The Book of Kells | HoD

Disclaimer: NO, I did not choose to write about the Book of Kells because I am a Christian boy.

 Ever since Prof. Michael Walsh taught us about Christian Art, the Book of Kells has always fascinated me. More specifically, the illustrative extravagance and overall complexity it achieves, given its respective historical context! In simple terms, I cannot fathom how creating something like that is even possible given the time stamp of the work.

 Surface value suggests the Book of Kells be hardly typographic at all. Upon flipping the cover, motifs and geometric shapes flood the entire opening page. What piques my interest has to be the fact, that monastery monks were able to create such intricate masterpieces despite the limitations. The monks went through a tedious and unforgiving process of weaving tempera onto a delicate parchment of vellum. The immense dedication it took, wins my admiration as I would imagine months maybe even years, of discipline, precise painting, just for a single page. Funny enough, this truly reflects the Christian teachings, one of long-suffering and patience.

 During Desmond’s lecture, he introduced something that I never before saw. The half uncials implemented within the manuscript portion of the book. Beautifully handcrafted typography with the prominent extension of the capital letters and individual ascenders. What strikes me most here is the incredible readability of each word. What more, the distinct spacings between words and impeccable separation between sentences value add significantly to its overall legibility.

I’ve always been a fan of clean, minimalistic layouts. Seeing how the monastery monks have achieved seamless perfection without the need of a computer much less a printing press is truly mesmerising.

Desmond’s lecture truly supplements my initial preconception of the work, echoing the sentiments of the renown archdeacon Giraldus de Barri:

‘Examine it carefully and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art…the work of an angel, not a man.’

Saxoléine, Pétrole de Sûreté | HoD

One of the first few artists under the ‘Art Nouveau’ movement that Desmond went through during class.

I love this set of posters for a few reasons. Visually, the art style reminds me of the good old days; watching cartoons on the television either through a cassette tape or CD.

Hayao Miyazaki’s films come to mind instantly for some reason, although in hindsight perhaps there wasn’t much of a link to begin with! Maybe the free-spirited, whimsical composition (colour, subject matter and type choice) aided the connection. But I guess you can be the judge of that!

However, apart from the nostalgia talking, personally, the part of the poster that appeals to me most has to be the interaction of the two distinct subject matters. I think it’s hilarious to see that the intense, passionate looks on the women’s faces, is merely from an interaction with an oil lamp. Not too sure what went through Jules Chéret’s mind during the design process, but he seems to be wanting to tell his viewers…

“BUY OUR LAMP OIL & THIS COULD BE YOU TOO!”, downright weird…

Don’t get me wrong, I meant no disrespect to the “Father of Modern Posters”. In fact, I wanted to highlight just how influential Jules Chéret’s contributions are, to the advertisements of today. Take, for example, the recent ‘Shopee’ adverts done in collaboration with football superstar ‘Christiano Ronaldo’. We can sit here and cringe with disapproval all day, but at the end of it, the reach of the ad is evidently far and widespread. In other words, a seemingly lousy ad can still be an effective one. Shopee drew upon a marketing tool still extensively used in the advertising world; incorporating influential figures or an ideal human state to promote their service.

I think it’s just incredible to see where it all started.

Calligrammes, Guillaume Apollinaire | HoD

Calligrams! was what caught my attention this week! A series of text arranged in a manner that formed and reflected a thematically related visual/image. Executed through a myriad of ways; in a poem, a phrase, tiny bits of scripture or even single words. The visual arrangement of the typeface was paramount to it working, because if you think about it… you have nothing to work with apart from typography, no pictures, no gifs and certainly no videos.

No he is not wearing a head-band, he got shot in the temple when serving in the World War.

Guillaume Apollinaire was a poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist and art critic. This guy is amazing, he is considered one of the most prominent poets of the early 20th century. Better still, upon further research I realise he was the one who actually coined the names of the two movements ‘cubism’ & ‘surrealism’ in 1911 & 1917 respectively. I wouldn’t be surprise if the term ‘calligrams’ was also coined by him.

Apollinaire is a renown calligram writer and also the author of a book of poems called Calligrammes, subtitled Poems of Peace & War. I found a link by the ‘Public Domain Reviews’ that allows you to view the whole book in its entirety, HOHOHO (The Link)

In his own words,
“The Calligrammes are an idealisation of free verse poetry and typographical precision in an era when typography is reaching a brilliant end to its career, at the dawn of the new means of reproduction that are the cinema and the phonograph.”

Many of the poems deal with Apollinaire’s wartime experience, and through his calligrams, exude a sense of longing and desire for liberty and peace. Here are some examples that caught my attention.Calligrams value added to the poetry Apollinaire wrote, the ingenious arrangement of typefaces intensified each composition and perhaps, even allowed the reader to get a glimpse and relate closer to the artist’s intentions.

Here are some examples of modern day calligrams that are really fun to look at.

Final Thoughts | HoD

The past four weeks learning about history has been fast paced, overloading yet quirky and informative one. Admittedly due to the wide learning scope (there were so many names involved!!!!!!), I found myself struggling to glean as much as I could during lectures. So I would say my knowledge of each artists is merely surface. However, what felt like a hectic and tedious routine at the start of each week soon became an efficient process of analysing and understanding. As much as it requires more effort and time, the reflection posts have really been helping me to swallow better and additionally encouraging my ‘lazy ass’ to do personal research outside class time. Thank God as well for the split test; on hindsight a much better option over the alternative. The set list of keywords coupled with the bi-weekly pop quiz really aided my study and research process; as I was able to search up relevant terms and slowly draw the links myself. All in all, albeit a little overbearing at the start, but progressively, I realise the entire work system was benefitting me a lot more than I thought it would; for starters:

“Fast paced lectures with heavy content + own personal research and reflections”

Surprisingly, this really motivated me to learn independently, and in the process, I’ve retained a whole lot more compared to Art History I & II last year! It has been a joy learning about the History of Graphic Design under Desmond and this new found appreciation and knowledge will go a long way in my own Graphic Design journey!
Thank you, thank you so much!

And of course, the story of Paula Scher blew my mind. I also want to sell a logo for 1.5 million dollars :(…