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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Referring to the subject of “information graphics” in the past weeks -pictograms, iconography etc.- I came across the Slovakian artist Roman Ondák’s work as a “living infographic, a plotting of visitors’ heights whose mean will become increasingly apparent over the four months at the Temporary Stedelijk“.
Each participant is writing their names on the 4 walls, yet as there’s a mean where people’s heights could coincide, the names after some time started to overlap. At the end the wall typo became so dense that it looked like a huge black 4-edged linear black shape.

His statement is that the individuals in a society will, as a natural fact, will emerge and grow. And as they do, artist as the observer in that society will be revealing this emergence and other narrative contexts of the growth.

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Another contemporary artist exhibited within the same museum, Barbara Kruger, is referring to another dimension of the individual, in more of a social and emotional manner. She uses massive typographical elements in a closed space of the museum. The installation is called Past/Present/Future.

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This summer at CSM(Central Saint Martins), in the Holborn campus i’ve ran across several different studios like the huge wood athelier, the metal studio and personally most amazingly the letterpress studio where students can make their own letterpressing via using different print colors and metal types of many different font families.

The metal letters were placed in tiny boxes -the letter L in a rectangular box, the number 9 in another horizontal one, “,” in another box etc- and there was a little guide map to make life easier by showing the mapping of the letters in boxes. We could easily find where each letter bundle was placed in the big drawer and place them as tight as possible on a row which is stable by a ruler-like metal block -to arrange all the kerning and spacing- and also stabled at the bottom of each row by various-width thin metal blocks for leading purposes. For spacing, we had 5 different thicknesses of plain metal blocks, which required a little more precision and profession to complete the row, and hold it, once again as tight as possible so that nothing would move throughout the pressing on paper process.

First i went for Univers 65 -i’m a bit obsessive with the Univers family- yet we weren’t allowed to use the letters in the bottom drawers so as a second choice, i went for Franklin Gothic. I’ve written a random sentence, like the whole class did, and my tag below. Everyone used different fonts and result press was a bunch of different types on one canvas. The workshop leader color a huge wheel in two different colors; she mixed pink and yellow and turned the wheel for a while so that the colors were blended in the middle and still sharp and flat towards the edges. We had 3 colors on the wheel, which meant that we would have 3 different colors on the paper. Then the metal letters were placed below the colored wheel and each relief letter -at same height- were colored by the wheel until no metal texture -which meant “white/ blank” on paper- was visible.

The A3 paper was placed in its right place, between two thin wheel-like pieces of the mechanism, you locked the paper there by stepping on another mechanism at foot-level and then released when you were ready to turn the arm-wheel and press the sentences on the paper. The results were amazing in means of hand-made pressing, rather than using a digital printer which could fail you many times in a life-time.

Last year, in my graphic design course, one of my biggest worries was never achieving the right colors, meaning the colors i see on my lcd screen. Well, here, the whole coloring is in your control. You don’t need to see the color on your screen anymore since you have in flesh and blood. You smell the color, you smell the paper, you experience, you print your own material. I didn’t run across to anything more amazing than this in digital printing yet.

Here is the whole process with found images of the stages i’ve been talking about:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are the last two images, my own images, the two prints i’ve done at CSM workshop and took with me as a memoir:

 

 

 

 

The Romanesque and Gothic manuscripts presented together in the source readings, this combination directly took my mind to a subject I’m heavily interested in; these styles reflection on architecture since the period of their emergence.

Some 6 orr 7 years ago, I’ve been to a Prague-Vienna(sequentially) vacation, architecture not being a subject of my life but just an enough interest in it, I was amazed by the difference between where I live and how those two cities were constructed. The regular buildings, especially in Prague were extremely brutal, for me and probably for the rest of the world. Besides their massive appearance, they also looked pretty dark in color, giving a reference for their birth dates. The city’s big your body’s small, your body’s short the city’s tall.

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of the medieval era in Europe, clearly recognized by their pointed arches. The synthesis of Roman and Byzantine styles ended up massive, tall and thick buildings, mostly out of concrete. Besides the thickness of the walls, other characteristics that help you recognize a romanesque style are the round/pointed arches, peaking towers and decorated arcading. They have a uniquely defined form, and one significant detail about romanesque constructions is that they are mostly planned to be built symmetrically. This actually is one key factor that differentiates romanesque from the gothic.

Many medieval period castles and churches are built in romanesque style:

 

 

Back to Prague, there are several significant Romanesque style buildings in the city that I remember of.

