August 10, 2019 4

Reading #3: Transparent Books

Reading #3: Transparent Books


This is artist and calligrapher Denis Brown. Imagine if a book’s pages were completely transparent. What would that look like? We could see all the text at once, but layered up on top of itself and thus quite illegible. A text camouflaged by its own presence. Every word being visible simultaneously would mean none could be read. What would be the meaning of a book whose text is lost to texture and to sculptural form? Would this bundle of ironies appear to mourn the passing of the functionalism of the codex to hypertext as the primary means of publishing in our time? Or would it form a celebration of its autonomy as a non functional objet d’art? Any of my glass pieces might be seen as such a transparent volume. I’ve been making them for years and they are a mainstay of my income as a professional artist and calligrapher, even though I do a broad range of other work some more traditional… some more avant-garde. I’m not one who discards legibility just for the sake of self-indulgent scribbling. I seek to find meaning in and through calligraphy at a time when it is the least functional of all means of communicating text. Hasn’t calligraphy always been used for more ‘special’ uses than for purely functional ones? Much of my work seeks to find a deeper meaning in writing than transcription of a third party message. The function of the Rosary, and likewise of the Mantras of any culture, is not to contemplate textual meaning. Rather, in repeating a text continually, it may open the mind to be more spiritually aware and intuitive. In reciting the prayer, one may transcend its literal meaning. I wondered if the layering of written language could aspire to a similar transcendental function as achieved by spoken or chanted Mantras. If one writes clearly, the text is all that will be read. Present the text as evocative texture, and no one will read it quite the same. The aspirational concept regarding the rosary came to me during the process of writing. The meditative state induced by repetitious writing helped me to elucidate my concept, and in doing so, quite wonderfully, it demonstrated a real transcendent potential. My series called “A Thousand Wishes” is worth discussing. I wanted to assimilate text by collecting people’s wishes by email, and I encouraged my readers to send me a wish. “I do not need to understand your wish, but my wish is that yours is sincere. “If it’s been written on your soul for a long time, then I encourage you to release it. “Type me an email and breathe your wish as you hit ‘send’, to let it go.” [whispered wishes] I wish I knew your fondest wish In Middle age we wish for so many things… or are they prayers? [overlapping whispered wishes] I cannot make your wish come true, but your participation just might make it more tangible for you. In May I had surgery—a malign cerebral tumor so my wish is for patience and force…. I wish I could be humble. I was excited by this novel means of sourcing text. Many wishes are private and I should not reveal them. I considered the purpose of the text was more in the writing of it by the wisher than in reading by the viewer. Almost all wishes are illegible—secret. I hoped it may be helpful for the wisher to release their wish; to express it—not hold it inside—to let it go. For the viewer, all that is necessary is to know that many sincere wishes are implicit in each piece. However, those who look really carefully at an original may focus on the top layer of glass; that generally contains a single wish that may be deciphered. Let’s have a look underneath the glass. Oh wow. Yeah, that’s nice. I came to realize that what I was doing was asking calligraphers to be expressive in their writing but without even picking up a pen. To think about content at a time when so-called “expressive” calligraphy often shuns it. To realize that even email may be a tool for expressive writing. People wrote me their wishes without picking up a pen. I wrote over a thousand, without any ink. I’ve made over 80 unique pieces in the series to date, and still occasionally make a new one to commission, often incorporating the buyer’s personal or family wish. Do contact me, if you are interested. I show and discuss a lot more of my glass art in my new book “Brown Calligraphy”, from which I’ve been reading. Also featured is every other type of my work from traditional to avant-garde. If you’d like to support the commitment and cost it’s taken to produce, please follow the link to order your copy.

4 Replies to “Reading #3: Transparent Books”

  • Don Tate says:

    I really love how Denis is capable of working with a drill doing this calligraphy on glass. What type(s) of burs do you use and what are the names of the tools you do your engraving with such as Foredom, NSK, etc? Speed of the drill as you use it? Thanks so much, Denis!!! GREAT work!!!

  • Don Tate says:

    GREAT book!!! I would suggest it for all calligraphers, especially the serious and/or intermediate and advanced calligraphers!

  • Edward Cox says:

    Thanks so much for another of your remarkable productions. Such a joy to experience the video let alone the book – that I must eventually get. Especially of interest is the deeper meaning that you allude to and your success in promoting deeper thought in the viewer/reader. Superbly done. Thank you…

  • Anneli Räni says:

    I wrote you on FB with a wish to order your calligraphy book.

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