Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Faux Chinese sighting

Felix Grant and I have discussed from time to time the often ingenious calligraphic device of imitating letterforms from other scripts (see Double delight / Faux Cyrillic sighting / This mesto in Salisbury).

MetaFilter just had a post - Square Word Calligraphy: English that Looks Like Chinese - that drew attention to a very nice example: the Chinese artist Xu Bing's 1994 installation Square Calligraphy Classroom. This showcased an attractive style of writing, invented by the artist, that goes beyond merely imitating letters, but also arranges them into words in a manner closely imitating the internal organisation of Chinese characters.
Essentially, New English Calligraphy is a fusion of written English and written Chinese. The letters of an English word are slightly altered and arranged in a square word format so that the word takes on the ostensible form of a Chinese character, yet remains legible to the English reader. As people attempt to recognize and write these words, some of the thinking patterns that have been ingrained in them since they learned to read are challenged. It is the artists' belief that people must have their routine thinking attacked in this way. While undergoing this process of estrangement and re-familiarization with one's written language, the audience is reminded that the sensation of distance between other systems of language and one's own is largely self-induced.
See Square Calligraphy Classroom; and also the Omniglot page Square Word Calligraphy, concerning Dr David B. Kelley's development of it modified for a more consistent Chinese-like appearance to the words.

Addendum: a little experimentation with this system finds that although it's simple in concept, it requires considerable calligraphic flair (more than I have) to use characters flexibly to make the most aesthetic packing within the square. Here's my effort on my name, using GIMP, which clearly fails to achieve the uniformity of stroke thickness.

- Ray

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful!!!

    Little Bo peep will never be the same for me again :-)