The Artist

Joumana Medlej was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. A graphic designer by training, with experience in print and multimedia, Joumana long craved for more meaningful expressions of creativity. She received the essence of Kufi, the first script of Arabic calligraphy, from master calligrapher Samir Sayegh, through years of close collaboration. From him she learned to find a contemporary language for this ancient art, rather than copying old forms

Upon moving to London in 2013, Joumana dedicated herself entirely to working with Kufi. Her own practice and research brought her to a deep understanding of the script. Namely, to put it very briefly, that Kufi was consciously designed with proportions and geometry so that gazing upon it would bring the soul closer to the Divine (a teaching going back to the Pythagoreans); and that the script was often not meant to be read, but was used to create images out of pure meaning — images referring the viewer not to the world of forms but to a cosmic order beyond human experience.

These qualities of the script inform Joumana’s work, which is less about personal expression than about revealing an archetypal order. Through her personal approach to Kufi, themes from Sufism, alchemy and Jungian studies weave together in an exploration of the invisible world.

This ongoing journey is paired with a quest for expressivity in materials, bringing together the ancient science of hand-grinding pigments with the potential of modern laser-cutting.

Joumana’s work is found in private and public collections in the UK, the USA and the Middle-East. She teaches at the Arab-British Centre in London.

Education

Diploma in Traditional Arts (Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Alchemy of Paint, Geometry and World Art, Icon Painting of the Prosopon School, Art of Egg Painting and Gilding) from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, 2013

BGD (Bachelors of Graphic Design), American University of Beirut, 2001
(A four year program studying experimental methodologies in graphic and communication design. Areas of emphasis: graphic and communication design, publications, packaging, corporate identity, retail design, illustration, animation, typography (Latin/Arabic), interactive and web design.)

Exhibitions

  • Arab Women Artists Now festival, London, March 2016
  • “Lighting the Darkness” with Alan Craxford  and Lynette Howells-Moore, London, December 2015.
  • Work included in “Signs, Traces and Calligraphy” by Rose Issa, Beirut, 2015
  • Work included in “Great Lebanese Painters of the Jihad and Farouk Abillama Collection”, Beirut, 2014
  • Sharjah Art Museum’s 5th Summer Art Festival, 2014
  • Kuwait’s 6th International Islamic Arts Convention, 2013-14
  • Art•Marylebone Art Fair, London, 2013
  • Maktoob: Contemporary Calligraphy exhibit, Maasser Beiteddine, Lebanon, 2012
  • Photography exhibit in Art Lounge, 2006
  • Art exhibit in ADG, Gemmayze, 2005.
  • Art exhibit in Salon-de-Provence, France, December 2004.
  • Art exhibit in JABAL, Musée Paul Guiragossian, November 2004.
  • Art exhibit in ADG, Gemmayze, 2004.
  • Private art exhibit in Tokyo, 2004.

Collections

  • Gallery One, King Abdulaziz Center for World Cultures, KSA
  • The Jihad and Farouk Abillama Collection

Professional Experience

(selected)

  • Consultant for Apple Inc. March-December 2016
  • Calligraphy workshops at Badr International Study Centre, University of Manchester, UCL since 2014
  • Designs for BBC Arabic Aan Korb awards, October 2014
  • Tutor in Creative Calligraphy at the Arab British Centre, London, since April 2014
  • Contributor, Tuts+ online courses 2013-2016
  • Assistant to master calligrapher Samir Sayegh 2007-2012, including work for the Royal Hashemite Court and collaboration with the Sharjah Biennale.
  • Senior art director, Concept artist, Game designer for Quirkat, 2007-2012
  • Storyboards and illustration work for H&C Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, and other ad agencies 2001-2012
  • Author, illustrator and publisher of the graphic novel Malaak: Angel of Peace 2006-2016, and the comic strip Driving in Lebanon.
  • Co-author, illustrator and translator for a series of educational children’s books, Lebanese Heritage (13 titles in French and English)
  • Assistant professor, Computer Animation, AUB fall ’02-03
  • Future TV Animation Department and Zen TV Public Awareness Campaign, 2001-2002
  • Freelance writer (French and English) and photographer Femme Magazine, Noun, The Daily Star, other publications 2000-2010

Lectures

  • Living With Mystery panel at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, March 2016
  • Festival d’Angoulême, 2013
  • The Hay Festival, 2012
  • Festival International de Bande Dessinée d’Algérie, 2011
  • Geekfest Dubai 2011
  • Pecha Kucha 2010
  • United Nations – ESCWA Workshop on Delivery of E-Services in Civil Society, 2009

Press

Recent interviews:

Work appeared in the following publications between 1999 and 2012:

  • Lebanon: Lebanon Traveler, RAGMAG, Absolute Beirut, an-Nahar, Noun, NOW Lebanon, Sayidaty, Alinea, L’Orient-Le Jour, Lebrecord.com, Al Anwar, Aïshti Magazine, Cedarwings, Femme Magazine
  • International: KULCHA magazine, Gulf Life Magazine, El Bendir (Algeria), El Watan (Algiers), Libano em Revista (Brazil), babelMed.net, Nox, Designers’ Desktop 3 (Japan), Academix (Canada), Elle Oriental, El Mundo (Spain), Idées de Cadre (France), Kul al ‘Usra (UAE), MacLife (Germany), Websites 100% loaded (published by Feierabend), MacPeople Japan, Mac Fan (Japan)

TV appearances 2001-2012:

  • Lebanon: al-Hurra (al-Yawm), Mtv, LBC (Bi Beirut, Helwe w Murra, Naharkom Sa3eed, Eich Toumouhatak, Tea Time), New TV (Nataloo), Orbit (Uyoun Beirut), Zen TV (Dardashat)
  • International: Medi1Sat, U.S. National Public Radio (The World)