You know what’s cool? When two unexpected styles, flavors or moods mesh together and become something surprisingly complimentary.
Arab calligraphy mixed with urban street graffiti are disciplines that are as different as chalk and cheese but by combining the two, revolutionary Tunisian artist eL Seed always manages to create an intricate, artistic harmony and a unique sense of freshness.
His most famous artwork is the 2012 piece on a minaret of the Jara Mosque, which depicted a Quranic verse rendered in his famous Calligraffiti style.
Since then, Seed’s art has been shown in exhibitions all over the world . His work pops everywhere in various Tunisian cities as well as São Paulo, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Dubai …even spotted along the walls of Coney Islands in Brooklyn!
He’s held workshops at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar and at Harvard University. El Seed has also done a limited edition collaboration of decorated luggage with international fashion maison Louis Vuitton.
Upon looking at his murals, there’s definitely a youthful and almost bohemian spirit that represents core principles such as truth, freedom and beauty. “I have a soft spot for graffiti because it brings art to everyone. I like the idea of democratizing art and bringing it to the people so it is accessible to all.” he explained.
I had the pleasure of speaking to eL Seed at the Mall of Emirates House of Bazaar event a couple of weeks ago to chat a little more about his artistic inspirations.
eL Seed was born in 1981 in Paris, France. During the 90′s he found himself going through an identity crisis and wanted to explore his Arab roots further, so he took up practicing traditional calligraphy. Being new to this field, he was not aware that Arab calligraphy can have very strict rules because of the association of the Quran and connotations of religion.
eL Seed is known for pushing boundaries and often questions the concept of traditional. Because of this , he has accumulated a few critics and gathered a little bit of controversy from people who are more conservative. He doesn’t consider himself a calligrapher and more of a contemporary artist and so he feels that he does not need to abide to all of these strict regulations surrounding traditional calligraphy.
Although he is inspired by the art form, he urges people to see his work in a broader way, as an expression of poetry and art which is the way he intended it to be perceived.
Most of the feedback on his work has been overwhelmingly positive, as people are seduced by the fascinating juxtaposition of Arab Calligraphy and graffiti art making him the pioneer that he is today.
I was curious about Calligraffiti and so I asked him about how he developed his own style. He replied that he is reluctant to claim that he invented this new fusion and so he isn’t possessive or considers it exclusively his own style. He prefers to think of it as simply taking an art form and reinterpreting it. He said that it happened very naturally and organically, while exploring his themes. “Art is for everyone and no one can claim ownership of a particular style.” He explains.
eL Seed has been experimenting with other mediums like sculpture but still cites graffiti street art as his favorite way to express himself. “I like the energy, spontaneity of it all and how interactive it is. He said. The beauty of street art is how it brings people together, for all to enjoy and appreciate. ”