Islam News – Today’s Doodle celebrates Palestinian-born artist Maliheh Afnan, who is widely regarded among the most significant Middle Eastern artists of the 20th century. In what she called “written paintings,” her artifact-style mixed media explores themes such as exile and displacement while acknowledging Middle Eastern conflicts and the influence of her cultural heritage. The Institute of Contemporary Arts in Milan featured Afnan’s 1979 piece “Wartorn” in a virtual group exhibition “The Symmetry of Fragility,” which ended on this day in 2020.
Maliheh Afnan was born in Haifa, Palestine on March 24, 1935, before her family sought refuge from war in Beirut, Lebanon in 1949. Afnan was fascinated with written language as a child and filled pages with imaginary text and numbers, developing a striking style of abstract calligraphy. She moved to the U.S. in 1956 to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
Afnan graduated from an M.F.A. program in 1962, during which her infusion of Arabic and Persian script into assignments motivated a teacher to introduce her to American calligraphic artist Mark Tobey. Afnan cold-called Tobey, who became her mentor and facilitated her first European solo exhibition in 1971–a turning point in what grew into an over 50-year career. She returned to Beirut in 1974, but the civil war forced her to move to Paris before finally settling in London in 1997.
Today, Afnan’s collections can be found in galleries across the Middle East, in numerous European museums, and in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.