In the beginning was the Word

Gallnut ink, Gold leaf on raised gesso, shell gold and historical pigment on paper. 42x58cm framed.
Based on 9th-c. Bibles from Jerusalem written in “Christian Kufic”. This type of early Kufi was never actually codified but offers some characteristic features that were amplified here to create a scriptural style.

Date7 May 2022

فِي الْبَدْءِ كَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ وَالْكَلِمَةُ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَكَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ اللَّهَ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

(The Arabic is from the SVD Arabic Bible, 1865)

This is another verse that simply must be included in a calligraphic collection, particularly alongside Say, if the seas were ink. More than any other piece in this series, this is a creative recreation, as I was imagining a hieratic form of one example of Kufi used in 9th century Palestinian Christian scriptures:

I wanted to treat the first word in a distinctive way referencing the gorgeous treatment of versals in western Bibles, with raised gold and wild tendrils, while still retaining a middle-eastern flavour. A key element is the vine, which appears in modest but charming form in the border designs above, and in this unusual decorative motif from a Qur’an:

Close-up on gilding with raised gesso:

The rest of the design, and the golden “beads” on the tendrils,are shell gold:

For the tendrils I used on lapis lazuli and azurite, two shades of blue. Red is normally prominent in both East and West, but I wanted to keep a predominantly blue-and-gold palette here to make this piece visually different from the others in the collection. What red touches there are are made with lac, which works beautifully over gold because it’s transparent (unlike vermilion) and for the same reason doesn’t look too bright on the white of the paper.


A penny for your thoughts...