Peter Sacks and painterly influence upon my thoughts about graphic design.

Peter Sacks painting

Peter Sacks painting

I have mentioned in previous post in my VisCom module some of the traditional graphic designers that marked seismic shifts in the graphic design movement. I mentioned people such as Brockmann and the Swiss School and movements such as the Bauhaus which emerged from other forms of German Expressionism found in paintings.

I also mentioned David Carson whose book 'The end of print' had a huge effect and influence upon the graphic design medium. His work reflected the rapidly changing landscape brought about by the new all pervasive mediums that as Marshall McLuhan had pointed out were actually changing how we as a species communicated and consumed information.

Carson's design work brought print into the world of fragmented data streams and he reflected that in his designs that seemed to decimate traditional notions of a grid structure. He felt he was communicating to a new culture and print needed to reflect the way that culture now engaged with information. British designer Neville Brody seemed to take up Carson's ideas and develop a style that again saw graphic design introduce new ways of communicating or having a relevance and impact in the prevailing culture both creative and mainstream.

My own influences were often from painters rather than specific graphic designers although I was familiar with many of the traditional schools and a chronological history of graphic design as mentioned in previous posts.

The painter and poet Peter Sacks was one such influence and the two images in this post show a painterly link between his own and the graphic print based ideas of David Carson for example. Peter Sacks was also a successful poet with a definite communicative understanding of the power of the written word. He came from this perspective of poetic form in his painting and as a painter this seemed to licence him to access a ready history of previous artists who hadn't found the canvas a place of limitation but rather something full of explosive expression and meaning. British artists such as Howard Hodgkin also relied upon our familiarity with 'difficult' painting to engage our senses and even in his case to literally extend beyond the boundaries of the canvas itself.

I thought from looking at these painters work there was a symbolic surface sense of similarity between the boundaries of the new print and abstract painting. I personally felt that the language of painting had evolved to accept and allow the viewer to engage with what on the surface seemed wholly non representational. The canvas had acknowledged a need to accept new ideas and forms and painting seemed to embrace this as an ever evolving surface for the artist and their ideas.

I felt this was loosely connected to new ideas about print design and the new mediums print was merging with. The tablet, smartphone and application consumer seemed to be saying print was too static for this new broader canvas and the ideas Carson spoke of in the early 90's before the mainstream Internet seemed now spookily prophetic. I understood this as print again coming to a place of seismic shift where it would again evolve into new ways of communicating that kept it relevant in the new hugely diverse ever on perpetual mix of platforms for data consumption.

I found painting a place that allowed a diversity of composition and expression despite its formally apparent limitations. I thought it was a useful place to look for analogies with print and how print also can use the apparent limitations of its own platform to evolve alongside shifts in cultural acceptance of what constitutes 'meaning' and form. I thought painters had communicated well difficult emotions and subjects and that the culture evolved accordingly to accept and engage with that. Artists were usually the first and most intuitive observers and the culture often followed.

This is a fascinating era for print. I felt that the story and cultural lessons of painting were relevant to print. I liked exploring contemporary artists who had a graphical painterly sensibility. This process seemed to keep ideas about an old medium continually finding new ways to engage with evolving audience expectations fresh in my mind.



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