Tom Kemp

Tom is fascinated by writing, the physical making of visual language. Years ago he was watching someone wielding a large brush dipped in water on a dusty blackboard. The huge, glossy, black, swelling strokes mesmerised him and he asked how he could learn to use this amazing tool. It turns out that there was a single, rare book explaining how this brush, which had a square-cut edge, was historically used so he camped out in a library for two weeks and learned all about an ancient Roman signwriting technique which was apparently used to write the monumental letters we see on classical Roman buildings with just a few strokes per letter. They were carved out afterwards to fix them in place but the point of the book was that these letters were handwritten with all the fluidity and idiosyncrasy of any hand-written forms. He studied this for many years and wrote my own book about it eventually. But then I got bored and started making more abstract forms with this brush I now understood so well. Eventually, I started using it to make abstract paintings with the appearance, but without the language, of writing. I’m continually studying the way the written mark is a recording of my very being, the very time I spent making that mark in all its complexity. It’s like a still clear image of an entire movie. It’s a thing, not a picture of a thing.