Ahmed Moustafa originally trained as a figurative artist in the neoclassical European tradition, drawing his inspiration primarily from Renaissance masters. It was a chance remark by one of his tutors in England that set him on the rediscovery of his Islamic roots. The tutor felt that, although Moustafa was extremely talented, his art failed to express his identity as an Egyptian, an Arab and a Muslim. The comment was to set him thinking and to initiate an academic investigation into the theory of proportional script. In the course of his research he went back one thousand years to the Abbasid time, when Muslim scholars based their Arabic letter shapes on a particular system of proportions. In Mustafa’s words: “the 19 shapes that form the 28 Arabic letters manifest a proportional system by which they are aesthetically proportioned to one another and indirectly manifesting the very laws that govern the cosmos. The entire cosmic laws are governed by proportional system. If you look at everything organic it is underpinned by exact geometry. During my investigation it was almost as if I went back to school. But also my pictorial training was never wasted. I was able to live in this abstract geometrical world whilst relating it to beauty.” This research has led him to creating a variety of Arabic typefaces as well as giving talks on the science of beauty in Arabic calligraphy, most recently in Doha.
Underderlying these activities is his strong Islamic belief which enables him to create images of the most intense complexity, yet these images frequently have an aesthetic and spiritual appeal to those with little or even no understanding of their meaning. Mustafa’s work is now almost exclusively devoted to abstract compositions, inspired by texts from the Koran. He has created an astonishingly rich visual vocabulary through an innovative fusion of his skills as a painter, a master scribe in the tradition of Islamic penmanship.
His study of Islamic calligraphy is painstaking, intricate, deeply scientific as well as artistic. The calligraphic journey Moustafa has travelled for the last ten years will culminate in an impressive book to be published by Thames and Hudson, lavishly illustrating the geometry of Arabic script in technical detail, accompanied by a host of spectacular technicolour illustrations.
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