“De l’art abstrait à l’art contemporain : signes et gestes calligraphiques chez les artistes du Moyen-Orient et du Maghreb”

Insaniyyat -  International Forum for Humanities and Social Sciences

Cité de la Culture – TICDCE Hubroom, Tunis

22.09.22 – 2-4 pm


After World War II, Paris continued to  attract artists from the MENA region. The form of abstraction that was developing then in Paris, particularly in the artistic networks gravitating around the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, created in 1946, could, for certain aspects, echo living traditions that were familiar to them.. The general historiography of gestural/lyrical abstraction and Art informel is rather silent about these artists and traditions. When analyzing the works of Georges Mathieu, Hans Hartung or Jean Degottex, it rather refers to East Asian arts. The works of these artists from the MENA region, some of whom were trained in calligraphy, are more often studied in terms of their original Arab, Turkish or Iranian « cultural area ». Historiography thus links them to the Hurufiyya (« Letterism », in Arabic), to the production of the Turkish school in Paris, or the work of singular Iranian artists, but takes little interest in their relations with the Parisian art scene. In the wake of the annual theme of the seminar of the research group on visual arts in the Maghreb and the Middle East, 19th-21st century (Arvimm) developed in 2020-2021 at IISMM-EHESS, and with the prospect of a collective publication, this workshop aims to question, from the individual trajectories of Middle Eastern artists, the relationship of the artistic gesture to calligraphy, the Arabic letter and the sign. It thus aims to release these artists from a culturalist approach and to reintegrate them into an international avant-garde.


More information here

Panel chair: Perin Emel Yavuz, CNRS
Panel discussant: Alain Messaoudi, University of Nantes


  • Zouina Ait Slimani Zouina, ENS, University of Geneva, (Suisse) Une approche de l’abstraction par le prisme de la théorie : le cas de Shakir Hassan Al Said (1925-2004) 
  • Silvia Naef, Université de Genève, Retour sur la hurūfiyya : entre lettres, lignes et signes 
  • Claudia Polledri, University of Montreal, Le geste calligraphique dans la photographie iranienne contemporaine  (online)
  • Perin Emel Yavuz, CNRS, Selim Turan : de la forme à l’informe aux confins d’une gestualité calligraphique  (online)