Hassan Sobhi Mourad (1942 – 2015) was an academic, a master calligrapher, an artist, a researcher, an author and a poet. He specialized in Arabic calligraphy, its development and teaching, drawing to all age groups, as well as contributing in writing art-related articles. Born in Syria, Hassan Mourad spent most of his life in various countries and continents due to his professional career in diplomatic service.
Though living abroad for most of his adult life, his passion for the art of Arabic calligraphy, the Arabic language and its history never faded. Hassan S. Mourad was influenced at the early age of 14 by a fellow Syrian writer without having ever met him; this artist, AbdulRahman Fakhoory, predicted a bright future in art for Mourad. He was also influenced by other great Arab calligraphy masters, such as Hashim the calligrapher, the Turkish Hamid Alamady, Mostapha Raqim and Hamdallah Alamasy, as well as the Persian Meer Ali Tabreez, Abbas Akhaween amongst others. Having had many historical figures to look up to built a foundation of an ever growing passion for Arabic calligraphy, which encouraged Hassan S.Mourad to learn the principles, arts and mastery with patience, diligence, and willingness. For years thereafter, he continued studying and developing his skill, building on his talent, and learning secrets of the arts.
Hassan S.Mourad designed artworks and logos for various purposes, and a mural for King Fahad Academy in Bonn, Germany. He participated in restoring artworks, scripts, and decorations of an old palace in his early years of practicing art. He also copied pages of the Quran in the Diwani script that was never used for the Quran before. Hassan S.Mourad used Naskh and Ottoman scripts in decorations he designed for many pieces of his work, also copying many versus of the Quran.
The master calligrapher and artist Hassan S.Mourad was the first to employ the Arabic letter, applying artistic value without distorting the letter, in creating an artwork for his 1986 exhibition in Utrecht, Holland. He created pieces of fine art with his individual style, with variations in both color and black and white. Mourad impressed his European audience. He was passionate about Arabic calligraphy, the Arabic script, and its principles translated into beauty in the distribution of its letters, which in professional calligraphy follow meticulous rules and principles.
"A hand that doesn't stop creating beauty which follows current styles, and fingers that don't stop moving. They don't take a break from traveling over blank and colored pages, over blank canvases to create letters that hold value and allure and meaning. It carries a thought that doesn't know boredom or weariness or hopelessness or waiting. The artwork to the artist controls time until the color runs out of the fingers that play with scripts every hour of every day, up and down, in every position tracing every taste on paper and thought flying everywhere making bouquets out of stars and flowers." (translated from the Arabic language, on Arabic Calligraphy by Hassan S. Mourad)
Arabic Calligraphy. "Hassan Sobhi Mourad"
Hassan S.Mourad's solo exhibitions
1986 Utrecht Exhibition, Holland 1987 The Hague Exhibition, Holland 1987 Commerzbank Exhibition, Germany 1987 Maastricht Exhibition, Holland 1988 Delft Exhibition, Holland 1988 Alkmaar Exhibition, Holland 1989 Harderwijk Exhibition, Holland 1990 Brussels Exhibition, Belgium 1991 Bonn Exhibition, Germany 1991 Bonn Exhibition , Germany 1991 Bonn Exhibition, Germany 1992 Koenigswinter Exhibition, Germany 1992 Berlin Exhibition, Germany 1993 Bremer Hafen, Germany 1993 Regensburg Exhibition, Germany 1994 Black and White Exhibition, Germany 1995 Back and White Exhibition, Germany 1996 Black and White Exhibition, Germany 1998-2005/ 7 Exhibitions in Vienna, Austria 2007 Damascus Cultural Center, Syria 2008 Ibla Gallery Exhibition, Syria 2010 Art House Gallery Exhibition, Syria 2015 Sharjah Calligraphy Museum Exhibition, UAE
Hassan S.Mourad solo exhibition. Art House, Damascus
Hassan S.Mourad, on Arabic calligraphy
