The Chemistry of Calligraphy
by Ati Zar
I was born and raised in Qazvin, which is known as the calligraphy capital of Iran. I was surrounded by amazing calligraphy art which defines the identity of the city from sculptures to wall arts and museums.
Becoming a chemist was the last thing in the world that would have come to mind when I was a teenager. But due to the education system back home, my university entrance exam dictated my fate. I clearly recall the day I was accepted in the chemistry department. I was so upset, I cried. My sister hugged me tightly and told me how lucky I was to be accepted in a public university in our hometown and how cool it was to become a scientist.
However, after four years my heart was still calling me to another direction. Before I began my masters in science, I trained with one of the outstanding penmen in the city. He was not only teaching me how to write but he unveiled the spirituality behind this art. He showed me an invisible baseline on a white glossy paper that determines where the words must sit. But he reminded me that the words do not always follow the rules; they bounce up and down around the baseline.
The balance between the black and white emphasizes the importance of unwritten words. Practicing calligraphy gave me the required patience and mindfulness to discover the harmony of thick and thin strokes that was only obtained by changing the direction of the pen.
During my master’s program, I attended a seminar by a professor from Canada. I vividly remember one specific slide that drew my attention. It was a photo of Niagara Falls. The idea of going abroad clicked. I got admission from University of Waterloo to complete a PhD in analytical chemistry and this opportunity opened new doors for me.
My journey towards finding myself started without me being aware of it. I had to fly across the world and spend thirteen years studying science to retrieve and embrace my artist soul.
Calligraphy art is strongly tied to my rich Persian and Islamic culture, and it makes me feel at home while being away from home.