KUALA LUMPUR: According to Britannica, the word “calligraphy”, or the art of beautiful writing, may have come from the Greek for beauty (“kallos”) and “to write” (“graphein”). This is certainly apt, given the elegance inherent in calligraphy.
Then there’s typography, the art of arranging letters and text in a way that makes copy visually appealing. And from today until Nov 30, ArtVoice, a collective of emerging and mid-career artists, is bringing both worlds together in “The Truth Untold: an exhibition of Tamil Typography and Calligraphy”.
Held at its gallery in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, the exhibition features works by 20 artists, in various forms such as paintings, photographs, ceramics, sculptures, and art installations. These were curated by Stephen Menon, the founder of ArtVoice.
“The exhibition underscores the significance of cultural heritage, presenting a groundbreaking showcase of Tamil typography and calligraphy. Notably, it is a collaborative effort, with contributors from diverse backgrounds, emphasising the inclusive power of art,” said Menon, 51.
Among them is abstract artist Sharini Yogi, whose installation will be titled “Identity”. She was still in the process of creating the artwork when met with FMT Lifestyle, but shared that it will be ready for the viewing public after Deepavali.
“My work, as with most of the works here, will show the importance of our heritage and how Tamilians should be rooted in their tradition, just like any other culture,” she said.
The 37-year-old, who is also the gallery manager, wishes for viewers to “explore the richness of the Tamil language” through her creation. “It is a very ancient language,” she added.
Indeed, it is said that the earliest Tamil inscriptions date back to the fifth century BCE. Yet, Sharini believes one should take pride in the ability to read and write Tamil in this era. “It’s very important that we pass it down to the next generation.”
There is another unique aspect to this exhibition: among the 20 talents is a Malay and a Chinese artist, who are presenting their interpretations of Tamil typography and calligraphy.
“Being in a country with many races, such diversity, it’s important to include them. We are showing that we are all one,” Sharini noted.
To that end, sculpture artist Mat Ali Mat Som is showcasing “Damai”, an artwork made of metal and wood, inspired by the Tamil alphabet and the pronunciation of the letters. He also likes nature, which he has incorporated into the sculpture.
And while the 47-year-old is experienced in Arabic calligraphy, he told FMT Lifestyle that working with the Tamil language was new to him.
Still, he said “yes” to challenge himself to create outside of his comfort zone – and also because he finds this exhibition “very unique”.
“When you hear the words ‘Tamil calligraphy’, you might imagine it’s for Indians only. But we also have a Chinese and myself, a Malay; we’re showing our Malaysian unity. Even in the midst of political chaos, our multiracial uniqueness is strong,” he said.
Similarly, photographer Choy Khye Fatt decided to participate even though he is more accustomed to Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. He did his research and titled his work “Genesis”, or the beginning, as it involves the first of 247 letters in the Tamil alphabet.
Choy, too, believes it is important to preserve and shed further awareness on the beauty of Tamil typography and calligraphy. Echoing the sentiments of his fellow artists, the 70-year-old said: “Malaysia is such a rich nation with a multiracial composition. That is fundamental, the strength of Malaysia.
“We are rich with abundance,” he emphasised, “it’s just that sometimes, we tend to forget.”
‘The Truth Untold: an exhibition of Tamil Typography and Calligraphy’
28, Jalan Kovil Hilir, Sentul,
51100 Kuala Lumpur
- Today until Nov 30, 10am-6pm
- Closed on Mondays and tomorrow for Deepavali
Entry is free but prior booking is required. For appointments, kindly contact Stephen Menon at 016-932 2877.
Learn more about ArtVoice Gallery on Instagram.