Barrie has finally got back into his studio – after several months of being too busy with that teaching lark (and writing a paper for his first symposium appearance), he’s dusted off his A3 Olivetti and started making art again. The push that he needed came partly through jealousy – he’d been helping Jantze with her rather beautiful concertina books — and partly through the joys and delights of travelling; he has been off in Reading and Banbury external assessing, so those long train journeys from Lincoln gave him a little thinking and drawing time.
He’s returned to Purgatory (no pun intended) and begun working on the remaining Cantos. The research for the Typewriter Art book has been wonderfully liberating – to see what a great variety of work there is out there has really made him think about the possibilities that are available for his own responses to the verses… but of course the downside is, that there are so many beautiful, articulate and creative pieces of typewriter art out there (and he’s discovering new works and new artists all the time), how do you place your own practice within that? How do you compete or compare to all those people?
His ideas for this Cant0 (XIII; The Sin of Pride) were initially very complex and quite illustrative. After a great deal of thinking and ‘thinking with a pencil’, he’s ended up with a piece of work which is at the exact opposite of the spectrum. More Kolář than Rathbone.
Although he’s cautiously happy with this solution, he wonders if he’d have been happier if he’d arrived at it through making, realising and discarding finished pieces, rather than leaving the unused ideas as sketches in a rough book. Perhaps he feels he should have gone through the creative fire rather than skirted around the edge of it and then sat down for about thirty seconds in order to make the illustration. Although you could argue (and no doubt he will), that this is the distillation of 30 years of typographic thinking and training. And he changed the ribbon from Back & Red to Purple. That’s got to count as part of the creative struggle…
The texts for Purgatory aren’t anywhere near the visual/graphic ‘treats’ of The Inferno, but this Canto does have a particularly potent image:
Canto XIII; The Sin of Pride
Just as the blind cannot enjoy the sun,
so, to the shades I saw before me here,
the light of Heaven denies its radiance:
the eyelids of these shades had been sewn shut
with iron threads, like falcons newly caught,
whose eyes we stitch to tame their restlessness.
And this led to a very, very simple graphic solution.