Arabic is called لغة الضاد, “the language of Ḍad“, because this letter exists in no other language. Whether that’s absolutely true, I don’t know, but it is certainly an unusual sound, a deep D from the throat. The numerical value of ض is 800, so I set out to create a pattern out of 800 letters, not mechanically but with a bamboo reed and ink, and no margin for any error. In a reversal of the deadening trend of traditional calligraphy, which consists in training the hand till it mechanically draws the exact same character every time, I gave each of these hundreds of letters my full attention and intention, looking for its essence through imperceptible variations from one to the other: lengthening the tail, narrowing or widening the space inside the letter, rounding the angles. In the changing thickness of the lines, you can read the wearing out and re-cutting of the reed. The result is that they are all the same letter, but they are still all unique. This also created a variegated texture, with the feel of cloth hand-woven out of coarse-spun thread.
Amusingly, before I could add the dot that distinguishes Ḍad, I had to write eight hundred Ṣad, initial letter of sabr (“patience”)…
You can watch me creating this piece from beginning to end in this short movie: