Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Ones that Charm my Eye:

I have gathered together an interesting collection of lettering.  Although it seems a random lot, I know it's not --  I chose it.  So I've devised a sort of game to help me understand what it is I'm seeing. I have a collection of small slips of paper and as I look at each example I write one or two words down, separate words for separate ideas, on separate pieces of paper.  Though I now have twenty slips of paper it's surprising I don't have more. Of course the images are suggesting the same thoughts, the lettering conjuring in my mind similar things.  And though the materials and tools used are not the same, and the artist and purpose is different too, there are common threads.  So much so that the dealing of images and words can happily make a match many times.

The first two images I've chosen are an inscription from The Trajan Column and a single letter from a tomb in Wighton Church, one elegant and triumphant, the other ornate, speaking of longevity, and success.  They are both public endorsements, though what I admire is the design, the finish, the workmanship,  The way each letter is perfectly made, the inscription beautifully balance. And that single letter "B", lines etched in the stone leaving matte surfaces, the domed top polished, together a monochrome gem of past thinking.



Yet more incised pieces: stone in the case of the Rosetta Stone and cuneiform marked into clay. It's almost possible to feel the stones demanding our attention, wanting us to understand their repetitive marks and rhythms.  The carvings written on the Rosetta Stone in 196 BC were in three languages used by the Egyptian elite in praise of their Pharaoh.  Cuneiform is a writing system from a disappeared world several thousand years old and we are aware of those times only because this clay tablet has survived.


A more recent survivor is Leonado da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.  What I like here, beyond the used of space, is the combination of drawing and text. One informs the other, neither drawing nor text informs so well alone. Leonardo's ingenious back to front writing adds a layer of mystery waiting to be unravelled.


Here below is another individual's hand.  Lorina Bulwer, incarcerated in a workhouse, has let fly in stitch to tell her story.  Her feelings are expressed in bold capitals, the thread and fabric cobbled together from what she had to hand.


And here Rosalind Wyatt stitches a love letter, capturing in thread the feelings of yet another individual, living in another time connecting us to him and his love in a way the original may not.  Is it the time taken, or the artist's engagement, that makes this a work of art?  Or the fact that it's made for us all to gaze at?


It's the rhythms across this work by Alice Fox that appeal to me.  I'm not sure that they are anything to do with lettering, but they have the look of a skeleton language, possibly runes.


Cecil Touchon takes individual letters apart and uses elements of them to create this novel collage. Our brains work as we look at it to reconstitute the original letter forms.


Now, at a Distant Stitch workshop some years ago Louise Baldwin recommended "Calligraphy: A Book of Contemporary Inspiration" by Denise Lach.  Here is an absolute feast of examples any of which I might have included here.  What I have chosen reflect two ideas -- rhythm and layering.

First of all the images which illustrate rhythm.  The first two were created with a pen, the third with a pointed brush.  So many aspects of calligraphy affect the finished work: the tool and the pressure on it, the ink's tone and colour, the paper's weight and structure, letter spacing and its direction, the intention of the artist.  Any imperfections on the writing edge or paper makes changes to individual letters, frequently the look of the whole piece. The examples below illustrate just that.  They also show the way the stroke quality and its direction influence the end result..




The image below illustrates the power of thick and thin.  A cola pen is used on a rough surface, a good combination for expressive work.  It  is fascinating to compare the rhythms in these four images (28-31).

I've included image 32 below as an example of layering.  The artist has used a pen and dilute ink to write in lines across the page.  This has then been superimposed with dark splashy markings.The artist wants to convey the shadows of grass on a wooden fence, two contrasting textures and two different treatments to convey them.


Both the image above and that below (32 and 33) show calligraphy in an interpretive light.  They are both attempting to express textures which have caught the artist's eye.  I've included example 33 because it's loosely connected with themes I'm considering for my resolved sample. It captures in lines and words the patterns in sand after the tide's gone out, as shown in image 34.



Finally, what a neat summery of success this phrase is.