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Doing something that lasts

Web work can disappear so quickly, in a matter of months, weeks, even days when you consider some holding pages and micro sites. So I’ve been interested in producing physical stuff that lasts. Creating observational drawings of movable type encapsulates my love of letterforms and hints at the history of type – inking something by hand that was invented to do the exact opposite.

Letterpress - Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt
Letterpress – Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt
  • Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt
    Letterpress – Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt
  • Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt
    Bodoni Bold Condensed 12pt

Earlier in the year I visited the ‘Signs for Sounds’ exhibition at the Harley Gallery in Nottinghamshire, which looked at the traditional skills of letter forming, along with how we use lettering in the modern world.

The theme was summed up by the curator:

Today the letterform is more widely used as a part of everyday life than it ever has been. Technology has liberated how, where and by whom it can be placed in the world and, most importantly, the relationship between the hand, and the pen, and paper has been interrupted in favour of the virtual.

More letters, more words, more fingers and thumbs, more keypads, more screens.

Skill has been democratised within a light, urgent framework of high speed communications, at the expense of an increasingly traditional dexterity in writing with the hand. The scale and endeavour has been stretched wider, encompassing the ephemeral as well as the permanent, the physical and the virtual.

In curating the content for this exhibition I have drawn on statements by those whose daily business has been the manufacture of letters, and whose thoughts have become even more prescient with the advent of digital tools.

Each is a commentary on the physical absence of inherent qualities that affect our ‘reading’ of letterforms, each reminding us that nothing is truly black and white and that writing, and reading is a multi- layered act.

He exhibition itself is a reminder of what lies behind the fonts we use quite freely on our computer software, the ‘meaningfulness’ of the letterform, and just how widely it can be applied, together with an appreciation of the skill required to maximise form and content.

Sound, gesture and space are the three principals at the heart of this exhibition: the field it covers is therefore broad, and encompasses the traditional (or recognisable) calligraphic techniques, albeit in unfamiliar contexts, as well as virtual, typography, street art and body type. This in turn encourages the visitor to broaden their understanding of the letterform, its context and its use.

Brody Neuenschwander, Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire
Brody Neuenschwander, Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire

Personal favourites from the exhibition were Brody Neuenschwander and Bunny Bread. I loved the deconstructive aspects of Neuenschwanders work which asked the question – is his work an image or is it text?

‘Writing My Name – The Art of Tagging’

Colin Brewer

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