The Liverpool Arab Arts Festival 2016 was a feast for the eyes; I absolutely loved photographing it. But, for all the colour and music and sensory overload, it was one of the quieter artists who stood out for me: Nazir Tanbouli.

Nazir is an Egyptian-born artist, now living in London. For the festival, he brought his ‘drawing performance’ first to the World Museum and then the Bluecoat art centre. In these drawing performances, Nazir creates of a piece of art whilst in a state of mindfulness-like meditation. His art is calligraphy-based, inspired by the Arabic script.

Nazir begins with a huge sheet of plain white paper taped to the floor, and, using a decorator’s paintbrush and extension pole, starts to make calligraphic marks and strokes on the paper in black ink. He then moves around the entire sheet of paper until he’s completely covered it. He’ll be completely absorbed in the work, the piece evolving by itself as time went on. No forward planning, no first draft.

It was really quite mesmerising to watch Nazir moving back and forth, dipping the brush in the ink, making marks until a clean sheet of paper was covered in art. And as someone who finds it harder to express myself with the written language than with my photography, it was inspiring to see him create art out of language. It was great fun photographing him as well; capturing not only the piece of work building up, but Nazir’s movement and concentration. I brought home so many photos – it was an immensely difficult job, whittling this essay down to just a handful of photos.


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