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offset type, aquatint, embossing, work on paper, monochromatic, text, shapes, contrast, inversion, language, juxtaposition, textural, literacy, collage-like, fonts, variety, ambiguous,half-toning, visual language, codes, fonts,random, reading image text as form, global language, text as image, imagery, irony, culture, aquatint,

Grant Kernan’s Untitled is an image composed entirely of text. The artist has used text as a form of half-toning, with differing boldness, font size, and inversion (the replacing of dark with light, and light with dark) forming the textures and values of the work.

The text is made up of a combination of English and Latin, the former the current “global” language, and the latter the ancient “global” language. Kernan’s substitution of text-for-image (or text-arranged-as-image) suggests a crossover between textual literacy and visual literacy. As Théophile Gautier said in 1858, “Our busy age does not always have time to read, but it always has time to look”. This is perhaps even truer today.

The play between text and image has been with us for a long time, as suggested by Kernan’s use of both ancient and modern languages. And while there is  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  in this work (stepping back from your computer or squinting might help you see the image through the text) it is abstracted by the text, rendering it, ironically, unreadable.

The use of text as a form of half-toning suggests that the image, which stands in for all images, is made up of the understandings around it. To put it more simply, we cannot understand an image without making use of visual languages and codes. In order to use these visual codes, we have to access them through culture and learning, which exposes the nature of visual interpretation as a  subjectiveEspecially, pertaining to, or derived from, one's own consciousness, in distinction from external observation; ralating to the mind, or intellectual world, in distinction from the outward or material excessively occupied with, or brooding over, one's own internal states. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  field. Still, because the required codes are cultural, and therefore shared by many people, they represent a range of possible readings... anything outside of which would be culturally implausible.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • In what ways has Latin shaped English vocabulary? You may need to research Latin to answer this question. Can you guess what English words might have come from the following Latin words?
  • mater
  • basium
  • valida
  • sub
Studio Activity
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Journal – text to images

Grant Kernan combines English and Latin to compose his Untitled artwork entirely out of text.

  • Keep a journal, if you can, of every combination of image and text that you see over a given time - a day, a week, or, if you’re incredibly brave, a month.
  • Notice just how widespread the combination of text and image is.
  • Once you have your period of journaling completed, look back over your journal and create a set of categories to define the types of combinations you found.
  • Pay attention to the ways in which the text was used with the imagery, why these were combined and what purpose the form served (was it used in advertising, design, packaging, artwork, traffic signage, etc.?).
  • Also take care to note the locations and contexts that these combinations occurred in, for example, were they in private or public environments?
  • You can then use this list, and the examples of text-image combinations as inspiration for a work that combines text and imagery.
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning