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Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Beauty of Lettering

Travels combined with dissertation research has given me an appreciation for the beauty of lettering. It is particularly striking when you go to a country or a experience a language with an entirely different alphabet. The inability to recognise these forms or read them leads to an appreciation of their form and music alone. Letters contain an inherent beauty in their function, and Eric Gill certainly approved of this. Here are a few photographs to stir your own interest. In China I saw a few examples of people writing on the streets in water, it is still a mystery to me why they were doing it, although I like to imagine it was spontaneous park-poetry! Above you can see a calligrapher in the Temple of Heaven park and below in Beihai Park, Beijing.
Unfortunately in this picture you can see the spots of rain threatening to erase the whole work of art and labour before its time. But this poetry has to be fast and fleeting because in the heat of Beijing it quickly disappears. Words in to air without a trace.
In Marrakech I discovered an appreciation for the incantatory forms of Arabic lettering, mysteriously marking walls and the sides of buildings. I experience these letters as the deaf do, blind to the richness of intonation and suggestive meaning, left soothed by their most basic aesthetic appeal and grasping nothing more.
There is a kind of magic to these unexplained letters, perhaps they are as mundane as road signs and shop fronts, but while I don't understand and can't know the answers they hold all the power in the world.
A little research has yielded an answer to the mystery of water-park-calligraphy in China;
It seems my instinct wasn't so far off when I guessed it might be poetry, but this isn't intended as performance art, but just practice! Just another example of why parks in Beijing are so beautiful, hives of afternoon activity.


  1. Of further interest, might be an artist called Song Dong who has been writing his diary with water on stone since 1995 as a reflection on his father's advice to practice calligraphy with water in order to save wasting ink! Water Diary, oh how beautiful;

  2. Great blog!!! Can't wait for more posts!