Ali Hassan uses Arabic calligraphy as a subject of formal experimentation in paintings and mixed media works. A graduate of Qatar University, he worked as a calligrapher for a Qatari newspaper and has also studied restoration and graphic arts. Although he has employed the entire Arabic alphabet in his work, he has placed particular focus on the letter “noon” (“n”). Over the last two decades he has produced numerous works that investigate the multiple possibilities of this single letter, experimenting with its malleability and symbolism.
The work Noon evidences Hassan’s exploration of this letter and his more recent turn to portraiture and the walls of Doha. Ibn Arabi, the Arab Andalusian philosopher who was one of the most important figures of Sufism, viewed the Arabic letter “noon” as a symbol of human accomplishments. For Arabi, the half circle that gives form to the letter represents half of human existence and knowledge, while suggesting the unrepresented and inaccessible other half — the unknown — which would complete the circle. Although the half circle and central dot remain the organizing principle of Noon, its collaged, painted and cut up surface mimics the textures of urban walls. Inscribed in the here and now, Hassan’s work thus looks at the inexorable evolution of the world around us, both real and spiritual.