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Khaled al-Saa’i (born 1970) Resurrection Triptych painted in Ann Arbor in 2002 Natural ink, tempera, and gouache on paper University of Michigan Museum of Art, 2003.1.367A–C


Syrian-born contemporary artist Khaled al-Saa’i creates delicate calligraphic paintings composed of Arabic letters. While some letters are discernable within the composition, Resurrection explores the formal potential and dynamic movement of letter shapes. Entangled in an ethereal mist, large calligraphic forms hover in mid-air, rising as if from a mound of debris below. At the top of the left panel a single rhombic dot marks a fading horizon. In Islamic traditions, the rhombus is considered the genesis of all Arabic letters. Classical calligraphers were trained to use the rhomboid to measure the strokes of their letterforms. Like strung pearls, chains of rhomboids calculate the proper proportions of each letter. In this calligraphic triptych, al-Saa’i builds upon older Islamic calligraphic traditions to further explore the rhombus as a creative force as his letters emerge from the brown earth and "resurrect" into new spiritual forms.

Bibliography: Porter 2006; Ali 1997, 151–187; Naef 2003, 168–171; and Schimmel 1987.

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