St. George’s Rotunda(above)

 

Lund Cathedral(above)

 

Gothic architecture is an extension of the romanesque architecture, that also blossomed out during the medieval.  Gothic architecture emerged in France(Europe in general) and for a while was known as the French Style in architecture. The style’s details are the pointed arch likewise the romanesque, yet two other units as a ribbed vault and and the flying buttress.

Gothic architecture is also used in the construction of churches and cathedrals as a matter of fact, but besides those units, also palaces and universities are two other area of practice. What I experiences in Prague and Vienna was a transition of emotions, in a brutal sense.

Besides the above mentioned districts, England is another considerable location -which I visited this summer for an architectural photography course- and also Italy and Spain- Barcelona expecially.

“The architectural style of Sagrada Familia has been called “warped Gothic,” and it’s easy to see why. The rippling contours of the stone façade make it look as though Sagrada Familia is melting in the sun, while the towers are topped with brightly-colored mosaics which look like bowls of fruit. Gaudí believed that color is life, and, knowing that he would not live to see completion of his masterpiece, left colored drawings of his vision for future architects to follow.” (http://architecture.about.com/od/greatbuildings/ig/Antoni-Gaud-/Sagrada-Familia-.htm)

 

The Barbican Centre, in London, which I visited several times this summer, was built after World War II. The centre is a huge complex of the gallery, theater etc which synthesizes function and form, either one following the other as a general term of architectural study. At the edge of the Barbican complex, you can still see remnants of the medieval city walls, which are also characterized as Gothic. The Barbican Trade Building itself cannot be recalled as in Gothic style yet as London is a garden-city, constructed out of low base buildings, the Barbican is way too complex and brutal for the rest of the city.

Here are a few photos I have taken during my visits, that could give an idea about the complex structure of the centre:

 

As eventually happened with most of the alphabetic systems in history, the Roman’s alphabet -out of Greek emphasis, likewise their myths are- has been mediated initially on stone and/or wooden surfaces. Yet the common thought about design and many other sort of fields follow the idea that “nothing is carved in stone” as the indicative of change. Even though the unique and ornamental aesthetics of Roman letters -not borrowed from Greeks- were more suitable for paper-writing, stone press is known to be the more durable way of preserving the written language. Still, wood reliefs were hard to do using the Roman serif.

Today we’re concerned basically about ‘public lettering’ which John R. Nash talks about in his article In Defence of the Roman Letter, which he defines as the  “informational lettering on signs, memorials, buildings; lettering which is intended to be a part of our daily lives, and which I see as still being best served by the traditional Roman capital and its relatives an amazing family capable of infinite subtle variations, which no one has yet come to the end of.”

Comes to my mind now 2 distinct artists, using alphabet as the core of their art yet the outcome of their artwork is far from typographic design, rather one uses the very essence of letter forms with respect and admiration towards its aesthetics and the other uses in more of a talkative way, to reveal hic prophecy.

Lawrence Weiner a 1942-born New Yorker, as a central figure in 60s conceptual art, as mentioned before uses typography as the basis of his works after 70s. He started off using Franklin Gothic family for a while as the base of his typographic work, painting his sentences in huge dimensions on walls. His wall installations consist only of pure, undecorated words in a nondescript manner. “Although this body of work focuses on the potential for language to serve as an art form, the subjects of his epigrammatic statements are often materials, or a physical action or process…”

 

Porr Gentileza, our second typography hero, is a Brazilian artist recalled as a prophet. He performs his art writing his prophecies on ancient bare walls, adding a bit of yellow paint below, as his signature. What renders him much different from Lawrence Weiner is that Gentileza has his own new language for communication, yet the mode of this communication is also different from Weiner’s worldly monologues. Instead of writing “amor” he prefers to write “amorrr”.

 

Below is my beloved tree alphabet i’ve done this summer for a graphics design summercourse at CSM in London. The leaves were picked out on the Old Kent Road(i’ve got my story behind). The letters have no reference typeface yet a logic lays beneath following the types of leaves i have used for each letter’s anatomy. Yet the most fun part was when using the negative space revealed with the carving out of the letter forms on the leaves themselves.

This second family is the sharpening of the first, and i believe gives a better idea about the anatomy of the leaves, since our instructors have told us that if a design works in b/w, it always works in colored form. The above does not give any essence of the leaf itself once it is converted to a b/w image. So, here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

And i’ve also tried using my tree typo for making several posters, for the fun of it.

