Monday, 23 March 2015

Asemic text

I spent a fascinating day in Cricklade near my home at a workshop in the company of Anita Bruce last Thursday. The focus of the day was asemic writing and its use in art work. We spent the day creating text-like forms with pen and ink and simple drawing and painting tools and using various papers (from cartridge to tissue paper). We then made our experiments into a simple hand-bound sketch book.

It was suggested that we might begin by using words from a piece of our own writing or a favourite poem, making writing-like marks in whatever way we chose - writing freely, in a range of sizes, on both sides of the paper, and writing the words backwards and on top of one another. I chose random words from Robert Frost's lovely poem The Sound of Trees which gave words containing a variety of letter shapes - and for me the pleasure I always get from reading the poem.

I began very literally using my natural handwriting and words were quite recognisable but it was interesting how, as the day progressed, I gradually left true meaning behind and concentrated more on the shapes I was producing. Here is a range of the pages I produced ...

Meaning and words still very clear on smaller writing ...


Meaning disappearing on background text ...


Receding meaning - writing randomly on the back of computer paper with a felt tip pen ...


And two on tracing paper over computer paper where the meaning has disappeared ...




Although I had long been aware that many artists use text-like symbols in their work to great effect, the word asemic was new to me when the workshop was first proposed last autumn. I needed to check out its meaning and Wikipedia was the first to offer a definition on Google as follows (I've paraphrased):

... a wordless open semantic form of writing, often calligraphic in form but with no literal verbal sense. A vacuum of meaning is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. S/He has to decide whether to read or to look. 

In another source, Sheila Ceccarelli on accessart.org explains that it can be considered as the text that infants write before they can form letters. Having recently watched two of my young grandchildren 'doing writing', one with more recognisable success than the other, I could well see what she meant.

She provides two examples by teenagers in her drawing class which I found very useful, especially as the work done by our group was all executed in black and white.

I think that this has real interest for me and I'm sure I will use the asemic writing again, given time to absorb the ideas and find suitable ways to make use of the techniques.


14 comments:

  1. I love what you've done here. And how fantastic to make all those experiments into a book! Really awesome.

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    1. It was altogether a lovely day. What I most enjoyed, was exploring the range of effects I got from the various papers - food for thought for fabric there ...

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  2. Asemic is a new word for me! I love these... the book is marvelous and the last two studies are very intriguing and eye-cathing with their layers and translucent quality. I can see they may work well on fabric...

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    1. Thank you very much for commenting, Marja-Leena. Asemic text was an idea that I felt I'd somehow known about without knowing the word itself ... pinning it down and playing with it was fascinating. I've been trying fine fabric and stitch today and will post about it when there's something interesting to show.

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  3. It looks as if it was a really fun day - and the marks you made relate so well to the parts of the bridge on which you have recently been working.

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    1. Bridge structures were very much in my mind as I worked ... lots to consider and try out.

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  4. Margaret, thank you for setting me off seeking Anita Bruce's work. I found this fascinating clip of film of her talking about an exhibition she had in John Clare's house. The idea sounds delightful, and a great use of asemic text:
    http://www.idea1.org.uk/events/art/unearthed-anita-bruce/

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    1. This reference is absolutely fascinating, Olga. Thank you very much for linking me to it. It gives lots of further detail about the John Clare project which Anita talked about. I will pass it onto the rest of our group. I'm planning a further post about Anita and her work next week sometime. She is a lady of many talents!

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  5. Totally new to me too - and quite fascinating!

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    1. The technique seems to have a great range from the fine and delicate to the bold and strong which I tried to exploit in my experimenting. As well as this, I also liked the suggestions, allusions and half-glances at thoughts that could be created ... fascinating.

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  6. I've been using asemic writing in my embroidery for a few years, can't remember how i stumbled across it! Have you seen the Codex Seraphinianus--truly inspiring, and confusing :) Funny too how you if done often enough, develop your "own" alphabet/language/style/font!,

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    1. Hi Arlee - good to hear from you. I hadn't seen the Codex Seraphinianus - till now - and a truly extraordinary thing it is - indecipherable and mysterious yet with the utterly convincing air of a (perhaps Victorian?) scientific text. Amazing! Thank you for the link.

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  7. I find the progression of your writing fascinating. I've thought to try something like this back when I was doing morning pages and caught myself getting caught up in the feel of making some of the looped letters - what if I let meaning and actual words go and just make those flowing loops across the page or fabric? Of course, I never did go on with that idea but after seeing this, I see a path to getting started.

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    1. Thank you very much for visiting and for commenting so interestingly. It was good to hear from you.
      Letting meaning and actual words go is maybe what it's all about but I think the hint of 'real' words is interesting too, suggesting hidden thoughts and making links. How to marry up the two is the question ... along with how to match everything together with all the other imagery. so much to think about.

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