2020 Topic 19 - Words of Wisdom
Hello everyone, Alison Bomber here with you this week while Keren is on a break, just to share a few thoughts - a few words and pictures (!) - on the theme of Words of Wisdom. Can you think why Leandra thought I might be the right person for the job?! I'm a passionate lover of words and for me there is nothing better than when a visual image is intensified or brought alive by just the right phrase, idea or combination of words - or sometimes just a single word.
Both words and pictures have the power to tell stories and move us each on their own - how much more power can they have when they are combined? When words form an integral part of an artwork, the result is somewhere between language and visual imagery and so it has the power to speak to us on a number of levels.
Using words in projects may come as second nature for those of us coming from the crafting end of the art spectrum - sentiments on cards, word stickers or found words discovered randomly in the pages of books, journalling prompts, or sharing our own thoughts in the pages of a journal or art journal, and, not least I hope, borrowing somebody else's beautiful words in the form of quote stamps to share an idea on a tag or journal page or card. The words might be a late addition or afterthought, or sometimes the words themselves are the inspiration for the whole project.
But the use of words has also had a large part to play in the work of a number of post-modernist artists since the 1950s, often in response to other art movements like abstract expressionism or minimalism. Words were a way of reintroducing content in art to counter those other rarefied forms.
A simple definition of text-based art might be "art that includes words or phrases as its primary artistic component". There are two main types of "word art": an artwork may contain words or phrases often with an ideological component, or even as advertising copy - so the words are carrying a particular message; or the words and phrases may form the actual artistic content themselves.
There are examples of both kinds of word art included here, along with some of the different ways artists and crafters have incorporated words into artistic projects of all kinds, not least right here on the PaperArtsy blog.
I make no apology for starting with a project using some of the collections of quote stamps I've been releasing with PaperArtsy since 2017. Hazel Agnew made this fabulous tag book when her friend was in need of some words of wisdom to help her through a bad time - vibrant visuals to offer joy, and words chosen to lift the spirits.
Nikki Acton created dimensional art full of light and shade for the topic Dark to Light here at PaperArtsy, with words that perfectly reflected and therefore intensified the theme of the panel.
But of course the PaperArtsy stamp range includes words in so many of its collections - in all different styles. In this beautiful art journal Lynn Good incorporates Sara Naumann's word stamps into the backgrounds of the pages so that the text becomes part of the texture.
Word Art can be as simple as passing on wisdom by adding a sentiment to a card - though there's nothing simple about these gorgeous cards created by Josefine Fouarge with brayered texture, foiling and Scrapcosy words and pictures...
... or being inspired by some words of wisdom or beauty - yes, from one of my quote collections again - to create a seasonal art journalling page like this gorgeous textural spread by Autumn Clark... Autumn does autumn!
And speaking of journalling, sharing your own thoughts and words of wisdom daily in a written journal can become an art form in itself. Take a look at these beautiful pages by Cathy Moreau - the writing itself is already beautiful in soft brown ink, but then the decorative elements enhance the pages and the thoughts.
Let's take ourselves from two dimensions into three and take another look at the Robert Indiana sculpture which has become so iconic. The word becomes tangible, solid, a real presence in the world - the thought made flesh. As he himself has said of it, this sculpture created in 1966 was "the culmination of ten years of work based on the original premise that the word is an appropriated and usable element of art [...] which evolved inevitably [...] into the concept that the word is also a fit and viable subject for art." I couldn't agree more - words are a subject for art, and sometimes they are art themselves.
And other "word art" pieces have become just as iconic. Barbara Kruger's work combines type and images as part of a direct feminist cultural critique. You've almost certainly seen her work on postcards, posters, t-shirts or almost anywhere you can reproduce art for impact.
Another place where words and images collide is in the apparently humble cartoon. I was tempted to add some of Charles Schulz's Peanuts strips - Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and friends have so many words of wisdom (and hilarity) to share, and I've learned many life lessons from them - but I decided for the example to turn to the brilliant Jacky Fleming, another feminist using words and pictures to create powerful messages, with a hefty dose of humour (though funnier to some genders than others).
Jacky Fleming (source: jackyfleming.co.uk)
People seek out words of wisdom when times are hard, and so it's no accident that in recent years quotes and phrases have found their way onto all kinds of home decor, from wall art to mugs, or to beautiful jugs and vases like this one by the Namesake Emporium. Again the words become decorative in themselves.
In fact, people have been adding words to homeware for a very long time indeed, as this bowl decorated with Kufic calligraphy shows... it dates back to the 10th century. The Arabic inscription reads: Planning before work protects from regrets; patience is the key to comfort. Words of wisdom indeed.
And there are times when the calligraphy itself is an art form, the words of wisdom bringing beauty and inspiration into your heart before you can even read their content...
For sheer exuberance, life and inventiveness, you can't beat graffiti as a source of word art. There are as many graffiti artists as there are walls available, from the very famous and officially-sanctioned to the utterly anonymous and slightly illegal - all bringing words to life with colour and zest and creativity.
You can construct your whole image out of words as artist Daniel Duffy has done here with this extraordinary New York cityscape...
... or use them to create a self-portrait as Thomas Packer has done here.
Or take that portrait back into the 3D medium of sculpture again as Jaume Piensa has done with this beautiful piece of art outdoors, an 8-metre man of steel formed out of moulded letters, allowing you to search out and put together for yourself the words of wisdom you need to hear.
"Nomade" by Jaume Piensa (source: mymodernmet.com)
You can even use words and images to try to sort your life out with mind-mapping - be your own source of words of wisdom...
All of which brings us pretty much full circle back to the way many of us use our journals and art journals, or even tags and other projects... we create to share some joy or wisdom with others; or to try to come to terms with things that are going on in our lives and work through our problems to feel a little better; or to escape them altogether. It's a form of meditation, an active seeking of wisdom. Both words and pictures can give us those images to think with, to imagine, to meditate upon.
I believe that's at least part of what we seek from art as well as from the words of wisdom handed down the centuries by poets and philosophers - solace, strength, comfort, escape, a sense of how others see the world and how that might chime with how we see it ourselves... recognition and inspiration. When you have words and pictures together, you will surely find some wisdom which might help to turn your day around.
I hope these words and pictures will get you thinking about incorporating words into your projects or letting them be the inspiration that guides your art. You may find the combination unbeatable as a source of wisdom and discovery.
If you want to create along with us while we explore this topic, please share your makes on our social feeds so we can follow along. Instagram @paperartsy or why not join us and post in the PaperArtsy People Group on Facebook. Make sure you tag us in your contributions, we love to see what you get up to in your creative world!