making. We can notice these effects in the improvements on the letters and in the bold exaggeration in its lengthening or extending, in the curves and corners and rounding glasses, and in the balances and compositions and the formulation of colors that change the roles of the masses and redistribute centers of gravity onto the surface of the design.
We notice this mostly in its overall texture as it arises as solid and vital architectural shapes, well calculated geometrically and characterized by the beauty of the poetry.
Observing Al Shaarani’s work, one can find his enjoyment on many levels: the pleasure of observation onto the richness and diversity and perfection that Arabic letters have reached; and the pleasure of formation of the letters inside a text where its relation with other letters is tested as a layout. And another pleasure that Al Shaarani adds inside an old entrenched tradition is the use of sentences from the Quran and the Hadith alongside aphorisms and proverbs. He created a buzz by using sentences that clash with the common sense and others that suggest to the observer a new perspective in thinking, and further ones that incite doubting certain certitudes the observer believes in, or a saying for a known thinker.