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Challenging Traditional Arabic Calligraphy, Ghaleb Hawila

Lebanese Arabic Calligraphy Artist Ghaleb Hawila, is fascinated by the endless possibilities of Arabic calligraphy which he seeks to approach it with a new eye. Ghaleb’s work comes from a deep understanding of Middle-Eastern heritage, spiritual paths, and continuous search for origin, cause and effect.

We talk to Ghaleb about challenging the norms of traditional Arabic and the emotions and concepts behind his work.

Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and your journey to becoming an artist?

It wasn’t clear, nor was it easy to prove myself in my society despite the early recognized talent from my childhood. So I fought my way out to make everyone believe in me, it’s an existential statement for me not only art, and I believe you can feel that in my work. Talking about war, I grew up between a traumatized generation of old wars in south Lebanon, till I witnessed many myself, lost my home, and understood the game better.

Your work actively challenges the norms of traditional Arabic calligraphy and turns it into extraordinary pieces of art. Can you tell us more about your vision and process?

As Previously said, I make war and statements in my work. I’m also not interested in anything ever done before, so I’m always driven by excellence and breaking my limits. Also fascinated by that which is not experimented yet, the potential. Yet you can notice my deep appreciation for classic calligraphy and masters, something that is growing each day. In a nutshell, my work is the thin line in the yin yang of Taoism, or it’s TOO HALAL FOR HARAM PEOPLE AND TOO HARAM FOR HALAL PEOPLE.

Whilst studying graphic design you came across a gap in typography, how did this influence your career?

Your question took me back to 2013. True that I found a big gap, and took it very seriously and personally. I also got addicted to practicing calligraphy and by no time I was known in Lebanon (the creative hub of design agencies) for my skills and was able to collaborate with acclaimed agencies on big projects along with well known talents. And this served me well since I couldn’t/didn’t work in any agency/company in my life. It all felt right. From a marketing and entrepreneurial point of view, It worked perfectly. And with years I've been educating myself even more and looking for more gaps that I can work on consistently.

Classical in essence, you manageto inject your own signature into each art piece. How did you create a unique recognizable style?

I believe the answer is very simple. By being true to myself and to each project/situation.

Does your audience need to understand Arabic when they view your work?

Yes and no. No, because I make sure to explain the concept and reasoning behind each work (which is debatable by artists/art) so people can understand the essence. Which can be understood in different forms and languages. And yes, because understanding Arabic language and/or calligraphy can give you an extra crisp depth to the understanding of my work. As if you’re admiring a song when you’re a musician.

What emotions do you hope your work conveys and what impact do you hope it has on the viewer?

Ideally to evoke emotions and thoughts. This is the first accomplishment for true art. Then the second layer would be depending on the piece or collection, as each artwork or collection tackles a different concept or idea. After all, going back to the essence, it’s to connect us on a human level beyond anything else.

Can you describe your creative process, and give us some insight into what goes through your head, from concept to creation?