Apollinaire Fine Arts pays homage to the written word in Calligram, an exhibition presenting work by five artists inspired by text as a physical, visual object. The word calligram (calligramme in the original French) was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire through his poetry collection of the same name, in which – eschewing poetic and typographical convention – he set his words free to float, twist and create works that spoke as much to the eye as to the ear. The artists in Calligram have also taken the written word as the basis for their work, playing with the physical forms of text to create a new and expressive visual language.
In this varied yet cohesive showcase, Calligram brings together paintings, works on paper, sculptural forms and performance to result in a thematic line that is at times subtly pervasive, at others deliberate and commanding. From Stuart Sheldon’s vibrant, bold and at times provocative reappropriations of classic literarary titles to Francis Gury’s delicate, tactile treatment of paper as a characteristic material, the exhibition aims to amplify the implications of the written word – augmenting its potential to open a dialogue that is principally visual.
Stuart Sheldon is a key figure in Miami’s Wynwood arts district. An artist for our times, he uses celebrated works of classic literature to make political statements, slicing and reassembling their covers into arresting collages. Sheldon burst into public consciousness with Fancy Nasty, an installation in a derelict waterfront property that became the talk of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2015. His critically acclaimed series I’m With The Banned and The Best Books Ever Written are concerned with censorship and false narratives in political discourse, and have been exhibited in Berlin, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami, where earlier this year he was also invited to speak about his work at the Perez Art Museum. For Calligram, Sheldon presents a series of new works, critiquing the corrosive use of money and power in American politics.
Penelope Guidoni, a French artist now settled in Prague, is an economist by training, but abandoned her former career to retrain as a bookbinder. Working in collaboration with authors and printers, her starting point is always an inspirational text, printed as a one-off or limited edition, around which she crafts a unique leather binding and case to transform a work of literature into a true work of art. In 2017, she was awarded silver prize at the third International Bookbinding Competition. Her work has been exhibited extensively around the world including such prestigious institutions as the Grand Palais, Paris, the Bodleian, Oxford, the Nobel Museum, Stockholm, and the Nerima Art Museum, Tokyo.
Frances Gury trained as a sculptor in London, where he worked and exhibited for many years before returning to his native France. For the past 15 years, his work has been paper-based – but, eschewing traditional materials, he usitises fire as a transformative agent, to char the paper and blacken it with smoke before building layers through use of oxidised metals, sealing wax or other media of his own creation. Taking his inspiration from classical Chinese and Persian calligraphy, in his series Ecritures Gury’s line loops and curls, the abstract form evoking hidden writings and meanings, while his Don Quichotte and Poèmes reference the literary past more directly. Recent exhibitions include those at the Institut Français in London, the Galerie Marten in Berlin, and the Chateau du Grand Jardin de Joinville, France.
John Reigert & Phoebe Tsang are, respectively, an American artist living in Philadelphia and an Anglo-Canadian writer, musician and performance artist based in Toronto. In Calligram, for the first time Riegert and Tsang present the results of their recent collaboration, the Lightup Poems, in which Riegert visually interprets found poetry created by Tsang using the Dada-inspired technique of selecting individual words and phrases from an existing piece of writing. A graduate of the Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Reigert’s artistic epiphany came when he decided to abandon his formal training and work solely with a sharpie and plain paper, creating ephemeral works with a deliberate “low art” aesthetic. Tsang trained as an architect in London before moving to Canada to pursue a career as a concert violinist, but found herself increasingly drawn to writing. Her first full-length poetry collection Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse was published in 2009, since when her work has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize and the Matrix Lit-POP Awards. Tsang is also a practicing tarot artist and will offer readings as part of “Poetry & Prediction” at the Fitzrovia Gallery on 13th October.