"Arabic calligraphy is one of the most prominent arts in the Arabic-Islamic civilization. It's also one of the main elements of the Arabian heritage as Arabs used it as the foundation of architectural and ornamentation arts in unique style. Due to Islam forbidding the use of figural arts, Arab artists looked for other fields to utilize their talents, and Arabic calligraphy was the most prominent one. Arabic calligraphy was most known in Arab and Islamic countries but managed to enchant orientalists from all over the world in the past and present. Many consider Arabic calligraphy a craft, while in fact it is not. Like other kinds of crafts such as carpentry, blacksmithing, tailoring or painting, you can teach a hundred people these crafts in a short period of time. You can also teach a hundred students drawing in three months, but you can't teach one type of Arabic calligraphy script in one year. Learning one type of Arabic script requires two or more years, provided you possess patience, strong will, practice and potential. Some professors, intellectuals and professionals consider Arabic calligraphy as a craft and don't give it the interest, attention and importance they may show to other kinds of art. Arabic calligraphy is one of the most prominent and noble form of arts, considering this art is written using the Arabic letters, which are used in the Holy Quran. Arabic calligraphy originates from Al Misnad script, the first script used by Arabs, which is from Humiar in Yemen. Al Misnad script spread fast throughout the North of the Arabian peninsula, Syria and Iraq. It can also be called the first origin to Arabic calligraphy. Arabs then used Nabati script which originates from the Arami script learnt from the Anbat. Anbats are Arabs dwelled in Aramaic regions. They derived a new script they used for writing from the Arami script. This script was called the Nabati script, which then became the second origin of Arabic calligraphy. There has been an increase, as of late in the use of Arabic letters in visual art paintings, which unfortunately does not conform with the rules and principles of this noble art. This in turn, can affect Arabic calligraphy in the long term if non-experts compete blindly to produce any kind of work using the Arabic letters. Therefore, anyone interested in entering this field must learn the true rules and principles of Arabic calligraphy from A to Z. This should also involve research and exploration of the history and heritage of this art. A calligrapher should always strive to improve and introduce new elements to the script in line with the main principles of this art. Innovating, developing and enhancing old and past styles should be the aim, which cannot result from blindly copying other practitioners in the art." (Hassan S.Mourad)
The Arabic language in the words of Hassan S.Mourad
"The rich and pure characteristics of the Arabic language lie in the fact that the Holy Quran was spoken in it, and was copied in books and preserved using Arabic calligraphy. It carries powerful flexibility, which allows it to accommodate and respond to the developments of this age and its challenges in culture, science, arts and technology. The honor of the Arabic language derives from mentioning it in the Holy Quran. It is a praise that goes beyond what anyone writes about it, validating it as one of the most beautiful languages of our time. Its part in the Holy Quran distinguishes it from any other complimenting gesture or remark. "We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom" (Yusuf, Surah 2). "Thus have We sent this down-an Arabic Qur'an and explained therein in detail some of the warnings, in order that they may fear Allah, or that it may cause their remembrance" (Taha, Surah 113). "A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail; a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand" (Fussilat, Surah 3). It is no wonder that many around the world can attest to the strength of the Arabic language, which adds to our pride in our roots; that language that grew deep within us and with it we grew." (Hassan S.Mourad)
A glance into the history of Arabic calligraphy
Arabic calligraphy is a prominent element of Islamic Arab civilization, forming part of its heritage. After all, it was fundamental in conserving their history. It was the means Arabs used to record historical and artistic presence of the Arab civilization. Arabs used the Arabic calligraphy as a foundation to Arabesque-decorated architecture. A rare design, unknown to other civilizations. Arabesque decorations depended on Arabic calligraphy in all its forms and shapes. Whether an old or modern design, the Arabic letters and the decorations complement each other. These designs can be found decorating mosques, buildings and palaces. The over embellished decoration in a work of calligraphy can distract the viewer from the beauty of the artwork. The decoration, if too overwhelming, can steal the attention of the viewer from mistakes the calligrapher could fall into. Arabic letters have been used in all sorts of Islamic arts such as porcelain pieces, textile, glass, faience, embroidery, metallic artifacts, trays, jugs, chandeliers, kitchenware, doors, swords, helmets, shields, etc. Arabic letters are also used extensively in the decorations of