THE JOY OF TEXT - part one.
I have been tussling with something completely new just lately - text. Well not new entirely new perhaps as I have always loved letter forms. Even way back at college in '88 I did a project based on printing from wooden letter blocks. At college there were these old beautiful original letter wooden letters. My God they were magnificent! They were all in their original drawers - each time I pulled one out my heart would leap! They were beautiful things to feel, and to print were sooo exciting.
Here is some of the work. Its strange to see it again. Its all been lurking in the loft and its like finding another part of me again. Strangely unsettling to think of where the time and memories have gone and thrilling too as I see myself now in the germs of the ideas then.
I had a giggle over seeing this again...obviously cutting paper has been burbling around my head for a long long time.
They had an elegance and feeling of history that I remember very clearly.
All this was brought back by a set of letter blocks that I have borrowed from my friend James (Mayhew). These letters feel the same as those from years ago - they have the same elegance and beauty and history in them. They feel so gorgeous to hold, I thought of all the things they have printed - books and posters, pamphlets and leaflets and on the surface of them ghosts of words perhaps of propaganda to a long lost loved pet.
The reason I have borrowed them is to start exploring new rhythms of text. In October I am exhibiting in the tiny but fantastically intimate Foyer Gallery in Letchworth Art Centre. I want to exhibit some poems I have written that I will make as paper cuts combined with a strong image. The amount of text is much larger than I have ever done - so have needed to make sure I start this work now to make sure it's finished in time. I can't cut them all at once as I have other commissions and other exhibition work to get done. I have started already and here is the first attempt at combining a strong image with a cut poem. I didn't want the image to be an afterthought, but as an equal actor on the stage. And here is where it gets interesting.......
In "Morning Cup of Tea" (below) - I wanted to make sure that the image and text were equal. However.... ARGH!!!! Something weird happened and it looks all wrong! The text seems just to turn into a block of texture. And instead of them complimenting each other it's like they are fighting, vying for who can speak loudest. It's not happy, the image and text feel trapped. I think that partly to do with the fact that this is largely a collage. The figure was first cut and then I cut the words in a much more organic, fingers crossed, hope this works kind of way! and the lettering is actually stuck onto the watercolour backing. I rarely work like that - the great paradox of the paper cuts is that they look really simple and effortless but I have actually spent lots of time working the composition out so that the whole thing hangs together with complete harmony and balance. It drives me mad that the line - "space for fingers" - sticks out so much. It just doesn't fit in the rhythm of the piece at all. I don't know why I am surprised - an idea rarely works when you have it all mapped out in your head first. There is no substitute for actual making and cutting and letting a piece develop in your actual hands.
All this has brought to the fore that I have reached a point that I see in others and I have reached the same crossroads. Since 2007 I have been cutting paper. At that time I wanted to be utterly ruthless. I had worked a lot with textiles and mixed media and I wanted a very, very extreme break from all that had gone before. An enforced law to myself was to only use a cut line to make images. Pieces would come about strictly through one piece of paper only, and in the very early days, that they be a white line cut too. The work changed and developed of course, nothing ever stands still and became much more sophisticated. Colour broke through too in layers underneath the cuts.
Nearly three years down the line and I am getting a bit cosy. This departure into writing poems and also cutting them is forcing me out of my comfort zone. It's a good thing, it really is... but I am not at all sure what will come out through my hands. It means I need to do some serious experimenting. Clearly just cutting a huge amount of text just wont work. It does when it's just lettering, but to have the challenge of getting the image to work in there equally is going to be difficult. I am going to have to get into new media - rubbings and more collage work to find the solution...
and here is the cup of tea poem as plain, naked words:
The morning cup of tea
As my sleepy brain
responds to the knowledge of you,
I hold you cupped in both hands
so I can feel the strong curve
of your bone china body
in my hollowed palms.
Your handle, a limb, a space for
fingers to slip gently into.
This handle means I can’t drop you,
you are shaped to be cherished.
At first I only sense the heat of you,
but so deliciously quickly, as I pull
my lips to you, that sweet warmth
flows into my mouth and over my tongue.
I like to take you into me hotter
than is safe so that I can feel
every last measure of your liquid life.
Drunk fully with deep gulps, you are soon
emptied and I smile, satisfied.
Vanessa Stone July 2009