Up in the office of Studio Round are a few works of art from the collection of Michaela Webb and Rob Nudds, the studio’s directors. One particularly stands out as strikingly appropriate for a graphic design studio; a small collection of snaking black letters spell out A Strategy for Infiltrating the Homes of the Bourgeoisie in a bold black sans serif.
At a first glance these letters might seem like a left over prop from a project the studio has produced- rearranged as an astute anagram; it is in fact a work by Melbourne artist Emily Floyd. Emily’s work is an ongoing investigation into texts and ideologies of the twentieth century; of late Emily has been concerned with the alternative lifestyle movement. The work is as much about the act of reading, and rereading as it is about form.
Round has had a long relationship with Emily having both taken part in projects such as the Letterpress Editions at the Melbourne Museum of Printing. In 2007 Round also worked with Emily to design a hand drawn font for the exhibition “New Ways of Thinking” at Anna Schwartz Gallery.
As part of Round’s guest-edit of Broadsheet, Michaela spoke to Emily about her work. Much of Emily’s work uses text; so often has to confront questions of graphic aesthetic in a way similar to Michaela’s work as a designer. Here is their conversation on type, reading and the changes both artists and designers are facing.
Michaela Webb: I can see how designers would be inspired by your work. Designers are trying to understand the context of a typeface - and artists are doing the same – so there will be these cross overs. The difference for designers is everything has to happen so fast, and it is a collaborative process with the client.
Emily Floyd: The processes can be similar and also I think that artist’s processes have been popularised too – many ways of working, originally developed for making art, are now everyday work strategies. For example, the way of working with text developed by The Surrealists is now commonplace in advertising. Artists and designers constantly need to invent new processes if they want to offer solutions outside the mainstream.
What we have to do all the time when designing, which often gets forgotten, is to make sure we constantly go back to the central idea.
The central idea is important in my work – but I like to look at it from different perspectives. On the subject of typography I’ve been asking myself if people are sick of reading things when looking at art! The use of language in the Conceptual Art of the 1960s inspired an explosion of text-based work that is now a convention in art and design. I think it is important to find new ways of working with language. Recently I started working with the text in web addresses or URLs because they are an ephemeral text that everyone has circulating through their life, a new form of language.
Your public work is not text based?
The Eastlink Freeway work, Public Art Strategy, although not text based is about how we look at signs- in particular how we look at other artworks that are around the city- I brought together elements of artworks from around the city – to create a new sign. That’s how I ended up with a bird and a worm.
Its about the recognition people already have from moving about the city and seeing those other works. The work employs the same technology, steel and paint, used for road signs. So again it’s about an act of reading.
There are a lot of parallels with developing an identity. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new text-based installation; I guess you could call it a graphic sculpture in a way. I’m interested in the idea of intersecting texts. There are four different books coming together in an architectural space.
So you are taking stories from each?
Yeah, and combining them. The idea is that viewers come into the space and experience fragments of different narratives - like a kind of reading room.
So what books are you taking them from? Are they on similar themes to previous works?
It’s similar, some ecology, some politics, some philosophy and some fiction. All the tools we need for today.
Things blurring together- that’s fantastic.
Emily Floyd is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery.
Emily Floyd’s coming projects are:
In the Balance - Art for a Changing World
Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney
19 August - 23 November 2010
The Art of Chess
Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria
30 October 2010 - 30 January 2011
Mclelland Sculpture Survey
Mclelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Langwarrin
21 November 2010 - 17 July 2011
An Unfolding Space
Public Art Commission
Phoenix Children's Park, Melbourne
To be unveiled August 2010