World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 28 – Adnan Yahya

Adnan Yahya (1960) is a Palestinian artist who lives in Jordan. He is a great calligrapher. Recently he made a series of ten calligraphics inspired by Khalil Gibran’s poem ‘Your Children”.

It all started with a request to Yahya by Amsterdam gallery holder Ella Arps in 2013. ‘Can you draw a painting based on Gibran’s poem?’ Here the first lines of the poem:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Arabic calligraphy

Yahya liked the idea and instead of one painting he did ten. Yahya: ‘I lived the harmony of the poem word by word. Then I started making the calligraphies, one by one, each in its own shape.’ It wasn’t the first time that he drew a painting to a poem of Gibran. He made them also to other famous poems, of Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al Qasim and Maeen Bseiso.

‘I am fond of Arabic calligraphy since I was young. I can write all types of Arabic fonts properly.  By steady practise I was able to capture strength in painting them. My long experience allowed me to process design elements. In this way I developed this new style of artwork.’

Light and shadow play a big role in calligraphy. Yahya’s application is much indebted to Rembrandt, who was a master in this subject. ‘I admire his style. I even use the same style of light and shadow in my figurative works.’ Two years ago, Yahya visited the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. ‘It was one of my happiest moments to see the original works of both artists that I admire so much.’  

Breathing letters

In this series of ten paintings he tried not only to make abstract characters out of letters, but creatures, movable objects that can perform. Play, dance or sing. Sometimes hidden, at other places surprisingly peeping up. ‘The creatures can look like trees, or animals, or even humans. Some who see the works may see a garden of flowers. I tried to make an epic story. While making it, I imagined that the characters, the letters, were breathing. It was not easy to do. There were no laws reigning here. It was far out the familiar.’  

Arabic fonts follow certain patterns. Yahya deviated away from these patterns already from 2009 on. ‘It is unusual in calligraphy, something new.’ In 2010 and 2012 there were two succesful exhibitions in Jordan with the newest design of calligraphy ever. ‘I attracted numerous art collectors. In addition I was awarded the first Prize on Calligraphy in a global art competition held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.’   

Francisco Goya

Yahya is an artist since childhood. ‘I was the artist of the classroom, then I became the artist of the school.’ The school was in Jericho, Palestine, where his parents had land and a house. Later on the family moved to grandfather’s house in Jordan. ‘I lived the migration life. That was great suffering.’

He was an eager pupil in and outside school. ‘I gained my art education and culture by reading, by searching for all kinds of artwork of artists from the whole world. I am fond of art because it deals with humanitarian issues.The most I liked the Spanish artist Francisco Goya: especially after my graduation from Art College in 1980.’    

Francisco Goya painted the horrors of the Spanish civil war in the beginning of the 19th century. These horrors reverberated in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.  ‘This shocked me. It affected me thus that I painted a lot of works reflecting the suffering faces, arms and legs separated from slaughtered bodies. Many of the victims weren’t connected to politics, they were just Palestinians.’

Role for artists

Yahya feels himself related to humanitarian issues first. ‘I love the human person regardless gender, race or religion. The human person confirms human existence. The most beautiful thing in life is a human being who thinks wise. I like civil life with all its aspects. I admire the persons who dream on peace for mankind. At the same time the worst is war. I deeply hate military presence and activity, regardless its nationality.  I love the bulldozer if it helps building a house, I detest the tank.’   

Artists should have a major role. ‘I believe that artworks are like religion. Paintings, sculpture, calligraphy, music, they all are important in the refinement of human ethics. This applies to the social, moral and political aspects of life. I sometimes wonder to see how much Beethoven is still alive. People talk about Picasso as if he is among us.  Also Mahmoud Darwish is still there. I wish for myself as well that I can stay alive beyond my present age. To live for over 500 years. And to give a message of humanity.’  

‘This is what Louis Daumier did. I love him for that. I loved Rodin, the most international sculptor, next to Alberto Giacometti. I deeply hope that the world retains my works safely, if possible in a private museum.   I am thankful to Ella Arps for my exhibition in the Netherlands in July 2014. Now I am working on a collection of calligraphy that will be exhibited on January 6 2015 in Jordan, at the Foresight Gallery.’ 




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