Celebrated Iranian designer presents Islamic calligraphy at LAU
An exhibition by Masoud Nejabati, who gave a talk on “The Art of Islamic Calligraphy in Graphic Design,” runs until March 31 at LAU.
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Renowned Iranian graphic designer and artist Masoud Nejabati gave a lecture entitled “The Art of Islamic Calligraphy in Graphic Design,” which was followed by the opening of an exhibition of his recent work, at the Beirut campus on March 26.
The exhibition, a part of the LAU Graphic Design Department’s event series, is showing until March 31, in Sheikh Zayed Hall every day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Nejabati presented his talk in Farsi, which was simultaneously translated into Arabic for the audience. He explained that while graphic design has existed for a long time in Iran, before it became a recognized discipline, it was known as “graphic calligraphy.”
Type, image and color are the elements of Islamic calligraphy he said, adding that many artists use art to spread religion’s message — “Writing should be beautiful because it is the word of God,” he said.
Nejabati explained that in Islamic calligraphy, the illustration matches the calligraphy. He explained that images are not always realistic but instead are symbolic, adding that there are no realistic images of nature in Islamic art — and that colors and images vary by area and country of origin.
The renowned graphic artist said the reason for unrealistic images in much Islamic art is that we will go to another world when we die, which is more beautiful so the pictures resemble our world but not realistically. “Everything drawn is made more beautiful than it is in life,” he said.
Nejabati said that colors make a big difference in Islamic art because in a simple geometric square “the design hardly shows if it’s not filled with color.” Notably, he shared his view that there are seven primary colors — not only three (red, yellow, and blue) as is the common view in the West. “Black, white, gold and silver are also primary colors,” he said.
Nejabati, who notably designed “Persia” typeface for Bitstream Co. USA, further explained that every culture, every country has its own style of art and design, which is evident in all aspects of a country’s society, from clothes to packaging and buildings.
“Art is like an identity for a country,” he said, offering the example that at first only Farsi-speakers were his audience, but now people from all languages and cultures want to know his work and Iranian art. He added that he is proud of the popularity of Iranian arts nowadays.
Randa Abdel Baki, the chair of the Graphic Design Department at LAU, says that events such as this are extremely important for both design students and the community at large, due to the significant intercultural dialogue and understanding that is generated.
“We’re trying to revive the art of calligraphy in Lebanon — it’s vanishing,” she says. It was important to have this presentation by Nejabati, because calligraphy “is the foundation of Arabic type,” she says, adding, “The integration of calligraphy in the work of Iranian artists is very deep, and we want our students to see this.”
She adds, “We want to show our students everything — modern, old, new. Everything should be part of their education, which should be an encyclopedia of art and design.”
Nejabati was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1967. An alumnus of the University of Tehran, he earned his M.A. in Graphic Design in 1999, although he started his professional career in 1988, and has taught graphic design and typography since 1996.
He said he chose graphic design as a professional medium to follow because it is a form of communication. And while he has also worked in film, the artistic medium he has focused on has remained graphic design.
As an artist, Nejabati explained that graphic design enables him to communicate with all of those people who cannot attend art exhibitions — those who are not the “upper class.”
He has designed posters and book covers, among other cultural forms of art. He says that he now finds his work everywhere he travels in Iran.
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