Calligraphy involves the design and writing of lettering using writing materials such as ink brush and pen. In more modern times it is defined as the art of giving shape to signs in a skilful, expressive and harmonious manner.  Calligraphic works are made on artistic displays and vary from fine art pieces to hand lettering and functional inscriptions. Calligraphy art is a sacred form of art and has played an important role in the history of many cultures, religions and languages, for example, the Islamic scripture (The Koran) which was written first in Arabic. Calligraphy was the central role of Islamic architecture, and it can be seen displayed in mosques with different calligraphy techniques. They hold a great spiritual value among the Muslims and are written in immense detail. Calligraphy was essential in Mosques due to the prohibition of visual pictures. It is therefore used as a means to transmit a text, although an ornament one due to its aesthetic appeal. Calligraphy displays the history and cultural heritage of a particular society. It shows the cultural variation of the heritage and materials of each society shown by the quality of writing materials, the society’s attitude to writing and the importance and value of text within the culture. While calligraphy is learnt, intuition and individuality are required, but with pre-arranged boundaries. Calligraphy is used in the present day for logo designs, event invitations, typography and calligraphic art.

History of Calligraphy art - Sheet1
Chinese calligraphy at the Old Dragon Head tower_©Dquai

East Asian Calligraphy

History of Calligraphy art - Sheet2
Chinese calligraphy on building_© RLahiliaem LU

Calligraphy possesses a strong history in East Asia (China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan) and is a key influence on many of the art styles in this region. The Chinese calligraphy dated back to the Xia Dynasty culture, which was the first dynasty in Chinese historiography. Han Dynasty laid the foundations of Chinese calligraphy through a series of articles published towards the end of this dynasty.  Calligraphy attained the status of an art form during the Wei and Jin Dynasty. This was through the publication of several theoretical studies on calligraphy such as the principles of the ink container, the law of calligraphy and different ink and brush techniques. The number of calligraphers increased during the Tang Dynasty, as well as techniques and theories of calligraphy. The popularization of Confucianism in the Song Dynasty decreased the status of calligraphy writing in China. The Qing Dynasty brought back interest in Calligraphy through archaeological excavations and pre-Tang calligraphic scripts. Xuanzhi paper was originally used by Chinese calligraphers and must have a constant rate of absorption and be of high quality.

Persian, Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan Calligraphy

The Persian calligraphy is in three main forms which are Naghashi-khat script, Shekasteh-Nasta’liq script and Nasta’liq script and this calligraphy were since the pre-Islam era. The Farsi alphabet which is an adaptation of the Farsi Language and the Arabic alphabet was developed after the “Nasta’liq” which was a rigid structure-based calligraphy style and the most popular contemporary style.

Indian calligraphy was influenced by Arabic and Persian script and also the holy book of Sikhism, which was originally handwritten. The legacy of calligraphy continued due to the unavailability of modern printing knowledge. Nepalese calligraphy was used to write the Nepal Bhasa and also as a primary form for the Ranjana script. This calligraphy is also used in Hindu scriptures and had a huge impact on  Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan calligraphy was derived from Indic scripts, and it was central to the Tibetan culture. Chisel-tipped markers and pens are now used by Tibetan calligraphers.

Islamic Calligraphy

This calligraphy was created by a fusion of the Arabic language and the Islamic religion. Calligraphy is the most recognized form of Islamic art, as it provides a link between the Muslim Languages (Arabic and Persian calligraphy) and the Islamic religion. This calligraphy is also valued by Muslims due to their belief that only Allah could create images of animals and people.

History of Calligraphy art - Sheet3
Islamic Calligraphy_©https://in.pinterest.com/pin/476326098088862126/

Western Calligraphy

Western calligraphy is the art of penmanship and writing as practised in the majority of Europe, North America, and Oceania, using the Latin alphabet. The copying of the Bible by the Christian churches also promoted the development of western Calligraphy. Gothic was used from the twelfth to the fifteenth century by the northern European scribes, while the Spaniards and Italians chose the Rotunda. The Italians embraced the Carolingian and Roman models of writing and created the Italics hand.

