Print Magazine’s article: East West

By Tarek Atrissi

The lastest copy of Print magazine came my way with a great article featuring my work. I have been a regular reader of Print Magazine since a long time, even prior going to New York. This came in the New Visual Artist Review issue of the Magazine, where they select every year from around the world 20 artist below the age of 30 to feature. I paste the article below.

East | West ; From Print Magazine, New York, 2005. New Visual Artist Review

“Design is a powerful tool,” says Tarek Atrissi, “and I think that with it I can evoke a more positive image of the Arab world–a true image of it that not many people know.” The Beirut-born Atrissi is already well on his way to playing a visible role in cultural image-making at the advanced age of 26. His work is precise, elegant, and often typographically driven, frequently incorporating varying styles of Arabic calligraphy. To Westerners who can’t read the words, the calligraphic forms become ethereal and compelling abstractions.

Atrissi grew up in Beirut when the city was in chaos, beleaguered by civil war. By the time he started as an undergraduate at the American University of Beirut, the war had ended and Atrissi earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. He continued his studies with a one-year Master of Arts in interactive multimedia at the Utrecht School of the Arts, in the Netherlands, and followed that with an MFA in design from New York’s School of Visual Arts. He has since returned to Holland, setting up his studio in Hilversum, a short distance from Amsterdam. Considering Holland “a good point in between the Middle East and the United States,” Atrissi relishes that it is “at the center of many markets and countries.”

Atrissi has seen his work included in thecollections of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Dutch Poster Museum, and the University of Amsterdam. He is a minimalist drawn to pure forms, but one who fully exploits the decorative potential of the line. Blending the human figure with calligraphy as he often does (witness the posters for artist Rajae Al Mouhandiz) results in a kind of “expressive abstractionism.” Disciplined and serious about his profession, he has already become internationally established as a frequent guest speaker at several universities and design seminars.

In addition to his use of traditional writing styles, Atrissi refers to advertising and signage to give his work “a local flavor.” “I always look to the vernacular and old graphic heritage for inspiration,” he says, although “in the Arab world this is not well documented.” To that end, Atrissi gathered together a fascinating selection of vintage stamps, advertising, and graphics from numerous Arab countries that can be accessed on, an online forum he created during his studies at Utrecht.

In one of his most impressive projects to date, Atrissi designed a visual identity for the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. It was an undertaking he found both “unique and extremely challenging” (though evidently not daunting), and he moved to Qatar during the project’s almost yearlong
duration. The resulting stylized calligraphic rendering of the word “Qatar,” combined with deep, saturated fields of color and judicious use of iconic imagery, can be seen across a variety of media, from stationery to sailboats.

What can a designer hope to do once he’s already created a vision for an entire country? “I would like to design the identity of the Olympic Games or soccer World Cup,” he says, observing that these events “will surely take place in the Arab world sometime in the not-too-distant future.”