Less obviously emotional, but no less aesthetically charged, is the work of Rafa al-Nasiri who in recent years has also come under the spell of Arabic calligraphy. For centuries, calligraphy for the Arab artist was a major outlet for creativity: he employed it inventively and in endless modulations to express a powerful aesthetic impulse often associated with ‘spiritual’ feelings, largely because most of the phrases thus written were of a religious nature. Although Nasiri did, in the beginning, employ such phrases as a basis, or a pretext, for his lovely configurations, he was soon to seek the formal values of individual letters for his new kind of plastic variations. The relation between his original graphic skill, heightened by his study of Chinese Art, and his noval
manipulation of the alphabet, has thus been emphasized. Having mastered the distribution of balances, extensions, and empty planes, he achieves a harmonic lightness, a sheer visual delight, which once marked his earlier non-calligraphic work. More recently he has taken even greater liberty with his forms, and words, haphazard numbers, crosses, and circles, become symbolic graffiti, suggestive of repressed agonies: the poetic undertones thus join forces with the purely visual sensation.
Jabra I. Jabra