First page of Paul’s epistle to Philemon in the Rochester Bible- Western Calligraphy_©https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_calligraphy

Calligraphic Materials

The calligrapher originally used ink, ink stone, brush, and paper. The ink was originally made from soot with water added to an ink stone during use. The brush was the original writing implement for calligraphy, using wood together with hair. Pens, desk pads and light boxes are a few new instruments adopted by modern calligraphers.

Image 5_Calligraphy material used in Japan_©https://japancientnz.weebly.com/tools-and-media-used-for-writing-and-communication.html 

Calligraphy in Architecture

“Calligraphy is aesthetic, not only in terms of how you see but how you think and feel and understand because the form is elemental in the formation of culture and its association with language. Calligraphy contains a structure that represents a coherent, intelligible world. Can architecture confirm that?” Eric Owen Moss

Expression through Calligraphy: Museum of the Future

Image 6_The Museum of the Future, Dubai_©Lyonerov

The  Museum of the Future was opened on the 22nd of February 2022 and is meant to provide a space for exhibitions of futuristic and innovative products, services, and ideologies. This museum is made up of a green hill, building and void which create the main elements of this museum. It was created by the Dubai Future Foundation and is located in Dubai Financial District. The Museum of the Future was built to promote technological innovation and development.

The building is a centrepiece of Arabic calligraphy, with the Matar Bin Lahej engraved quotes from Sheikh Mohammed. This building shell is shaped like a torus and made of one thousand and twenty-four composite panels which had a distinctive 3D shape to make the Arabic script. The message was represented in a 0.9 m tall Arabic calligraphy which covered over fourteen thousand metres on the structure. The calligraphy indentations created windows in the building façade, allowing illumination within the building during the daytime. The Museum of the Future also incorporated LED lighting around the calligraphy to display it during the nighttime.

Image 7_The Museum of the Future, Dubai_©MoTF

References:

  1. Wikipedia contributors (2022) Calligraphy, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Calligraphy&oldid=1094699415.
  2. Wikipedia contributors (2022) Western calligraphy, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Western_calligraphy&oldid=1065955584.
  3. Lawrence, R. (1942) “CALLIGRAPHY,” Lancet, 240(6223), pp. 684–685. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(00)89278-8.
  4. Calligraphy: History of Chinese Calligraphic Art (no date) Visual-arts-cork.com. Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/calligraphy.htm (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
  5. calligraphy (no date) Etymonline.com. Available at: https://www.etymonline.com/word/calligraphy (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
  6. Wikipedia contributors (no date) Museum of the Future, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_the_Future.
  7. Ravenscroft, T. (2021) Calligraphy-covered Museum of the Future nears completion in Dubai, Dezeen.com. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2021/03/30/museum-of-the-future-dubai-killa-design-buro-happold-arabic-calligraphy/ (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
  8. A Staff Reporter (2022) “Dubai Museum of the Future: What does Arabic calligraphy on structure say?,” Khaleej Times, 3 February. Available at: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae-attractions/dubai-museum-of-the-future-what-does-arabic-calligraphy-on-structure-say (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
  9. Bedirian, R. (2022) Mattar Bin Lahej on designing the calligraphy that wraps around the Museum of the Future, The National. Available at: https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/art/2022/02/25/mattar-bin-lahej-on-designing-the-calligraphy-that-wraps-around-the-museum-of-the-future/ (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
  10. Belcher, D. (2022) “In Dubai, the Museum of the Future Conveys a Message,” The New York Times, 27 March. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/27/fashion/museum-of-the-future-dubai.html (Accessed: July 3, 2022).
Author

Chukwuebuka is an architecture student and an amateur writer using his skills to express his ideas to the world. He has written a few articles for DAPC Uniben and he is adventuring to become a popular writer.

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