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Landscape Alphabet

A second Visual Language approach I developed involves the creation of an alphabet constituted of forms and phenomena of the landscape (1983). For example, I represent the sound ee, as in sheep, by a miniature picture of sheep walking along a path. The sound e, as in were or world, becomes a small, uncultivated field. And e, as in felt, is a field with rows of a crop. This alphabet arose out of many walks in the landscape, observing trees, fields, mountain, bird flight, hillock and house from numerous points of view, and watching my thoughts in relation to that -– and, from looking at echoings and mirroring of sound and meanings in poems I had written. Some of the pre-verbal interactions of thought, sound, and landscape, which in poems get transformed into verbal language, become visible when I transcribe a poem in this new alphabet. (In various texts relating to drawings, I have described this approach, e.g. “Entre Nous” text, 1993.)

Free Drawings

I do not work exclusively with these Visual Language approaches. I have always done what I would call “free” drawings and paintings, that is, works without any consideration for following the specific structured steps of the Visual Language. Yet there are correspondences between the two approaches. For the Visual Language “working concepts”, enacted visually, were, at least in part, a sort of residue rendered more deliberately applicable -- one might say more conscious -– of dynamics of the “free” creative process: in the creation of my drawings before 1978, I had superimpositions, dynamics of ambiguity, distortions, all that being expressive of the inner meanings and motions of self (thoughts, feelings, corporeal sensations, etc.) within the self-world relationship. 

Initially the poems I transcribed into the Landscape Alphabet were written in horizontal lines;

“Where Am I?”, ink and pastels on parchment paper, 14”x 20”, (1993)

Yet, whether or not there’s actually a poem inserted, viewing one of these Free Drawings is rather like reading a text; for in the landscape itself one discovers elements suggestive of writing -– an air current around a suspended feather (a plume), the furrows of a plowed field, rivulets in a brook -– all these may be a language, a writing... expressive of numerous voices who inhabit these spaces. Who is the artist, and who the author, of a drawing or poem? Do we create, or co-create, and share in meaning with others? The Visual Language approaches are a way of returning to a place of origins -– when transcribing a poem, to a kind of pre-verbal origin of the poem, perhaps, the meaning of which is not a given, but rather fluid and evolving, as the process of transcribing, spatializing, and re-embedding of the poem in the landscape brings to light new and even unexpected meanings; or, one might feel that one is reaching as well towards the very origins of language and of writing.

Subsequently I began interspersing the poems or poem fragments into the space of my “Free Drawings”. 

Detail of "The Bird Pierces the Space"

Detail of “The Four Seasons, (20” x 14”)