 

 

 

A specific feature of the Western Calligraphy is said to be the illuminating of the first letter of each chapter of a book. The idea of illumination of text here, is the integration of the text and ornamentation on the page -patterns, borders, illustrations etc.- so that the text is in a way is enlightened with the addition materials. Yet there’s a more strict deciphering of the concept of illuminated manuscript, that is that the illuminated script only stands for books with either golden or silver ornate. As did the eastern and Asian calligraphy, western calligraphic script too had its strict codes as each character of the western calligraphic type had an accurate stroke order. As it’s regarded as a form of religious art, such rules and shapes seems reasonable.

About the use of gold in the manuscripts, here‘s a short excerpt:

“The application of gold leaf or dust to an illumination is a very detailed process that only the most skilled illuminators can undertake and successfully achieve. The first detail an illuminator mauled over when dealing with gold was whether to use gold leaf or specks of gold that could be applied with a brush. When working with gold leaf the pieces would be hammered and thinned until they were “thinner than the thinnest paper.” The use of this type of leaf allowed for numerous areas of the text to be outlined in gold. There were several ways of applying gold to an illumination one of the most popular included mixing the gold with stag’s glue and then “pour it into water and dissolve it with your finger.” Once the gold was soft and malleable in the water it was ready to be applied to the page. Illuminators had to be very careful when applying gold leaf to the manuscript for fear ruining the color already placed in the illumination. Gold leaf is able to “adhere to any pigment which had already been laid, ruining the design, and secondly the action of burnishing it is vigorous and runs the risk of smudging any painting already around it.” The careless implementing of gold could ruin the labor already placed in the illumination and thus cause the entire folio to be discarded.”

 



 

 

As seen above and below,  the Lindisfarne Gospel book is a highly ornamented one, in which each gospel consists of 15 pages of such written and drawn decorative elements, and used for ceremonial purpose. The pattern designs are pretty sophisticated, fuzed with bird, snake and several other animal illustrations and few decorated initials. The depictions are usually geometrical or stylized imperfect animals.



The decorations reminded me pretty much of a poster for a cabaret theater in France which i’m deeply devoted to: Le Chat Noir‘s, in means of both its typographical elements -yet there’s no usage of calligraphic writing here- and also in color aesthetics.



 

A pictogram or pictograph is a symbol representing a concept, object, activity, place or event by illustration. Pictography is a form of writing whereby ideas are transmitted through drawing.”

 

Today, the concept of several media we use for creating images have gone and still are going through a significant transformation. That is, that illustration is not performed only with its classical means anymore, yet artists are changing their tools for illustration day by day. The first painting I’ve seen with edible material was of a friend of mine; a still life vase with flowers inside made out of meat, jam and several other leftovers, which really amazed me at first. Then I’ve seen several others benefiting from the different physical appearances and habits of nutrition.

One guy I’ve met a few months ago is a Swedish illustrator, Carl Kleiner, making assemblage of nutrition on a blissful bacground color and take their photo to finalize his illustration. His IKEA / STYLING… project is visually so graphic that it reminded me of the pictographs, meaning again illustrations that resembles to the object it is signifying. Yet what we have here is the photographed image of the object itself; perhaps too realistic to be a pictogram but the used material is usually so smooth and lack of detail that makes it close to the idea of a pictogram.

 

 

 

He mostly performs still life photography and seemingly his stylized aesthetics was appealing enough for IKEA’s “styled ingredients cookbook”: “Hembakat är Bäst” (Homemade is Best). Above are actual recipes for bakeries all broken down to their fresh ingredients.

The way he placed the ingredients have a subtle logic that gives an idea about the habit and usage of the material. That is almost what a pictogram ends up doing; as Strauss talks about the signifier and the signified in his semiotic discourse which are basic codes for deciphering linguistic signs -the color code here for instance in the case of the egg- as soon as the eye sees yellow and white near another that connotes for the egg. It clearly denotes for two yellow and white circles, whereas the translation process of the sign leads us to the idea of an egg. In the case of nutella, it’s way of being coated on a surface denotes the idea of the whole nutella jar we see in the rack. Rather then using more abstracted signs, Kleiner uses the very essence of the material he wants to place on his canvas, whether or not that is his aim.

This summer, when I was in Edinburgh, I was planning to take a 45 minute ride to the sculpture garden in the Bonnington House. The area is almost kept as a secret from the government and the population around, which I can barely understand. I was too lucky to learn about it from a dear Scotsman, yet not as lucky about the opening days and hours of the art garden. The current artists’ list is pretty prosperous; the land is hosting Antony Gormley, Charles Jencks, Alec Finlay and several others. Keep watching or book now.


