Salma Arastu: A Sculptor of the Spirit

Salma painting large Calligraphy painting on canvas
Artist Salma Arastu  Painting Large Calligraphy Painting On Canvas


Salma Arastu was born into the Hindu tradition in her native India, and embracing Islam later on, she has enjoyed the beauty of these two distinctive traditions first hand. At birth, Salma Arastu was given the life-defining challenge of a left hand without fingers. Through her belief in the unity of an all-encompassing God, she was able to transcend barriers of religion, culture, and the cultural perceptions of handicaps. Salma Arastu uses her life experiences and her pain to bridge the solidifying divisions between different faiths that are so prevalent in our culture today. Inspired by the imagery, sculpture and writings of her Indian heritage and Islamic spirituality, Salma Arastu explores the universality of humanity by creating paintings and sculptures that break down the barriers that divide us and promote harmony, peace and understanding.

Salma Arastu is based in Berkeley, she is a native of India’s Rajasthan and has been creating and exhibiting her paintings internationally since the 1970s after acquiring Masters Degree from Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, Baroda, India in 1975. Her work with continuous and lyrical line is influenced by her native culture and her residence after marriage in Iran and Kuwait before coming to the US in 1987.

Salma Arastu’s artworks, whether paintings, sculptures or poetry speak of human universality. Her art form and techniques are greatly inter-woven with Arabic Calligraphy, Miniature Arts and Folk patterns, her major influences through her travels. As a visual artist she has almost 40 solo shows to her credit, won several awards including East Bay Community’s fund for artists in 2012 and 2014, three works in public places and four books published with her poems and paintings. “Dard Ki Seedhiyan” in Hindi (1981) ”The Lyrical Line: Embracing All and Flowing” (Half Full Press, Oakland Publishers, 2008) and “Turning Rumi: Singing Verses of Love Unity and Freedom” (2012) and “Celebration of Calligraphy” (2014).

Shortly after arriving in the United States, Salma became an entrepreneur with the creation of Your True Greetings, a successful greeting card company that uses her paintings and calligraphy to serve the needs of Muslim communities in the United States, Canada, Japan and Great Britain.

Salma Arastu Artwork exhibit is from her “Celebration of Calligraphy” series. It is about Salma Arastu yearning to find infinite possibilities of the lyrical line itself on large canvases. This is what Salma Arastu had to say about the exhibit.

Celebration of Calligraphy is new series of paintings to enlighten and awaken the spiritual connection of universal humanity through lyrical and fluid imagery of Arabic Calligraphy and Islamic patterns. I find myself yearning to find infinite possibilities of the lyrical line itself on large canvases. I just want to plunge myself into the pleasure of contemplating the abstract flow of the swelling lines, and form compositions of lines and fields within given space and enjoy the celebration of calligraphy through lyrical visions.

I am creating a series of large-scale paintings using Arabic Calligraphy to reflect the positive and universal message of Al-Quran to the world. My purpose is to reach out to a broad community in the pursuit of peace; to celebrate diversity, and create a positive interfaith dialogue through visual art that subtly penetrates the human heart to evoke response. I paint to express the prayers of my heart and intend for the energy of the calligraphy, powered by the positive messages from the texts, to reveal the joy and celebration that I experience while creating them. Each verse I portray gives me strength and peace, and I hope instill these feelings in my viewers. Both in theme and in technique, this project represents a new direction for me at this juncture of my career, enabling me to pursue my spirituality through my art. Born in India as a Hindu, I am now Muslim residing in the United States; a unique position to express the unity of spirit that I feel.

I work with several thin layers of Acrylic paints and work on details in between the layer with patterns and calligraphic strokes. Repeating the verses has meditative and calming effect on me. Adding Geometric patterns is like doing embroidery and adds soft textures to my vision. Making and painting these seamless and repeated Arabic Calligraphy strokes has a mystical feel, and provides stimulation as well as calmness to the mind.

I celebrate energy and movement of line in my paintings and it has been an unfathomable joy to repeat the calligraphic dancing strokes to reveal my gratitude. The prayer is repeated several times until it echoes through the geometric patterns.

The layer of gold adds spiritual presence and rich glow to the painting. I wanted the play of brush strokes and flowers like patterns interlace and move in harmony. I like to create subtle effects on my surfaces because I do not like be loud in portraying my feelings towards my God.

This is what Peter Selz had to say about artist Salma Arastu:

Painter, sculptor, printmaker, calligrapher, and creator of mysterious mandalas, Salma Arastu sees her work as inspired by the spirit of the divine. Born in the Hindu religion of India, she later converted to Islam, surmounting barriers of separation. Paramount in her life and her art is her faith in the unity of an all-embracing divinity and universal human values.

Having her work exhibited in many venues in the US as well as Europe, she lives
and works in Berkeley, California. For many years she has been occupied with
the creation of paintings based on calligraphy. In her series “Unity of Sacred Texts” she uses Arabic and Hebrew letters as well words in English and Sanskrit to write in free-flowing letters based on sacred texts which are set against grounds of subdued rust colors and variations of grays to announce that “God is everywhere”.
Arastu has also turned to the poetry of Rumi, the great 13th Century
Persian poet, musician and Sufi scholar, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, whose work has been translated into many Asian and European languages. Working with many layers of thin paint, her brush produces fluid shapes of joyful dancers set against abstract patterns, Arastu’s paintings correspond to Rumi’s poems of love and peace.

The sun will soon reveal its face
And invite the particles to dance.
It’s good to be dancing,
Your clothes flying
Through the air!


Rumi Poem Paintings 1 Video by Artist Salma Arastu


Rumi Poem Paintings 1 from Salma Arastu on Vimeo.


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