Follow Vogue Arabia

Iraqi Calligrapher Wissam Shawkat on Collaborating with Van Cleef & Arpels on a Special Ramadan Artwork

The Perlée collection. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

With two collaborations, Van Cleef & Arpels has taken an artistic route to convey the values of the Holy Month of Ramadan. This season, the French luxury jeweler has teamed up with French visual artist Arthur Hoffner and Iraqi calligraphy artist Wissam Shawkat on two artworks — each one emanating harmony.

Wissam Shawkat photographed by Alin Constantin for VCA Calligraphy Commission 2021 Winner Coverage. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

Championing local talent, Van Cleef & Arpels enlisted Iraqi calligraphy artist Wissam Shawkat to create a series of artworks inspired by the spherical beads of the Perlée collection. The artwork titled Pearls Radiant Harmony unifies three individual designs, with each of them embodying the ethos of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr. “Ramadan, for me, means a time when people all come together and help each other. It purifies the heart and helps us enlighten from within. It’s a time to give more and get less,” says Shawkat.

Vogue Arabia caught up with the artist to learn more about the collaboration and how the artwork came to be.

How did the Perlée collection inspire the design?

The artwork is inspired by the perfectly spherical beads of the Perlée collection, harmoniously coming together to create unity in an enchanting world. The Perlée collection has always been a symbol of joy and femininity, a celebration of delicate golden beads. I’ve strived to bring together the harmony of the season with the enchantment found in Van Cleef & Arpels’ creative universe, shedding light on the maison‘s values of unity and positivity.

The design process took approximately two and a half months as we worked together to translate the harmony of the season through a collective vision.

It has been an absolute pleasure to design this artwork, and I’m very happy with the outcome. I look forward to sharing this artwork with my family and friends in the art world during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Pearls Radiant Harmony by Wissam Shawkat. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

You have created three designs and weaved them into one. What was your thought process behind this? 

Using my unique calligraphy style, called the Al Wissam style, I unified the three designs to showcase harmony across the artworks. I have also used different stroke widths to create movement within the design. The stroke shapes and forms resemble the crescent and circular moon, a key symbol associated with Ramadan. The calligraphic style remains united and consistent with the rest of the campaign while giving this master artwork design its unique look and feel. 

What are the words used in the designs, and what do they mean? 

The artwork titled Pearls Radiant Harmony comes as a reflection of the spherical beads that form the Perlée collection and is showcased in an illustrative and magical way while conveying the beautiful message of the season: “Let harmony bring us together to enlighten our lives.” Each word becomes a sphere in harmony with the next word; the strokes of calligraphy completing each other and unifying harmoniously to create an enchanting scene. The main word meaning “bring us together” is the largest circle and holds the whole design together. 

In your opinion, what is the significance of calligraphy?

Calligraphy is the artistic identity of the region. It became very widespread because of its connections to Islam and the writing of the Qur’an, so this is how it grew. Since the 1960s calligraphy has been practiced as a contemporary art form, but now it is becoming even more popular due to the internet.  

Photographed by Alin Constantin for VCA Calligraphy Commission 2021 Winner Coverage. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

What do you love the most about this collaboration?

There are a lot of common threads between my work and the values of the maison. Van Cleef & Arpels are artists in jewelry making, and I find my art so aligned with these efforts towards achieving excellence. The precision of the design, thought process, and craftsmanship are just a few things that align our values and ethos.

Just as the maison enchants us with new designs based on patrimonial creations, similarly, I strive to introduce a contemporary touch to an ancient art form through my work as an Arabic calligraphist. I seek to push the boundaries of creativity, strive for excellence, persevere to achieve perfection in the strokes and techniques of my work – these traits are aligned with the maison‘s mastery of its craftsmanship. It has been an amazing experience to have this opportunity to express my creative potential while aligning with the maison‘s values and artistic style.

This is the beginning of a long-term collaboration whose purpose is to give visibility to this art form as it will serve as an inspiration for the new generation of calligraphists. As an art form that is not only culturally relevant but also very important to the region, Van Cleef & Arpels aims to perpetrate Arabic calligraphy with a contemporary twist for emergent artists of the future, so that it is continued to be practiced and innovated in the years to come.

Photographed by Alin Constantin for VCA Calligraphy Commission 2021 Winner Coverage. Photo: Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

 Read Next: Meet the Winner of the Van Cleef & Arpels Middle East Emergent Designer Prize 2020

View All
Vogue Collection