The work of the Libyan artist, Ali Omar Ermes, Letter Kaf: The Power of Expression, represents a dramatic departure in its scale, treatment, and intent. Measuring 130.6cm x 94.9cm, the painting is dominated by the form of a single letter of the Arabic alphabet, the letter ‘kaf’ or ‘k’, created with one continuous brush stroke.
The composition, which reads more as an undulating abstraction than an actual letter, is notable for its boldness and spontaneity.
While evoking the fluidity of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, the single letter, monumentalised and stripped to its most essential form, also echoes the expressiveness of the ‘New Style’ script discussed earlier.
Perhaps to accentuate the creative tension between the present and the past, Ermes has also included a poem from the 10th century Kitab al-Aghani (Book of Songs) by Abu’l Faraj al-Isfahani. Written in the traditional maghribi style, associated with North Africa and Islamic Spain, the script shares the rhythm and energy of the large ‘kaf’.
From ‘Arts of the Islamic World at the Sackler’ – Oriental Art Vol: XLIII No.3 Massumeb Farhad Wash, 15 November 1997.
This artwork was produced in 1991 and is held in the Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.