I spotted this on a recent trip to Sydney. I love this form of bold, in-your-face treatment – it reminds me of the signage outside the British Library in Paddington, London that was designed by David Kindersley. Don’t know who did this piece but it has substance and, above all, fits the context.
I have always had a soft spot for the work of Ralph Beyer. I do not know much about the man, and I am sure there are those who can point us in the right direction to discover more. What I do know is that his inscriptional lettering influenced my work. Beyer is particularly well known in the UK for his carvings which adorn (are rather a part of the very fabric) of Coventry Cathedral. The first illustration is from that place, set into the floor (look closely, adjust your eyes and you’ll see people at the bottom of the image to give scale); while the second is a much, much smaller piece.
Both have that freedom yet control which is so natural to Beyer. [Images from Lettering on Architecture, Alan Bartram (1976), Whitney Library of Design; and Fine Words Fine Books (1991), an exhibition catalogue.]
I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to mention Ian Hamilton Finlay. For those unfamiliar with him he was an artist (he died in 2006) based in Scotland who commissioned many of the finest lettering artists in the UK for many decades. Finlay was a rebel, an iconoclast and, above all, a poet. He was fascinated by the French Revolution and was feted by the French far more than his native country, probably because he was considered an intellectual. Indeed. he had a running battle, well documented, with his local council in Lanarkshire, having constructed a garden he called Little Sparta. I went there once with my dear friend Harry Warschauer and briefly met Finlay, who was ill I seem to recall. From this visit I took much, not least the thirst to also produce work that could stand alone and proud in a landscape. I am still working towards that.
I can do no better than recommend Finlay’s website. He also had a private press, the Wild Hawthorn Press, which is hosted on the site.
This illustration is taken from an article published in The Independent Magazine, August 8, 1992.