“Calligraphy Dreaming”

"Calligraphy Dreaming" by Mark Jahnke

"Calligraphy Dreaming" by Mark Jahnke

For this assignment, I initially took the concept of taking Islam and molding it to a local setting, and imagined how Aboriginal Australians might adapt the calligraphy into their traditional dot artwork and paintings.  This medium seemed natural for a variety of reasons.  Similar to the pointillist movement of Western art, dot painting consists of a level of detail that makes little sense when viewed close up, but becomes clear when seen as a part of the big picture.  This idea resonates with me in that it is important to be able to approach Islam with both a big picture approach and an in-depth approach.  In addition, dot paintings can completely overwhelm the senses, just as a communion with Allah can do.

In the painting, I formed the characters from a plant.  This was to symbolize Allah being a source of life, and the fact that it is the only life in the desert setting of the painting symbolizes how faith in Allah can sustain a person in the most unforgiving of circumstances.  Partway through designing the painting I realized that I had also unintentionally made the plant appear similar to a paper crane, and I decided to keep that draft of the design to symbolize the peaceful roots and teachings of Islam.  I chose to make the calligraphy green because green is the color of Islam, and I chose to use only warm colors in the rest of the painting to make the contrasting green appear even more vivid in comparison to the earth tones of the rest of the painting.

The surroundings of the calligraphy are also significant.  The waves radiating outwards represent the Qur’an, and the order of colors in the waves vary to represent the different ways in which the Qur’an is interpreted.  Regardless of the interpretation, all the paths still lead to Allah.  The two rocks represent Judaism and Christianity, the other two people of the book, which are also along the path to Allah.  I also thought the rocks helped the symmetry of the painting.

Finally, in the bottom left-hand corner, I deliberately crossed two of the colors mid-row to represent an imperfection in the painting.  This refers to the tradition among many Muslim artists to leave small mistakes in their work because humans cannot be perfect, only Allah can.

The title is a reference to the fact that many titles of dot art include “Dreaming” in reference to the Aboriginal tradition that inspires the art.


Here are some images of the work in progress last night.  It took about two hours to get the calligraphy part, and about five more hours to finish the rest of the painting.

This was after about an hour or so I think


This was after two hours


This was with about two hours to go.

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