An exhibition of collaborative works by the artists of ‘Letter Exchange’ and the writers of ‘26’
The foreword of this catalogue:
The written word is a synthesis of sounds and symbols, the verbal and visual combining to communicate thoughts and ideas. At one extreme this can be prosaic, functional transient - a shopping list scrawled on a scrap of paper. At the other it can be profound, moving, enduring
- a carefully composed epitaph incised in stone.
The 26 Words project is an exploration of this interplay between medium and message. Or, to paraphrase McLuhan, the symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.
Letter Exchange is an organisation of lettering artists, concerned primarily with the
medium. 26 is an organisation of writers, focused on the message. We were drawn
to one another by a happy coincidence: in 2013 Letter Exchange celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, 26 its tenth. Both of us were looking to mark our respective birthdates in some challenging new way.
The project we came up with is born of random collaboration and mutual creativity. It set minds from two different disciplines the task of exploring and interpreting together the themes and associations suggested by a given word.
Earlier this year, in a sweaty pub basement, a modern version of an ancient Roman ritual was performed. A blunt kitchen knife was inserted twenty-six times into a large dictionary, its tip indicating the chosen word from each letter of the alphabet in turn. Twenty-six pairs of writers and lettering artists were randomly paired and given one word each to work with. A final couple was assigned the unenviable task of weaving together all the words into one cohesive whole.
This arbitrary pairing of creative minds can be a risky strategy, relying as it does on the chemistry between the partners as much as the merging of skills and ideas. Our definition of a successful collaboration was to be the production of work in which words and images are integral and interdependent, created in response to a shared original concept.
In an era where what we write, how we write it, and what it looks like is for the most part dictated for us by keyboards, touch-screens and monitors, it's worth celebrating the material world - hand, pen, paper, ink, lino, stone. It's worth remembering you don't have to limit yourself to 140 characters or fill a blank page; you don't need to print in 12 point Calibri; and your eyes, like your mind, can take in more than a lit screen.
In nature, crossbreeding and mutation ensure the next generation is stronger: blindly repeating what has gone before leads to stagnation and obsolescence. To create something new you need to challenge convention, experiment, be adventurous, have fun, get things wrong! Debate, argue, disagree, get excited, be passionate. And, as you can see from the creation stories accompanying each work, there has been plenty of that in the past few months.
Writers and artists still use the same tools - pen, pencil and yes, even keyboard. Language is arguably at its most powerful when the visual and verbal combine. We would like the 26 Words project to inspire new collaborations and creative adventures that will enrich all our lives. Mark Noad, Chairman, Letter Exchange
Will Awdry, Kaye Coleman-Rooney, Alastair Creamer, Jim Davies, Stuart Delves, Mike Dempsey, Sarah Farley, Neil Baker, Ceri Tallett, Andy Hayes, Roger Horberry, Laura Hunter, Jamie Jauncey, Vivien Jones, Tessa Sheridan, Martin Lee, Sarah McCartney, Tamara O'Brien, Pete Kirby, Dan Radley, Mike Reed, Tim Rich, Rob Self-Pierson, Mark Stevens, Neil Taylor, Hester Thomas and John Simmons.
Cherrell Avery, Brenda Berman, Mourad Boutros, Ann Bowen, Robbie Schneider, Mark Frith, Rosella Garavaglia, Mark Noad, Will Hill, Charlotte Howarth, Sue Hufton, Lin Kerr, Susie Leiper, Rachel Yallop, Tom Young, Giles Macdonald, Margaret Morgan, John Neilson, Anna Parker, Ros Pritchard, Stephen Raw, James Salisbury, Sally Castle, Annet Stirling, Louise Tiplady, Teucer Wilson and Freda Sack.
1st edition, 2013, paperback, 62pp, full colour throughout, 21 x 29.8cm