Razwan Ul-Haq uses classical Arabic Calligraphy techniques to create contemporary pieces. His work embodies the minimalist tradition in Islamic Art. Razwan Ul-Haq’s work cuts across many themes and has featured in the national press including the Times, BBC, Channel 4 as well as internationally. He was commissioned by Leeds City Art Gallery to celebrate the birthday of the Queen of England, do note however, that he is not related to any member of the Royal family.
Above. 100 minus 1 (2004) Early work, Ink and Acrylic on reclaimed handmade paper
Razwan’s work is rooted in the tradition, he cuts his own reed pens, yet for him, the post-modern art scene is exciting, “…though abstractly otherworldly, it oozes human energy.” Indeed, it could be said that many contemporary movements dovetail the traditions. The conceptual Art movement for example, on a certain level, shares a parallel with early Islamic Art, in that the surge of thought takes precedence over form –in contrast to later Arabic Calligraphy that sought for absolute mathematic perfection.
Above: Razwan's Art features in diverse publications -here his Calligraphic figure is used to encourage debate within leadership training
Yet the harmonics laid by the early Arab, Indian and particularly Persian and Osmanli Calligraphers have such a powerful resonance for the contemporary Art Scene. Razwan Ul-Haq says: “Proportions in classical Arabic calligraphy create a prettiness. And like a beautiful face, they draw you in. My dilemma is in extending traditional calligraphy into new directions without losing this timelessness.”
Razwan was trained
classically. His first experience
was when as a boy, he saw his Uncle, the Professional Calligrapher Maulvi Fazal
Azeem, compose calligraphy. To him it seemed like magic and he was helped by his
father to mimic his Uncle’s calligraphy.
He is particularly drawn to Nastaliq, that most
subtle of scripts.
He is particularly drawn to Nastaliq, that most subtle of scripts.
The techniques of harmony are essential, yet conventional lettering does not take the central axis of his calligraphy: the concept, the meaning and the breath are the essential ingredients. Razwan’s use of calligraphy has widened in variety over time, in this early work, below, Blue Sea Planet, 2004, Razwan uses calligraphy pens. You can clearly see the impact of his calligraphy training, with the proportioned script, in the writing of the Ayatul-Kursi in a blue planet. In later work, Bismillah Life, 2014, and particularly in Qur'anic Metamorphosis, 2014, the words are morphed to such a degree that the words do not, on the surface, follow traditional calligraphic rules. Yet, this work is is more readable than his early work and Razwan insists the essence of proportion is retained. “Wonderful indeed is the plasticity of Arabic calligraphy,” he says.
Above: Blue Sea Planet, 2004, contrasted with later work below, Quranic Metamorphosis and Bismillah Life 2014. The tools have virtually remained the same, but the calligraphy and intended effect has changed over time, with Razwan adding to his repertoire of calligraphy
He also acknowledges the movement of expressionism in Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and has used many of his calligraphy skills in re-imagining Arabic, Urdu and Farsi through today's idiom:
When the Tour De France came to England in 2014, Razwan was commissioned to create Arabic Land Art. His installation entitled "Finite Cycle of Time", a morphing of the Arabic word "Al-Asr" is possibly the largest Arabic Word in Europe and during Le Tour, watched by around a hundred million viewers on television. Below: The installation at night time, captured by photographer John Sargent:
Islamic minimalism has its inception in the empty Kaba. The desert around Makka is spartan, and just like the beauty of the Japanese aesthetic, the openness of space provides the perfect backdrop for the elaboration of concepts. Minimalism then, returns the Art to the star filled Arabian night, where there is no distracting golden frame but just the flourish of the Divine Word. Unfettered. And unhindered. There is no frenzy of redundant form here. Simply the evocation. And the hushed touch. Stone and rock frame Makka, and Razwan reflected on his first visit to the Holy City about this unreal reality. This is fundamental to a return to the minimalist method.
With generous support from the Arts Council and MHA, in conjunction with the local community, Razwan Ul-Haq created a permanent installation in the shadow of Bradford's iconic Manningham Mill. The "Bradford Boogie Woogie" takes a Mondrian, post-modern interpretation of Bradford's city life through the medium of Arabic Calligraphy. In this project, the question was, can we blend traditional Islamic Art and Modern Art, from a practical perspective?
Razwan Ul-Haq is a UMIST graduate and after completing postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester, he taught in schools, introducing Islamic Art through a variety of subjects. He experienced Headship at a comparatively young age, and left, to pursue a career in Art full-time. He still contributes to education projects with a focus on Islamic Art and Creativity.
Exhibitions, Festivals & Speeches:
Universal Paradox Islamic Art, Nationwide, 2004
Commission to celebrate 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, Leeds City Art Gallery 2006
Conceptual Arabic Art Exhibition, Bury, 2007
Islamic Art Calligraphy Workshops, Tullie House Museum, Cumbria 2008
Breathing Calligraphy, Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland, 2012
Bradford Festival, Arabic Calligraphy Workshops, 2014, 2015, 2016
Key Note Speech on Islamic Art, RE Conference, Wells Cathedral, 2014
Sultan Vs Dracula Author Talk, Ilkley Literature Festival, 2014
Islamic Art in the North of England, Panelist, University of Central Lancashire, 2015
Sultan Vs Dracula Author Presentation, Huddersfield Literature Festival. 2015
Sultan Vs Dracula Author Panelist, Bradford Literature Festival, 2015
Islamic Art & Meditation Workshops, Ilkley Literature Festival, 2014, 2015
Al-Khatt Al-Mansoub, the Proportioned Script, Walker House Art Gallery Wakefield, 2014
Faith in Art Exhibition, Craven Museum, 2016
Asian Voices Exhibition, Leeds City Museum, 2016
Islamic Science-Fiction Panelist, Bradford Literature Festival, 2016
Garden within a Garden Exhibition, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, 2016
Breathing Calligraphy Exhibition, Kala Sangam Art Gallery, Bradford, 2016
The Last Sufi Series, sci-fi novel, 2004
The Calligraphy Pirate Series, children’s fiction, 2006
Islamic Art: The Teacher’s Book, Teaching Resource, 2007
Teaching Materials, University of Cumbria, 2008
Black Taj Mahal, fantasy novel, fantasy 2010
Sultan Vs. Dracula, sci-fi and fantasy novel, 2012
Viewpoints, Peer Reviewed Paper, JIABR, Emerald Publishing, 2012
Teaching Islamic Art, RE Today, 2016
Teachers TV, 2008
BBC TV, 2010
BBC Radio, 2012
Asian Eye, 2012
BBC Radio, 2013
Channel 4, 2013
The Times, 2014
BBC Radio 4, 2014
Asian Express, 2016
Telegraph & Argus 2016
Asian Sunday 2016
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