Landscape of Betrayal #2 graphite on 300gms watercolour paper A1 [crop]
My idea in this series was to create images using my own font based on the shapes of the negative spaces to create characters by inference. I find words and lettering in visual artworks somewhat dissatisfying. The written word in any font has accrued just too much linguistic meaning to be appreciated in purely aesthetic terms. I decided to reintroduce the visual by making the familiar unfamiliar through emphasis on shape and space. The importance of ‘negative space’ -the shapes of the gaps or voids created between two or more corporeal elements, is one of the fundamental [and more interesting] principles of abstract art and design. Emphasis on these empty spaces would produce latent characters; hidden in clear sight, a notion close to any illusionist’s heart.
I wanted to use ‘American typewriter bold’ as my foundation. Why choose this? I am of an age when my educational theses, my mailed letters and later the scripts and running schedules I worked to professionally, were all typed; tapped into life using either manual or electronic mechanical typewriters. It can never fail to bring to my mind George Orwell, clattering away on his Remington Home Portable.
‘American Typewriter’ is, to me, the most beautiful and evocative of fonts; even though in its current digital reincarnation, it is no longer a slab serif.*
Enclosed voids or closed counters provide specific identities for the following lower case letters: a e g o
Open counters could indicate the presence of: c h k m n s u v w y Some of these gave a particularly striking arrowhead, pointing in different directions.
However, to separate b d p and q from each other, I would need to provide further information; some element of ‘positivity’. Terminals, or finials [font nomenclature varies depending on source] are a visually satisfying characteristic of American Typewriter, those comma-like flourishes at the ends of some letters. These I decided to incorporate. to differentiate ascenders and descenders. They also gave me r with its finial, referred to endearingly as an ‘ear’. If terminals could be applied, I could combine a dot to identify j and this could also give me i and a full stop. An exclamation mark? Add a positive ‘cap’, fading out from the top line. This could also identify l.
If I introduced such a fade-out I could see a way of identifying t and x. Fading effects pose a difficulty on a font. They run counter to the central concept of legibility through contrast and solidity. But this is a ‘code’ designed by an artist, a painter whose trade specialises in blending, grazing across and nuancing surfaces. My application would be through means transmitted by pen, pencil and brush. My motivation is to add another element to my visual armoury. Consequently, I decided to use the negative space around the point where the t crossbar cuts across the stem. This created four right-angled triangles pointing to a central point on the mean line and fading out to the edges of a square.
x is created in the same way, but rotated 45 degrees on the character line.
z could be created in the same way [though not having yet used this letter, I am tempted to use a simple solid diagonal stroke simply on the grounds that it is so visually powerful].
The first published example of the ‘Recondite Font’ was posted online on December 9th 2017. A birthday card.
I employed this system to transpose Winston Smith’s climactic dialogue as he cracks under the pressure of his psychological torture in Room 101. It is surely one of the greatest betrayals of love in literature.
Landscape of Betrayal #1 graphite on 300gms watercolour paper A1 [crop]
The landscape is an anamorphic composition; a second element hidden in clear sight. This is a technique which I used several times on film and television setwork. A mobile camera would rove across a seemingly abstract design until reaching a point where an image would materialise. Perhaps the most famous example in art is the extruded shape at the feet of Holbein’s “Ambassadors”, which transforms into a skull. It is there as a ‘memento mori’ lying hidden unobtrusively until one moves close in to the lower left edge of the canvas and one’s own mortality is revealed.
Here, the scape transforms into a head, screaming his confession and betrayal under torture; the self as Winston Smith…
Landscape of Betrayal #3 graphite on 300gms watercolour paper A1 [crop]
*a slab serif (also called mechanistic, square serif, antique or Egyptian) typeface is a type of serif typeface characterized by thick, block-like serifs Typewriter slab serif typefaces are named for their use in strike-on typewriting. These faces originated in monospaced format with fixed-width, meaning that every character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space. This feature is necessitated by the nature of the typewriter apparatus.