Over the last three years, as part of his long-term collaboration with Les Ateliers Pinton in Felletin, Aubusson France, master calligrapher and scholar Ahmed Moustafa has created five unique large-scale tapestries. Touching on his signature themes, the works explore Moustafa’s search for the Divine, and the peace found through the due measure and proportion of both the elements of calligraphy as well as the underlying nature of God’s word. The choice of tapestry as a medium is one which touches on one of the more revered artistic forms in Western art history. While the tapestry itself can be dated back to Hellenistic times, it reached a new level of sophistication in the 14th century AD, when it flourished as a lavish and prestigious art form, found amongst the nobility. In the 20th century, it saw a new revival within the Modern art world, used by masters such as Miro, Picasso and Chagall. Moustafa’s own tapestries can be found in prestigious public spaces in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Luxembourg.

Creating tapestries of this size also allows Moustafa to realize his works on a scale not possible through the medium of painting. For the artist, these tapestries assume a life of their own, becoming greater than the sum of their parts. More than a simple transition from painting to tapestry, they allow for a growth of colour, an expansion of form into space, and an infusion of new energy into the image. They allow for a scale that does justice to Moustafa’s illustration of the awe-inspiring power of the Divine, dwarfing the viewer in much the same way that one may feel minute in comparison to the endless mysteries of the universe.

Indeed, Moustafa’s work is characterised by his ability to merge his inner emotions and experiences with those of an independent, external reality. He masterfully fuses the visual complexities of classical European painting techniques with the exacting discipline of Islamic calligraphy. This rich visual vocabulary, provided by an innovative interpretation and synthesis of two such contrasting traditions is what gives Moustafa’s work its universal appeal. Bolstered by a concentrated and profound scholarly study, he strives to create work that represents an individual’s search for self-cultivation.

While much of his work is derived from sacred Qur’anic texts, the embodiment of his own deep Islamic faith, the sheer visual impact of Moustafa’s calligraphic artistry makes his work immediately accessible, irrespective of whether the texts can be read or not. He strives for a universal appreciation of intercultural understanding and beauty. His lifelong pursuit of the Divine Perfection – the concept of God in Islam – is reflected in his understanding of shapes, numbers and geometry in the cosmos. This is personified in the position, direction and intervals between the characters of calligraphic script in his work. Indeed, the Arabic letter shapes, which form the basis of Ahmed Moustafa’s work should not be regarded merely as arbitrary graphical forms or structural devices manipulated to create images. Even in those works in which the letters appear to almost completely melt into the visual palette, the Arabic letter shapes themselves are of profound significance, as Muslims believe them to be the constituent elements of the revealed Word, comprising the verses of the Qur’an.

For Moustafa, the ink of the artist can be compared to the water of life that gives immortality. Similarly, much as the human being acts as a vessel for the word of God, so too the pen creates words and forms that revere the Divine. The letters become living beings, or talismans, which have come from the Beyond to guide us back to the Source of all forms.

In these tapestries, he has worked closely with the master artisans of the prestigious Les Ateliers Pinton. From original painting to determining the scale of enlargement and precise colour selection, Moustafa is involved in every step of the way, working with the Ateliers’ chief technician to create the delicate blending of colour that characterises his work. From there on, he visits the studio regularly during the weaving process to ensure that it is up to the highest standard and faithful to his original vision.

Together, these five tapestries are a culmination of Moustafa’s ability to create images of an intense complexity, imbuing them with both an aesthetic as well as a spiritual appeal. Their sheer scale underlies the awe inspiring nature of The Divine, while the experience of seeing them in close proximity also helps to elucidate the diversity of Moustafa’s creative application, while maintaining the unity of his visual vocabulary. These five works are a coming together of some of Moustafa’s most important and enduring motifs, from The Night Journey and Ascension to Trilogy of Where Two Oceans Meet. They investigate the perfection of God, seek a higher awareness and understanding, and revel in the beauty of the Arabic letter. They sweep across the surface, at times pure in their geometric perfection, at others, breath-taking in their loose free form. They are an intertwining of the artists’ reflections, sonorous voices coming together like musical notes played as one sonorous statement.