buildings, columns, mosques, tombs, books, attire and inscriptions on silver, copper and gold. Arabic calligraphy is an art form that evolved in the Islamic world for many reasons. One being the limited arts Muslim artists could explore. Muslim artists focused on what was available to them and flourished in that field. To this day, Arabic calligraphy attracts artists and audiences worldwide. The pen, being the most important tool in knowledge and writing, acts as the main constituent in a nation's structure. It is what has been used to document the history of culture and societies of past civilizations. People used the pen as a means to communicate information such as their hopes and dreams. Arabic penmanship is the most beautiful among the languages. It received great appreciation and recognition in all times and places it visited, including those that did not speak or understand the language. History narrates that Sulaiman bin Wahab wrote to the Roman king in the reign of the Caliph AlMo'tamid. The king's response was , I've never seen anything of the Arabs that held so much beauty. I envy them for the beauty of their letter more than anything. The Roman king could neither read the Arabic language nor understand its alphabet. He was attracted to the architecture of the letters. Seeing how calligraphers receive homage for the work they do, as a product that comes straight from the heart, Arabic calligraphy has always been a miraculous form of art. One cannot wonder why the Ottoman Sultan Bayazed II was never late to his appointment with the calligrapher Sheikh HamadAllah Alamasy, where he had his written tasks completed. He spent long hours watching him work. As was the case with the Ottoman Sultan Mahmoud I who carried his ink to the Turkish calligrapher Mustapha Raqim, to perform his written duties. Calligraphers often practice their skills, they polish their work until they reach the level they aim for, which entails receiving compliments for their work from the public. Abbas bin Alahnaf once said, so many passers-by have seen my work and wanted to swallow my pen. In comparing between drawing and Arabic calligraphy, we can see that drawing cannot reach the level of creativity that calligraphy can attain. In abstract paintings, the work itself consists of a blend of colors on canvas. You cannot take that approach in Arabic calligraphy. There are principles and rules to follow when creating an artwork. A skillful calligrapher can achieve creativity without committing mistakes, as these are easily spotted in calligraphy, becoming a measurement unit used to measure the calligrapher's ability. Arabic calligraphy is important to the cultural heritage of Arab civilization, because it connects it to their language and its cultural development. It has immortalized this civilization and documented its seasons, saving it from the distortions, mutations and changes that the Arabic language faced. The most truthful of all books, the Holy Quran, leads a caravan of creativity in calligraphy to the highest level. It resulted in providing this form of art with a larger appreciative audience compared to other forms of art across the globe, but especially in Islamic countries. The Holy Quran was copied using Arabic calligraphy and it travelled to all the lands. Even the copying of sayings, proverbs and poetry highlighted this form of art. Although it is considered difficult to master the Arabic penmanship, it is possible to achieve with patience, persistence, practice and diligence. It is also vital for the calligrapher to maintain a creative spirit and a deep imagination for drawing. Learning an Arabic script could be the foundation where one could begin the journey in calligraphy. A calligrapher can always continue evolving, modifying and innovating new methods in calligraphy. It is important that the calligrapher does not only live on what was passed down to him from other calligraphers that came before him. The Arabic language has approximately fifty scripts, most of which have been mentioned in the book "The History of Arabic Calligraphy between the Past and Present". Most scripts are similar to each other in characteristics, features, shapes and forms. These scripts travelled through a journey of development, fusion, modification until we reached the scripts we have today. The Kufi script, for example, has many variations. As do the Thuluth, Ruq'aa, Naskhm Ijazi, Diwani, Jali the Farsi, Shaksata, Sunbuli and the Maghrebi scripts. However, most calligraphers in the Arab world master two or three scripts only. (Hassan S.Mourad. Copied and translated from his book "The History of the Arabic Calligraphy between the Past and Present" published in 2003).
