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Nasser Al Salem

BIOGRAPHY

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Nasser Al-Salem’s work is essentially the Arabic written word, therefore he is first and foremost a calligrapher. His practice pushes the boundaries of this age-old Islamic art by re-inventing it in non-conventional mixed media forms and by exploring its conceptual potential.


Nasser Al-Salem was born in the Holy City of Mecca in 1984. His family’s trade was tent-making and their business was located in the ‘first belt’ around the Haram Al-Sharif, and so Al-Salem spent the majority of his childhood within sight of the holy Ka’ba, helping his family sell tents to the myriad of pilgrims who came for Hajj.


He became interested in calligraphy from an early age and his parents signed him up for calligraphy classes, which took place every Friday in the Haram Al-Sharif itself. However, as calligraphy is not accepted as a profession in its own right in Saudi Arabia, Nasser received his formal education in Architecture at Um Al-Kora University in Mecca, and currently lives and works as an architect in Jeddah.


Al-Salem did not abandon his passion for calligraphy and continued to practice, taking part in community projects and calligraphy workshops and even winning a prize in 2009 in a Calligraphy and Fine Arts competition in Jeddah. He was discovered by Athr Gallery at this time, which supported the development of his practice and encouraged him to obtain his Ijaza.


In the tradition of calligraphy, Nasser’s work is devotional, It is inspired by the Kor’an and the tenets of his faith.  However, his subjects are far from the usual ‘Hamdillah’ (thanks be to God) and ‘Bismillah’ (in the Name of God) subjects of calligraphy. Nasser’s concepts venture far outside calligraphy’s traditional box of contents. His artworks shed light on verses and concept that lie outside the mainstream and that have particular resonance with him;


“I try to draw attention to the things that I find astonishing and awe-inspiring. These are usually things that people don’t notice, or pay attention to, so I try to bring them to life and to give them importance. Although you could say my work is very much inspired by my religion, I by no means have a specific audience, and hope that my messages have a spiritual or historical significance for everyone’


Al-Salem has exhibited internationally at ‘Edge of Arabia’ shows in Istanbul (20019) and Jeddah (2012) and he has also participated in the British Museum’s Hajj exhibition (2012), where not shortly after, his work “Zamzam” was acquired by the museum. He is actively involved in community calligraphy projects and in 2010, took second place at the Kingdom’s National Calligraphy competition. He is also a member of the National Guild of Calligraphers and is an active member of Saudi Arabia’s Arts and Culture Group. In 2012, he successfully opened and sold out his first solo exhibition at Athr Gallery ‘And it Remains…’, not long after Nasser Al Salem was  shortlisted for the 2013 Jameel Prize. Most recently, Nasser has participated in the group exhibition “Calligraffiti” at Leila Heller Gallery alongside Keith Haring, Shirin Neshat, Jackson Pollock, Farhad Moshiri, and Jean-Michael Basquiat.