Some time ago, I linked to this wonderful video, featuring an artist book ‘Hushed Writing’ or Grafia Callada, by Spanish graphic designer and artist, Pepe Gimeno. I make no apologies for showing it again.
Since then, I have come across the work of the US artist Cecil Touchon, in particular his asemic writing. Some of Touchon’s work involves fragmentary text which he arranges into collage, often then painting the image. I’ve touched on the idea of fragmented text in this post on making stencils, but I confess I hadn’t thought of taking that idea further. It is the earlier work in which he transforms found texts by overwriting that seems to have strong affinities with Gimeno. They both produce pieces which have the structure and appearance of text, but without content.
Asemic writing is not the exclusive domain of Touchon. Indeed the roots, seem to go back to c800 CE and the Tang Dynasty. Since then, the Middle Ages and Renaissance saw the use of Pseudo-Kufic (imitation Arabic script) decoration. In the 20th century, many artists including Kandinsky and Man Ray have experimented with it. In many ways, the pictographs of Adolf Gottlieb fall into this genre too. The abstract expressionist scribbles which appear in much contemporary art are surely also descended from this idea. However, in its approach, Grafia Callada, from Gimeno seems to remain unique.