Hassan S.Mourad solo exhibition. Art House, Damascus
Excerpt reviews of Hassan S.Mourad's artwork
"You can't help but stand stunned in wonder in front of the artwork of Hassan Mourad, who displays in his pieces exquisite formations derived from Arabic letters. It comes from his wide experience and high proficiency in manipulating letters in his works. He dares to redefine new relationships in scripts, enriching every artwork with expressive artistic and intellectual attraction. It is hard to choose a favorite, unless one would do it according to their favorite wording expressed in the artwork. The artist employs his artistic energy and capabilities to bring out substantial interactions between the letters, achieving a cultural and educational purpose. He tries to highlight the Arabic script's features, bringing out its aesthetic value that transcends in the eye of the viewer whether they were old or young, a researcher or an amateur." (The artist reporter Ahmad Hamdy talks about the diplomacy of letters- Bonn- Middle East- May 19, 1994)
"Hassan Mourad creates with his fingers the original means of cultural communication...standing in front of his pieces is a real pleasure to the viewer. Reflecting on the expressions that he inscribed makes one feed on the taste of creativity. Hassan Mourad is a special artist. He lived with Arabic Calligraphy at a time when this trade was not at its highest point...the artist moved around a lot. He lived in Holland, Germany, Austria, and visited all European countries. He spent his years spreading the joy of Arabic calligraphy, gaining the art lovers from all over the world with a modern widely-cultured spirit, building bridges of cultural communication between the East and West." (The artist and reporter Hisham Shakir- talking about cultural communication- Vienna- March 13, 2001)
"Arabic Calligraphy is an art that captured the hearts of people from all over the globe, in ancient times and modern time. However, it suffers a plateau in present day. Corporations don't pay enough attention and interest to the art anymore. They stopped developing an aesthetic sense which resulted in decreasing the amount of Arab calligraphers...however, the Syrian Calligrapher Hassan Mourad stands in the front line of the artists who resisted these changes and preserved calligraphy as part of the Islamic Arabic culture. He went forward at a time when most people looked elsewhere fore art...he began from the fertile landscape of creativity that is Arabic Calligraphy, He was working in the vast space of innovation where he found the muse to embody the rationale of this art in portraits that shine with the fragrance of history and nobility of our great civilization. He gave much of his energy and efforts to inscribe aesthetics through letters he wrote using various styles in Arabic. He depended on blending many scripts and colors with Latin letters in a manner that has an easy flow over the Arabic expressions that he presented in his many exhibitions, which added another dimension to the piece. It reaches the "other" of the Eastern and Western viewer." (Media critic Alya Alanasy discusses the aesthetic in the letter and its connection with contemporary arts- Vienna- AlHaya May 3, 2006)
"If you stand in front of one of his pieces which his fingers had crafted, you'll find the expression has its special rhythm. When you reflect on the Holy Quran verses he had copied, you will feel the intonation without it having been pronounced. The Syrian artist Hassan Mourad put together strands of innovation. A skillful calligrapher and painter, Hassan Mourad proved through his many moves across Europe for decades, that he has the personality of an artist proud of his culture and origins. He never missed an opportunity to spread his art in the Western cities he visited. He had many calligraphy exhibitions in Holland, Germany, Belgium, and Austria...I realized through his artwork the great value of Arabic Calligraphy that has been ranked low by today's superficial taste. I enjoyed through contemplating his expressions that carry a musical allure that must coin the term "eye-music". (The critic Yazan Aljayroody talks about the works of Hassan Mourad, describing it as an embodiment of the past's magnanimity and present day's evolvement in contemporary arts-Syria- July 17, 2006)