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.
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.