I have been exploring the idea of “visual poetry” in one form or another since I was an undergraduate student in Belfast; indeed my interest in Chinese calligraphy began through research into the relationships of words to images.
At the beginning of 2017 I started reworking photographs taken with a Holga toy camera and arranging them into visual poems. The poems represent an outcome of research into Chinese and Japanese aesthetic principles and traditions of representation – both linguistic and visual – while at the University of Wolverhampton.
Many of the photographs were taken as part of a visual diary documenting and responding to the various cultures, practices and bodies of thought I encountered on journeys across Asia, often by bicycle. They were generally taken on Kodak 120 T-Max film, and developed in Ilford DDX.
The diptychs are entitled “Wordless Haiga”. Haiga is a form of Chinese, and later Japanese, art, in which painted images and calligraphically written poetry are combined into a single work. In a wordless Haiga, the poem consists entirely of the associations and allusions suggested by the images. These may be either conceptual or formal, and either harmonious or relatively contrasting. The viewer / reader decides, as the poems are open-ended and meditative, having floated free of words.
The triptychs are entitled “Visual Haiku” as the format reflects the three-phrase structure of the Haiku poetic form. The elements and principles of art translate the formal components of Haiku (Kigo, Kireji etc.) into the syntax of visual language – just as the syllables of Latin alphabets are used to translate the Haiku’s structure from Japanese “On” (phonetic units) into Western languages.
Longer polyptychs are generally entitled “Visual Poems”.