Introduction to the Exhibition by Peter Halliday:
Holy Writ is a unique and important exhibition of contemporary calligraphic art and creative lettering which brings together, in Lichfield Cathedral, the language and words of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The exhibition is a celebration of the work of a small number of active and innovative artists influenced by centuries of philosophical writing, poetry and prayer.
The artists, from the UK, Middle East and other parts of the world, are acknowledged leaders in their field and demonstrate in their work a deep understanding of their subject and mastery of the techniques and materials which they use. A great variety of modern techniques and ideas is used to convey the power of the written word.
Three triangular compositions by Fouad Kouichi Honda feature mirrored Arabic text, co-incidentally reflecting the three spires of the Cathedral itself. A banner, Oh Merciful, by Haji Noor Deen Mi Guanjiang demonstrates the use of a 'brush' made of tamarisk to create a textured sweep of lettering, impressively made in one stroke. Jila Peacock uses digital technology to animate her zoomorphic art in Tongue of the Hidden.
The Islamic pieces are complemented by innovative and experimental work from Jerusalem-based calligrapher lzzy Pludwinski and by work in the Christian tradition from Ewan Clayton, Peter Halliday, Sue Hufton, Timothy Noad, Mary Noble, Stephen Raw and Martin Wenham, some of whom have created pieces specifically for the exhibition. Unique among the exhibits are Heritage volumes and pages from The Saint John's Bible, the first complete handwritten and illuminated bible since the Renaissance. Designed and produced by Donald Jackson and a team of contemporary calligraphers and artists, it was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, U.S.A., and was completed in 2011.
Each religion has always used the written word, embellished by calligraphers, illuminators and painters as an essential vehicle for the dissemination and recording of the faith. Modern creative calligraphy continues this tradition.
Whereas Islam and Judaism use scripts which have been largely unaffected by the development of printing with moveable type, and still have continuous traditions of handwritten manuscripts, the Western Christian world has a somewhat interrupted tradition. The invention of printing in 15th century Germany and development of printed books made the production of Christian religious manuscripts by hand unnecessary.
The 19th century arts and crafts revival, led in England by William Morris, set in motion a renewed interest in hand arts and crafts, including writing, illuminating and lettering. In the last hundred years, calligraphy and the lettering arts in the western Roman letterform have moved, with varying degrees of uncertainty, from craft revival of ancient techniques to calligraphy as a vibrant interpretive art form. This exhibition explores and contrasts some of the uninhibited and confident work of the unbroken Middle Eastern traditions and the revived traditions of Roman letterforms used by western calligraphers working in a world where digital technology has become ubiquitous.
This is a stunning Exhibition Catalogue and, as well as 3 short essays from George D. Chyssides explaining the differences between the Jewish, Christian and Islam faiths, there is a forword to the catalogue from The Reverend Canon Dr Anthony Moore – Canon Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral and an essay from Ewan Clayton.
This is followed by over 50 impressive pieces by the following artists:
Ewan Clayton, Peter Halliday, Sue Hufton, Mustafa Ja'far, Ahmed Moustafa, Timothy Noad, Mary Noble, Haji Noor Deen Mi Gianjiang, Jila Peacock, lzzy Pludwinski, Donald Jackson and The Saint John's Bible, Kamal Boullata, Muhammed Ehsai, Fouad Kouichi Honda, Behnam Kery, Parviz Tanavoli,Martn Wenham and, last but not least, Stephen Raw.
The following books referred to within this catalogue are available from www.calligraphity.com:
The Golden Thread by Ewan Clayton
Mastering Hebrew Calligraphy by Izzy Pludwinski
Persian Art by Kamal Boullata (coming soon)
Word: Art Contemporary Middle East by Venetia Porter (coming soon)
The complete range of publications and BBC DVD related to Donald Jackson’s Saint John’s Bible
1st edition, 2014, paperback, 74pp, full colour throughout, 21 x 21cm