Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej celebrates UAE’s Golden Jubilee with unique calligraphic artwork


At first glance, it would be hard to say that Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej’s vibrant features in his latest work are in fact a form of calligraphy. Unlike the curved shapes commonly found in Arabic writing, its writing is fragmented, almost like confetti on the canvas. It’s so much his, in fact, that the artist calls him the “Mattar Font”.

The new abstract work, unveiled at the Etihad Museum on Tuesday, was made specifically for the UAE’s 50th National Day, which takes place on December 2.

Bin Lahej spent five years researching and creating over 28 Arabic letters and symbols for Mattar Font. He says that although he did not specialize in classic Arabic fonts such as Al-Thuluth or Req’ah or Nasikh, he researched them all, but also tried to forge his own style.

What makes the Mattar font unique is not only its abstract shapes, but also the way it breaks the tradition of nested letters in Arabic script. Instead, it borrows more from Japanese writing. “The moment of truth came to me when I realized that the Mattar font had to be abstract; letters are individual pieces that can be used intertwined or separated when creating words and phrases, a rarity in most Arabic fonts, but it is common in Japanese fonts, which are closer to my heart ”, said the artist.

For his painting at the Etihad Museum, the artist chose to render the lyrics of the UAE’s national anthem because they are, as the artist called them, “the perfect expression of love and belonging to my homeland ”.


His chosen color scheme was also very deliberate, selecting primary and secondary colors. “They reflect and communicate joy and happiness and at the same time add a touch of aesthetics and elegance. Personally, I like happy and joyful colors and it is a signature now recognized in my work and one of my values, ”he explained.

Bin Lahej has also worked with Italian clothing company Loro Piana, which specializes in luxury cashmere and wool products, and his painting will be the hallmark of a new series of the brand’s plaids. In total, 50 cashmere plaids will be made, each numbered and signed by the artist.

In addition, he also worked on a 3D stainless steel sculpture of his work which will be on display at the Loro Piana store in the Dubai Mall on Thursday, December 2 and will remain on view until the end of the month.

Prominent artist, Bin Lahej has previously worked with coins on a larger scale, including his gold and silver coins. Power of words sculptures in Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Watan, a cultural monument within the grounds of the Presidential Palace. For this work, he transformed quotes from Sheikh Zayed, the founding father, into immersive structures.

Update: November 24, 2021, 7:56 a.m.


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