This two-month collage workshop with Brody Neuenschwander has come to an end, and I’ve barely scratched the surface (sorry! couldn’t resist … sorry again!). We explored so much that it would have been impossible to even try it all. We dyed, whitewashed, scratched letters, stamped letters, collaged old book pages and monoprints and actual items, and so much more.
The piece shown above has layers of Western and Asian papers, old book pages, tiny lettering, whitewash, and scratched letters. It references carpet pages such as you might see in 6th-century bibles. The scratched letters read (only if you want to read them) a saying my grandfather was fond of repeating. “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” And the tiny lettering at top left and curved at top are more literary and verbose version of the same sentiment. However, the platinum gouache in the egg shape at middle right doesn’t photograph well, answers these quotations: “I’m weakening.” Content area 11 x 14 in.
The collage workshop is dead (not it’s not — I could spend the next 2 years at least on this material). Long live the collage workshop: The Magic of Kozo begins in just two weeks. And I’ve got a big frame to build, and more art (well, hardware-store) supplies to buy. It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken.
Actually, I gathered up all the bits and pieces of work/play in this seal-script-inspired vein and was shocked at the height of the pile. I can see a number of applications for this style of working. So much fun!
Series 2 of Brody Neuenschwander’s online classes is inspired by Chinese seal script. I am loving this shift in thinking from fairly uniform letters with discreet spaces between words to separate word bundles. It’s the difference between a grass prairie and tiered landscaping. Or it can be. I’m fascinated with the way the way of working shifts me toward thinking illustratively. For instance, the word “round” is enclosed by the “O”. And in the corner bit, the word “seed” begins to look like a pea pod. And what a change this improvisational construction is from standard formal Western calligraphy, where the letter placement is fore-ordained!
Click on the image for a much larger look.
If you missed my post on the first series, check it out here.
I first met Brody during a week-long workshop at Camp Cheerio in 2000. He and Thomas Ingmire co-taught the workshop, “Textual Reverberations”. A good deal of time has passed, but I still have the book I made in that class. During that week, according to my notes — and perhaps the promotional materials, “we looked at meaning in modern text-based art and worked with more open-ended and suggestive processes. Inventive calligraphic writings were developed based on musical, emotional, rhythmic, visual, linear, and formal themes.”
It was a different workshop than most calligraphy workshops in that it tied calligraphy into the larger art world. Every morning we were treated to a talk about lettering in the contemporary art that included a slideshow of work by Cy Twombly, Jenny Holzer, Bruce Nauman, Barbara Kruger, and many others. During that week we also got see what Brody was doing in that wider world. One evening we watched “The Pillow Book”, directed by Peter Greenaway and including calligraphy by Brody. And we saw another collaboration with Peter Greenaway, “Bologna Towers 2000“, in which his writing was projected the towers of Bologna. For me, at that time, it was an eye-opener.
Edited to add: I wrote a blog post about this 2000 workshop here.
The just-completed class series advances this theme of calligraphy in the larger world, taking inspiration from the Kufic form of calligraphy. From copying and then translating elements of those forms into Latin calligraphy, we learned to break the grid that our 26-letter palette and vellum/quill tradition have encouraged.
I haven’t begun to describe the class; a full description is beyond me. I’ve shown my homework submission here, but you can enjoy the fantastic work of some of the other students at instagram #brodyonline. Sorry you missed it? You can still take the class as a recording. Series 2 begins in April and looks to Chinese seal script for inspiration. I can’t wait!