Kul II / Photo 20
Nasser al Salem is a Saudi architect who has had a passion for calligraphy since the age of 6. (athrart.com, 2014). Khalid Akil, born and raised in Syria also moved away from his educational background in law to pursue his passion in photography. (khalidakil.com, 2011). From a series titled Kul, Al Salem shows the perfect blend of his schooling in architecture and passion in calligraphy in his piece Kul II. Akil also works with a series of black and white images titled The Unmentioned consisting of photos form Syria, one of which is photo 20. In Kul II, Al Salem emphasizes on the importance of one’s perspective by continuously changing the dimensions of the single word ‘Kul’, meaning everything, to verify its significance from different angels. Mr. Akil’s use of a troubled individual, with his back half turned towards a wall covered with advice, depicts how generations continue to echo their ancestor’s mistakes despite being warned. Artists of both pieces have intelligently used the powerful tool of typography to communicate very vast philosophies.
In Kul II, Mr. Al Salem tries to create a virtual space using the characters of his text. By adjusting the dimensions of each letter, with every step forward he creates a foreground of text and a background of a path that one should follow in order to see life from different perspectives. With the use of specifically Arabic typography, Al Salem’s artwork reaches out to an extremely wide audience. As opposed to focusing on the Saudi community alone, he calls out to the entire Middle East, thus confirming the power of typography. Mr. Akil however, uses a similar approach yet preaches a different message. He photographs a wall camouflaged with excessive amount of text that may be read as advice. By using Arabic excerpts from the Islamic holy book, he sends out these messages of guidance to the entire Muslim community. Displaying how despite the overflow of advice, most of it is being wasted. The overwriting also displays the loss of such an important message that is the word of God. However the wall being situated in center of Syria gives the audience another chance to learn from their mistakes. Once the generation begins to understand, the city shall embellish. Therefore, the typography not only aids the development of the city and its people, it also fulfills the criteria of being adornments to the streets. Mr. Akil also provokes the audience by changing the orientation of the text on the wall from horizontal to vertical to show how at times one must change the way they look at things in order to understand more.
Mr. Al Salem takes a confident step, as he incorporates no other element in his artwork other than the letters themselves. By correct placement of the typography, coupled with the meaning of the word ‘Kul’, the final execution of the artwork is successful. This leaves the audience aware of the fact that with a change in perspective, ‘everything’ can be achieved. Hence these two elements do justice in communicating the significance of the artwork and require no additional elements. Khaled Akil incorporates a more traditional method of gaining ones attention, by using the contrasts between black and white. A dark shaded wall covered with bright white text instantly tells the audience where the message of the artwork lies. He also illustrates small sketches behind all the text to show how advice has been given in many different ways, yet is still overlooked. Hence these sketches remain hidden under overlapping text depicting how most have not even realized their presence.
At times a change of perspective may take the audience through a series of disappointments, until one stage proves to be satisfactory. Al Salem shows these different stages in his artwork, as bridges to different insights with the curve of every character. These ripples inform the reader that there is no end, as one must keep trying after every rise and fall. Eventually stepping back and seeing the entire composition from a distance, one shall realize the various stages they went through. When rotating the canvas 90 degrees, Al Salem illustrates a repetitive outline of a lens, hence proving, the piece is meant to be looked at in perspective. Once again, reaffirming his point on how a slight change in ones viewpoint can change an overall interpretation of a matter. On the other hand, Khalid Akil portrays a man, simple in nature, in order to represent all sons of Adam. He appears to be disappointed by the generations with his glance towards the floor. Akil adds a twist to the attire of the old man by dressing him in a mix of western clothing combined with a turban. By doing so he proves to us how at times regardless of how much one is guided by tradition; some things are bound to change. In Akil’s photograph he also begins to fade the text, yet some parts remain bright. Demonstrating how the generations are continuing to hold on tight to their traditions, whether it is visible or not.
Typography has proved to be an extremely beneficial tool, when used cleverly by both artists, in communicating extremely diverse ideas. Whether it be the surplus use of text, or the spacing between each character, both techniques give a whole new insight into the artist’s mind. An extra touch of contrast and change of perspective, allows the audience to focus exactly where the artists desires, therefore fully appreciating the complexity of each artwork’s meaning.