Calligraphy, the art of beautiful handwriting has fascinated people all over the world through the ages. It is no wonder that artists drew inspiration from classical masterpieces and reinvented the art of calligraphy using their creative abilities, ideas, and skills.
Rashid Arshed, one of the earliest exponents of contemporary calligraphy in Pakistan, has made many pieces consistently since the late sixties. He barely uses simple words or phrases that are readable or have literal relevance, in fact he plays with the script and forms of the words and reinvents something which is visually pleasing to the human eye, not seen by anyone ever before.
Arshed states, “I draw my inspiration from old manuscripts, architectural inscriptions, decrees, emblems, coins and seals. I explore pictorial characteristics of calligraphy and transform them into a modern painting, where the emphasis is on form, linear rhythm, color and texture. I ask my audience not to try to read my paintings but enjoy them like any work of art”.
Though his work is drawn from the art of linear writing and historical forms, he still succeeds in discovering his own distinctive style which expresses new possibilities and potentialities of using Urdu letters and lettering as an object to create outstanding compositions. His work evolved more than four decades ago and since then has flourished in numerous vibrant paintings having uniqueness, imagination and amazing artistic expression. This expression defines his style as an artist and differentiates him from other painters of landscapes, figures and even calligraphy.
Human beings react to forms and texts with their senses. In his paintings, one can feel the movement and playfulness of Urdu letters from various classical scripts placed in an infinite metamorphosis of layered expression. Rashid Arshed's paintings are not only aesthetically pleasing but also draw the viewer deeper into seeking their illegible and mysterious world. His work unfolds the rhythms in the scripts, which can be seen and felt by the art lovers.
Rashid has written three books, covering various issues and concepts. The first book was called “Jungle main Mangal” in which social and political issues were discussed in a subtle manner. The second one, “Zair-o-Zabar”, defined the concepts of Iraq and Afghan wars and how wars on terrorism have affected us and literally turned our lives upside down. The third book, titled “Teesri Kitab”, is comprised of a large number of sayings and quotations, beautifully explained with the narrative.
Rashid Arshed is an artist with extraordinary talents and influencing people is one of them. He has been a mentor for many amateur artists, art lovers and critics since long and is considered as a walking encyclopaedia of art.