Ancient days were when the world was too big of a place for homo sapiens. Their relatively stronger minds and physical abilities have triggered them to create —predictably human species-made— geoglyphs greater in magnitude. Their animistic worldview connotes that they have devoted a soul for any co-existing species. They all are considered as a part of nature; not superior to, neither separate from it. Their loyalty on their agriculture and their gods is the nurture of their beliefs, and their beliefs are of their art.
The gigantic exercise on nature in Nazca’s is theorized as a consequence of the shaman’s hallucinative exercises inwhich they enter such state to worship their Gods for the growth and fertility. In order to have them see the images, they should have been horizontal and enormous.

|figures: (all stylized) hummingbird, spider, monkey, lizard, fish, orca, llama


|more geometrical shapes

|figurative spider

Nazca’s  predicted methodology in performing these figurative and mostly geometrical images is by the removing of the reddish pebble stones on earth and revealing the ground in lighter color beneath. It is stated that some of these figures cover a 200×200 (in meters) area, which requires a good sense of linear perspective when there’s a lack of aerial perspective. One strong prediction by the Swiss writer Erich von Däniken states that the figures are drawn by ancient astronauts for communication purposes and the more broad and long pieces of the figures were for landing their vehicles.

|the hummingbird has a considerably long beak

Not as charming and mysterious as the Nazca lines, the geoglyphs reminded me of some contemporary and inanonymous landscape designs and designers. Although there are some common touchpoints, today’s state of mind has the advantage of at least a chance of using aerial supervision to achieve the perfection of figures. If perfection is not a necessity, at least the documentation of the works are mostly done by birdview. Nazca people may never have had the chance to see what they have actually inherited on Peru territory dedicated to their beloved Gods.

Below is the open air performance of two Japanese guys in Berlin, Mai Yamashita & Naoto Kobayashi, called the Infinity Run. It took 15-18 hrs for them to finalize their infinity sign. The geoglyphs is predicted to take days, or even weeks to be completed.


The scale of the Infinity Run performance is much more humanist compared to those of the geoglyphs. Once again, they were made to worship the gods. The contemporary statement in art seems to have been shifted far away from the ancient theological scale, just as the physical scale shifted from god to human.

Hubert Blanz, a digital photographer and digital media artist has a typological work of highway photography under the name Roadshow. There are helixes of highways in his photographic work, forming chaotic, organic at the same time monstrous shapes.

In his digital city designs, the birdview images have a resemblance to alligator and lizard-like reptiles. Though I think that there’s a strong influence of the geoglyphs in content, still the work is not to worship gods in the new age.

Semiotics, as a significant argument in arts&design and any other visual-audial existences since Roland Barthes, is the study of sign processes and subjects the relation between signs and the things to which they refer to and their effects on people who are using those signs. The ancient signage process was through figurative images or body part prints on any writable surface, mostly rocks and stone. The cro-magnons communicated through the stains of animal figures and their handprints on the cave walls since they were hunting and gathering, whereas today people communicate through formed structures called words and a more cummulative and communalized form of it called ‘language’ for resolving and revealing thought.

A mixed media artist, Nicole Dextras, has a bunch of outdoor installations on land, what he calls the “Palimpsest” done by his devotion to words and ancient history of signage. He leads the voyeur to read the landscape, thus read the history through the landscape and his so-called “ghost words” as ice installations.

“Palimpsest is a new series of photographs documenting outdoor installations created during the cold months of the Canadian winter. The images are arranged as diptychs, presenting macro and micro views of ice, suggesting the transformative element of this fugitive medium.
Palimpsest refers to the ancient practice of erasing and writing over parchment, so that the previous text appears as a ghost on the page. The word also alludes to the act of deciphering traces of time and is therefore an apt analogy for the process of photographing the ephemeral nature of ice.”


Most earthwork artists like Robert Smithson, architect of the huge coast circles, and Alexander Heilner, the photographer of constarined aerial landscapes in Utah reveal a strong influence of the ancient geoglyphs in their works of different mediums. Smithson’s addiction in perfect geometrical shapes with the method of carrying and moving land directs our minds to those of Nazca’s. Yet another considerable point of the Nazca earthwork is that the climate and geography has been pre-observed so that the figures would be durable- the climate was stable just like they probably thought.

Althought the works were accepted as a fatal mystery by many, observation and experiment have been helping people a lot throughout the history. One artist I’ve recently met on the online platform, Theo Jansen, had the most amazing kinetic sculpture, moving with the wind energy and built accordingly. There’s no use of any sensors or electronic mechanism to make the sculpture robotic rather than kinetic. The work is called Strandbeest(beach animal), has a statement of creating new forms of life with the utilization of natural events.

After watching the video and see how the handmade skeleton moves, I believe that every aspect of human history has a logical explanation. Or else, mystery has been hiding itself for the past 4000 years.