Haleh Gallery shows two work complexes of the artist Iman Mahmud in her solo exhibition Language of the Soul. Exhibited are female portraits made in ink drawings and abstract-looking calligraphies entitled “Secrets of the line, 1-8”. The artistic mean of calligraphy is the binding element of the presented works in Haleh Gallery. Calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, has in these works different functions. While writing constitutes the female images through its playful interaction, the scripture is being deconstructed in the series “Secrets of the Line”. The former writing is reduced to single abstract letters.

When we look at the single images of “Secrets of the line” one cannot but ask the question what is the secret of the line? What has the line to hide from the observer? A closer look at art historiography tracks down the secret of the line. Beauty is the line’s mystery. The art historian Werner Hofmann described in his publication “Die Schönheit ist eine Linie” an art and cultural history of the line throughout the centuries. He finds out that our esthetical perception of beauty is based on undulating lines. He further demonstrates that one can find the serpentine line in the lavish ornaments of rococo period as well as in Picasso’s paintings.

The question of beauty leads us back to Iman Mahmud’s skilful calligraphies. In the predominately Islamic art, calligraphy is a highly appreciated artistic form because it is the pure expression of beauty. Calligraphies in zoomorphic shapes, for example lion or bird, serve to express theological beauty. The necessary dedication to the practice of calligraphy served for many Sufis as possibility for further development on their spiritual path.

Iman Mahmud also uses calligraphy in her works to express beauty as she states: “For several years now the female figure, particularly the Muslim woman took centre stage. My depictions of women show the traditional Arab woman in their precious and refined dresses. They are a hymn to the woman’s beauty.”

The artistic mean of calligraphy permits Iman Mahmud to reconnect with the artistic roots of her homeland Iraq, where she was born and where she studied art. Looking at the works of modern and contemporary artists from the Middle East one can see that traditional calligraphy is still very relevant today. In the works of Iman Mahmud it becomes visible that calligraphy is a living tradition, which also has its specific meaning in our today’s world. Calligraphy is for the artist much more than scripture as she explains: “I consider the art of calligraphy as painting. I am interested in shapes and lines. Is not the beautifully written word an inspiration to speak?”

The least one can say is that Iman Mahmuds’ pictorial worlds made of beautiful words inspire us to observe.


Iman Mahmud  (born in Iraq) lives and works in Munich. Attending art school and art academy in Baghdad.

Exhibitions (selection): “Between two Cultures”, Katar (2012); Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2012 und 2013); “Contemporary Art from Iraq”, Dubai (2012/2013); “European Patent Office”, Munich (2016); Airport Gallery Munich (2017).

Artist in Residence, AB Galerie Luzern, Switzerland (2010)

Purchases by private and public collections: Baghdad Museum, British Museum London, Collection „Art of Writing Collection“.

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