Archive for the ‘dante’ Category

the typographic dante at the south bank centre

February 23, 2019

The Typographic Dante will have its London debut at the National Poetry Library, South Bank Centre this April.

30 years in the making, and counting, the exhibition will showcase illustrations from Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise.

As always, Barrie is at pains to point out that he has been busy with other projects as well as this one, but despite his glacial pace of progress he has finally dipped his toe into Paradise, the final book of the Divine Comedy.

DATES & TIMES: 30 Apr 2019–30 Jun 2019

WHERE: National Poetry Library, Level 5, Blue side, Royal Festival Hall.

For more information – see The South Bank Centre website.


Paradise… at last

February 7, 2019

Those of you who know Barrie will also know that he’s been working on a very long term project called The Typographic Dante. He’s always at pains to point out that he has been busy with other projects, but the truth of it is, he made the first print back in 1989 and has worked on it on and off ever since.

However. Finally. After 30 years, he‘s managed to complete the Letterpress and Typewriter illustrations for Inferno and Purgatory and has finally dipped his toes in the Letraset illustrations for Paradise.

Paradise: Canto I – The glory of the One who moves all things / permeates the universe and glows / in one part more and in another less.

Paradise: Canto V – such were the far more than a thousand splendours / I saw approaching us, and each declared: / ‘Here now is one who will increase our loves.’

Each of the three processes has given him particular challenges to overcome – the limitations and restrictions inherent in each of the now ‘dead’ technologies. One issue for the Paradise pieces is not only the finite amount of dry transfer sheets he has but their age. Already some of the sheets are crumbling away as they are used. And several sheets (admittedly from an inferior supplier) no longer have any glue on the letterforms, so the careful burnishing may well release the character from the carrier sheet, but in then simply falls off the paper and leaves no trace.

The other unexpected joy is the discovery of some wonderful type sheets…

And the odd youthful misstep.

Oh. The. Shame.

(There’s actually a really interesting article about Chris Costello and the story behind Papyrus here.)

poem of the day

May 28, 2018

Not that we’re out of the loop – but we’ve just found out we were yesterday’s poem of the day on the National Poetry Library website:

The image is taken from Brenda Dermody‘s folder of ‘remixes’ of Barrie’s original typographic illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. These were created especially for the exhibition at the National Print Museum in Dublin.

The full set of four prints can be seen here:

all mouth and falmouth

May 1, 2018

Barrie was recently asked to speak at the Mouth: Poetry and Illustration Forum in Falmouth. And, as he has a mouth, studied illustration and is in a book of 21st Century Concrete Poets, he readily accepted.

Seriously well organised, it came with a Forum pack and…

… an audience.


It was a fantastic event, chaired by the exceptional Allyson Hallett. An absolute joy to be a part of, although he had to leave early in order to get back to Lincoln. Which it turns out, is a very, very long way from Falmouth. Especially when the trains stop running for five hours due to a breakdown.

As part of his narrative about Poetry, illustration and the Typographic Dante, he digressed to talk about the Dante’s Inferno game for the XBox. Which, much to his surprise had some interesting moral questions at its heart, once you’d got over Dante changing from a gentle poet to one man crusading war machine that is… however, he still had some qualms about the game mechanics and the abilities to hack and slash your way through the narrative. He thought a more accurate set-up for the game controller would be this one:

Note to game devlelopers – he’s already worked out some of the gameplay mechanics, so do get in touch.

His previous talk, on a very cold January morning, was to the New Monday Art Group at the Usher Gallery here in Lincoln. A slightly smaller event, but one that was a lot easier to get home from.


blogging the blog

April 16, 2017

Eye magazine recently uploaded a post about Barrie’s Typographic Dante.

The piece talks about the starting point for the project – which began when he was a final year student at the Chelsea School of Art, way back in 1989.

The first roughs and preparatory sketches for Canto I.

Planning the Letterpress overprints in detail.

The original ‘note to self’, which led to a project that has carried on over the next 28 years (and counting).

The Typographic Dante is on display at the National Museum of Print, Dublin, until Wednesday 19th April and the exhibition has recently been reviewed by

dante in private

February 15, 2017

Brenda Dermody at the Typographic Dante

The Private View for the Typographic Dante took place at Dublin’s National Print Museum last Thursday.

Brenda Dermody is a graphic designer, and design educator with an interest in typography, she represents Ireland on the education team of the International Society of Typographic Designers. Brenda was instrumental in bringing the show to the Museum and spoke about Barrie’s career and the stories behind the work on display.

Dermody Folder


Brenda Dermody’s beautiful set of poster designs based on on the Dante prints.
Dermody Folders
Dermody Folder Red
The work looked wonderful in the setting of the gallery space and quickly drew people in to Dante’s journey.
Dante Looking 1
Dante Looking 5
Dante Looking 3
Dante Looking 4
Again, a huge thank you to Carla and her team for putting on such a wonderful exhibition of the work.
Photos courtesy of Mark Henderson.


June 16, 2014

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.

Canto XIII. The Sin of Envy