Painting with words

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 8:49 AM

After weeks of promising myself a visit, I only just made it to this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition before it closed on Monday 15 August.

As always it was a mixed bag and there was lots to see but I was particularly drawn to three pieces of work that used words rather than images.

Two of them were by Tracy Emin (I’ll come back to them in a mo) and the other was by Miranda Argyle. I loved her piece which comprises the word ‘Heartbeat’ (its title) stitched in silk thread onto linen, over and over so that it fills the entire surface.

Take a look at the rest of Miranda’s stitched work and her current work.

Now back to Tracy Emin. Her monoprint, ‘Me too – Glad to Hear I’m a Happy Girl’ has the words ‘Glad your happy girl’ handwritten in the middle of an otherwise blank sheet of paper. Of course it left me wondering whether the grammatical error was intentional or not. I overhead two women, who I suspect were teachers, discussing it and suggesting she should go straight to the bottom of the class!

The use of words in works of art is nothing new. 1960’s Pop artists such as Andy Warhol used text in their work and British artist, Tom Philips has blended visual art with text from an early stage in his career.

In 1966 he set out to find a second-hand book for threepence and to create a new version of it by altering every page by painting, collage and cut-up techniques.  The new book, which he called ‘A Humument’ comprised 367 pages and was published in 1973.

Since then there have been three new editions and it now has it’s own website where you can view the fourth edition in its entirety

Phillips has brought it bang up to date with the The Humument App which is available from the App Store How cool is that?

Public artist and campaigner, Martin Firrall, certainly knows how to make a statement through textual art – maybe it’s because he originally trained as an advertising copywriter!

Firrall’s work has been projected onto St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Opera House and the National Gallery. His work ‘Complete Hero’ was projected onto the side of The Guards Chapel, Birdcage Walk, London in November 2009.

And in a moment of serendipity, I found this BBC online article from October 2009 on artists who have used text in their work: including Firrell.




A lesson in clear, succinct copy… from an estate agent | Painting with words at Dungeness

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog