Friday, 11 April 2014

Typewriter Art

Typewriter Art
Typewriter Art: Modern Anthology, by Barrie Tullett, features examples of figurative drawing, geometric abstraction, and visual typography, all produced using manual typewriters. (More famous examples of typographic art - such as the mouse's tail in Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, or Guillaume Apollinaire's 'concrete poems' - are not included, as they were printed rather than typed.) The book, published by Laurence King, begins with the earliest instance of 'art-typing', a small profile portrait of a man's head from Pitman's Typewriter Manual (1893). Just a few years after this primitive example, artists were creating much more sophisticated typewriter art: a butterfly by Flora Stacey (1898), and a flower by GM Patterson (1895). Tullett dismisses these intricate drawings, however: 'Although... historically interesting - and even influential - they were created in a way that simply used the typewriter as a substitute for pen and paper, rather than responding to the limitations and opportunities offered by the machine.' Thus, Tullett's primary interest is in art that acknowledges, rather than disguises, its typewritten origins. Typewriter Art is clearly intended as a successor to Alan Riddell's 1975 book of the same name, and it's organised in the same way as Riddell's book, with chapters on pioneers and contemporary works. Tullett praises Dom Sylvester Houedard, who produced semi-abstract 'typikon' drawings, as 'The single most important figure in the history of typewriter art'. Houedard was working in the 1960s, the 'golden age' of typewriter art, and his contemporaries included Peter Kubelka, who created 'paperfilms' such as Arnulf Rainer (1960) by typing patterns onto paper strips.

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