Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Valentine Count Up/ Love and Calligraphy

This piece of abstract calligraphy is composed of the word love. For me it is particularly meaningful as it came during a time of growth and change in my work. It started with a workshop on notan, the Japanese design principle of light and dark, with Jenny Hunter Groat in Boston in 1985. After two intense and wonderful days of various exercises (as well as the power of Jenny's personal presence), I spent many days and nights working with what I had learned. This was one of the results.

At the time, I was feeling a pull beyond the calligraphic world but unsure of where I was going. This piece represents what became for me a dead end in the pursuit of abstraction. When I make something new, I am looking for it to be a springboard to a new direction, to be the first of a new body of work, rather than a singular piece that stands alone. I tried doing a series of words in a similar way, treating them as form and line rather than expressing their meaning. As I worked, I learned that I missed the words themselves. Although I eventually moved completely beyond words in the Spirit Books, I have come to see that the books have at their core a central belief and set of ideas that somehow take the place of words for me.

When I looked back at the progression of my work for an illustrated talk last year, I realized how much of my journey has been informed by the fact that I started as an English major. While I may respond to the thrill of putting ink to paper and making marks, I need what I do to have at its center either ideas or words. Learning who we are not is as much a part of the process as learning who we are.

If you are interested in learning more about notan, Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design is an excellent resource.

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