Exposition Art Blog: Maliheh Afnan - Language and Calligraphy

Maliheh Afnan - Language and Calligraphy

Maliheh Afnan ( 1935 –  2016) was a Palestinian-born artis
As a child, Afnan was fascinated by written language and calligraphy. Her own mail came to her home in three languages- Arabic, English, and Hebrew. However, at the time, she couldn’t read or write, and would instead fill pages with invented writing. This trend continued into her present works, where imagined writing and numbers are always present -- even in the landscapes. “I love looking at scripts,” She said. “They excite me visually and excite me even further when I can’t read then because then it’s so much more mysterious and they could be so many other things, rather than some banal statement.” Later in life, she pulled more inspiration from Mark Tobey, who worked in abstract script. He mentored her while she visited Switzerland.
While she did not express herself or works as being inherently political, Afnan was influenced by the world. During the Lebanese Civil War, she “took a blowtorch to” her art. She says her work is composed of traces of the past -- not just hers, but the past of her family and predecessors as well.Her work is mostly done on paper, with palettes composed of browns, blacks, reds and browns. People have compared it to ancient scrolls and tablature. She pulled from a variety of influences, likely due to her upbringing in middle eastern culture and her education and later life in the western world.Afnan talked about her work as having layers, and enjoyed the idea of the “layers” of life showing themselves in her work. She demonstrated her pieces having the layers of old civilizations, and said her layers of color are similar to layers of the sun lain over the paper.While she isn’t as known for them, Afnan also worked with plaster reliefs. She would create a mold and fill it with plaster, removing it once it is dry. She painted over the plaster using “earth colors, burnt, rust colors.”
She also created what one might call portraits, instead calling them personages. While portraits have specific models, hers are not of any person in particular. She referred to them as amalgamations of people she has known, people she has seen, and people she has imagined.Wikipedia

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