As part of my Journeyman training with the Lettering Arts Trust I have been out into London today to study work by other lettering artists.
I got off the train in Waterloo and headed by foot towards Chelsea. Coming over Westminster bridge I could see the scaffolding on Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and thought of all the stone masons working on the renovations.
I was very tempted to go into Westminster Abbey and see the huge collection of stone inscriptions and memorials. But I had just one day and plenty more on my agenda so I wouldn’t of been able to do it justice. Especially as it costs £18 to get in. I will go soon and will make a day of it.
Westminster Cathedral however, was also in my route, and being free to visit I could resist calling in. I had seen before Eric Gill’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ from 1914 but I wanted to see them again now I have more understanding of letter form and their history. The letter shapes are strongly based on the Trajan Roman alphabet. They look strong and elegant. I found the relief carving to be simple and beautifully done.
There is also other interesting work in there including an inscription by Robyn Golden-Hann.
My main aim for the day was to visit the Physic Garden in Chelsea where the Lettering Arts Trust has an exhibition called ‘Elixir of Letters’. The theme the artists had to work to was ‘Drink’ and the pieces were inspired by and incorporating the interesting plants from around the garden into their design. It is really interesting to see how different artists interpret the theme in different ways. Tea seemed a popular topic and there were some quotes and lines from poetry. I asked myself how I would have approached it and also for individual pieces, would I have used that style of lettering or that sort of stone. I personally feel that the limestone and sandstones fit in and look better in a garden like that than the slate. Although perhaps fitting in isn’t always the aim, maybe standing out is sometimes intended.
There was lots of information around the garden and you could have guided tours to learn all about the medicinal and other uses of the plants. I got myself caught up these tours a couple of times and realised the importance of learning more about the gardens and their contents, if I’d been intending to exhibit a piece.
I then went to the V&A with the hope of seeing the Trajan column, on which the modern alphabet is based on. This was wrapped up for restoration so couldn’t be seen, I sort of expected that but I still held out hope for a glance of it… I was disappointed. But I did see lots of other interesting treasures. Including some more lettering, done in the style from the Roman times but this was actually done in the 14th century. It shows how the influence of the Trajan column and other Roman works influenced letter cutters all through the centuries.
When I saw a copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, all I could saw was WOW! (But there was no lettering so I won’t say more)
I will go back in 2019 to see that Trajan column.
Overall it was a fascinating and inspiring day out. Besides the examples I have discussed London is full of stone inscriptions, above doorways and plaques on walls. Relief carvings seem to be everywhere. Even just walking through the streets I think I would come home inspired. But I am totally buzzing after everything I have seen today!