In Praise of Illegibility
Nadia Haji Omar, “December” (2017), ink and graphite on paper, 12 x 9 inches
There is a strain of abstract art that I don’t remember ever being the subject of an exhibition in New York, a city where more than 600 languages are spoken and written: asemic writing. An exhibition focusing on “writing without the smallest unit of meaning” could include works by Xu Bing, Henri Michaux, J. B. Murray, Cy Twombly, and Isidore Isou, founder of Lettrism. To this distinguished company, which transcends cultural boundaries, I would add Nadia Haji Omar, whose work I first wrote about in 2018.
Haji Omar, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, and raised in Sri Lanka, grew up learning different languages (Arabic, Sinhalese, Tamil, English, and French), some of which she studied after moving to the United States.