Different strokes

The Asian Age.  | Sudeshna Banerjee

Life, More Features

Pictorial calligrapher Qamar Dagar shows how every stroke of her brush brings out a new meaning.

Usha by Qamar Dagar

For Qamar Dagar word is the most sublime creative force.

Learning new languages fascinates her. It gives a new meaning to her art – pictorial calligraphy – a form that displays a finer artistic realm rather than stylishly written words. One cannot miss the artwork — Uaday (The Rise) — on the wall of her living room. It’s nothing less than the altar of the divine. And divinity reflects all through her work.

A recent display of her works at Capital’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, on Mahatma Gandhi – the father of the nation, got her rave reviews.

Based on the theme she brought out a completely different connotation to her work Swaraj or “home-rule” as coined by Gandhiji. “I delved into Gandhiji’s spiritual side and wanted to present his views through my work. The work Yog (to join) that often relates to the term yoga and meditation, talks about creating balance in life. It’s also a Gandhian philosophy. So was Swaraj. It depicted the use of indigenous material, something that Gandhiji greatly propagated,” she recalls.

Qamar’s style is very different from the rest. She uses a beautiful blend of Hindi and Urdu to communicate. What evolves is a piece of fine art that touches the depths of our senses.

The works are mostly kept in private collections in India as well as abroad. She has had many solo exhibitions.

Born in Delhi, Qamar, , who belongs to the Dagar family, exponents of Dhrupad,  was always drawn to visual arts, writing, painting and poetry, both in Hindi and Urdu.

Her spiritual guru Hazrat Amin Abdullah Khan ‘Baba’ is said to have taught her the potency of simplicity over elaboration. She simply picks up a letter from a word and elaborates it to a stage it become the focal point. One can see that example in every work. To her, letters are complete designs. Moreover, she will see different usages of words too in her work.

“I like to look at their usage and expand the real meaning through different strokes. Every stroke brings out a new meaning,” she smiles as she explains the whole phenomenon.

What started as painting during school days at Sardar Patel School followed by posters for the Dhrupad Society, helped her traverse a different path in pictorial calligraphy. “Making 50 posters a day, gave me the confidence. And of course my guru guided me to this path,” she remembers.

Qamar Dagar

An extremely intricate and beautiful piece of calligraphy by Hazrat Amin Abdullah Khan ‘Baba’ hangs on the wall, which he is known to have finished within an hour, according to Qamar.

Following her graduation in Sociology from Delhi University, Qamar got inspired to work in calligraphy by Paris-based Iraqi master calligrapher Hassan Massoudy while Mohammad Elbaz of Morocco is known to have helped her cultivate a deeper understanding of the art form.

As Qamar recalls, “I was introduced to him by my late father. When I first saw Hassan Massoudy’s work, it did not seem like a script. He is one of the best Arabic calligraphers. He transcends borders of all kinds and that’s what is so special about his work. It is aesthetically appealing and very meaningful as he also interprets proverbs of other cultures into his work.”

She remembers him telling her once, “Ask yourself if it’s of the Dagar lineage when you write something…” And that was quite a compliment coming from Massoudy, she feels.

Mohammad Elbaz is another famous Moroccon calligrapher based out of Paris, who has deeply influenced her work. “I have known him for a very long time and he too encourages me to follow my heart so that it reflects in my work,” Qamar says.

As founder of Qalamkaari Creative Calligraphy Trust (2011), Delhi, Qamar has organised and curated many international calligraphy festivals. She is committed to working towards making creative and tradional calligraphy known the world as an important visual art.

For this artist calligraphy is part of our daily life. “It is important that we revive this beautiful art form that is dying with the advent of digital art. The intricacies and aesthetics cannot be compared to digital art.”