Sasan Nasernia’s work Meyhem I.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Sasan Nasernia has launched “Calligraphic Confluence”, his unique artistic take on oppositions, at Mestaria Gallery, Dubai. To run till Oct. 31, CC sees him merging styles, themes and culture. He also pushes boundaries. His long-time fascination with the ancient practice of Islamic Calligram, as well as creating a contemporary interpretation of it, are the main driving forces behind the exhibition.
He speaks to Gulf Today
Why are you fascinated by language? What does it provide your artistic practice?
Calligraphy is undoubtedly related to language as it is a form of introducing harmony and rhythm into the writing of language. So in that sense, language is the precursor of calligraphy.
For me, it was so important to look deeper into this connection and as I was pondering upon their philosophical implications, I became more aware of the importance of language as the main form of encapsulation of thought and consciousness. In the Islamic tradition, there is emphasis on words and writing. Even in contemporary philosophy, we have seen a great deal of investigation by people like Wittgenstein into the prominence of language and how it is shaping our world.
Knowing about all of these, opened a window through which I imagined the universe of phenomena as constructed by and understood through these linguistic codes. That is how I use the letterforms as my building blocks to reimagine and construct my own worlds.
Why do order and chaos — seen in your works — captivate you?
I am always fascinated by the questions about how the cosmos work through the laws of nature one of which is entropy.
Sasan Nasernia’s composition titled Meyhem II.
It tells us that everything changes, be it in motion, energy levels, or appearances, from a higher to a lower level. This change is all around us although sometimes it remains unnoticed. As an observer of this phenomenon, the interplay between chaos and order, inevitably seeps through my lines and brush strokes.
Do you encode language or decipher it for the viewer through calligraphy? Or both?
For me the playground is vast and limitless, in that I sometimes encode meaningful notions in layers of ambiguity and sometimes use the letterforms in asemic formats, to deliver representational and figurative calligrams. All in all, straightforward writing which can be read effortlessly, is not something I pursue. At least at this moment.
Your works are more calligraphic iconoclasm than confluence. Comment.
If I were to refer to the core of my approach to calligraphy in this series, I would perhaps prefer the term “deconstruction” to “iconoclasm” which has a hidden notion of destruction embedded in it.
Deconstruction in the sense that the familiar expectations of the art of calligraphy (as well as miniature painting) has been surpassed and altered.The title “Confluence” however is an effort to give a hint about the multi-faceted nature of the work, where a sort of amalgamation between three separate aspects, abstraction — figurative – calligraphy, join together as a confluence.
How have graphic design, painting, sculpture, photography, virtual reality, installation and perhaps sound, shaped your work?
Graphic design is where I learned the basics of visual art, and as I grew my artistic senses, painting became more and more influential. I have played with virtual reality a little bit in the past, but now I’m more focused on the physical works. Installation and sound both come handy when and if I have an idea for which I would have to employ these two practices and sometimes simultaneously too.
For instance, in my installation titled “effluxion” (2018 Sharjah Calligraphy Biennale), where I created a 3D vortex on the wall of the gallery, I thought of a mysterious noise with celestial origin to complete the multisensory experience. I listened to many recorded sounds from celestial objects, and chose that of Jupiter for the installation. I think it was a successful experience.
Is there a trompe l’oeil element in your works at Mestaria Gallery?
Not in the main part of the show, the abstract miniature paintings. But in one of the pieces in the back room, titled “Singularity Encoded No1” one could sense a sort of infinite concave within the composition centered around a single dot at the centre of the circle.
Of course there is a method in your madness. What are the basic rules of calligraphy you adhere to?
Funny you mention that, since I call my style “Crazy Kufik”, or “Kufi Majnoun” in Arabic. For me, the main rule to observe is balance. Even in the most chaotic compositions, there should be a balance at work; otherwise, it will become only a disturbance to the senses which I personally wouldn’t like.
What is meant by Islamic Calligram?
Calligram in general is using of letterforms or words in a visual pattern, a figurative representation or ornamental juxtaposition. Islamic Calligram, refers to those caligrams which are created by using Arabic letters.
Tell us about your experience in bringing Ferdowsi and Twombly together.
I love Shahnameh and the miniature paintings, depicting its stories. Like many other Iranian artists, I draw a lot of inspiration from it and have been creating my own calligram miniatures for a while now.
As I progressed in my endeavour, my marks making has become more and more fluid and abstract, very much like Twombly’s approach, who is one of my favorite modernists.
It’s always fascinating for me to be able to translate one of the most prominent treasures of ancient times, into this modernistic language.
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