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The history of Arabic calligraphy as written by Western scholars, says Mouneer Al Shaarani, is incomplete.Shaarani is a Syrian artist, book designer, writer and calligrapher. An eponymously titled exhibition of his work is currently on show at Gemmayzeh Art on 56th. Born in 1952, Shaarani studied with well-known Syrian calligrapher Badawi Al Dirany as a child, learning to write traditional calligraphic scripts including Kufic, Naskh, Thuluth, Nasta'liq, Riq'a and Diwani. Over the years, Shaarani went beyond the established histories surrounding these scripts to uncover their versatility, researching the evolution of Arabic calligraphy from 600 years before the dawn of Islam to its status under Ottoman rule, when the scripts were divided up, some designated for use in religious texts, other for government texts, still others for day-to-day life.Then, Shaarani went off script. Today, the calligrapher is known as one of a small number of modern and contemporary Arab artists whose work revisits, adapts and reinvents the traditional art of calligraphy for today's world. Unlike Samir Sayegh, Lebanon's foremost contemporary calligrapher, Shaarani does not abandon the rigidity of traditional calligraphy, with its precise ratios, angles measurements, for a more informal, instinctive interpretation.
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