Typography from linguistic function to art
Seoul Typography Biennale to be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14
By Chung Ah-young
Typography has evolved with the development of civilization. Korea, Japan and China have their own writing systems — hangeul (the Korean alphabet), kana (Japanese script) and Chinese characters respectively — but they share Chinese characters as a fundamental means of their written expression. Even before the term “typography” was created, a profound, enriching and flourishing culture of the letters have long existed.
Now the writing systems are diversifying and changing in styles and functions — from their original linguistic role to art form — mainly due to the emergence of various media creating new typefaces accelerated by the advancement of technology.
To look at the history and growth of typography in Korea, Japan and China, the Typo Janchi 2011: Seoul International Typography Biennale will be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 at Seoul Arts Center.
The biennale was first launched in 2001 but suspended because of a lack of awareness of typography at that time. To revive the event, the Korea Craft & Design Foundation (KCDF) is bringing back the biennale starting this year along with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
“The world’s art and culture trend is moving toward the East, and three countries — Korea, Japan and China — have prospered by sharing something in common — Chinese character-based civilization. So this event will find meaningful potential and cultural values of the East Asian countries,” said Ahn Sang-soo, chairman of the organizing committee, during a press conference Monday.
“This biennale will show typography turning into creative art and bring imaginative powers into one place through diverse and inspiring exhibitions of typography masters,” he said.
For this year’s event, a total of 107 artists from three countries will present their works, including book designs, graphic design and posters inspired by typography under the theme, “Fire Flower of East Asia.”
The 16-day event consists of a special exhibition featuring eight artists including Choi Jung-ho, Ikko Tanaka and Xu Bing, and a main exhibition covering 99 designers such as Sulki & Min, Pan Qin and Nakui Naoko.
Choi (1916-1988), the late hangeul typeface designer, pioneered typeface research and the development of hangeul, and made them widely utilized through original drawings for numerous publishers and print shops.
He was asked to draw original hangeul drawings by Japanese photocomposition machine manufacturers in the 1970s. His original drawings have become the basis of the hangeul digital fonts of today. He is highly acknowledged for raising hangeul typeface quality to a higher level. His “Hab Jungmyungjo” and “HB Taegothic” and more will be featured at the exhibition.
Tanaka (1930-2002) is a typeface designer who elevated the Japanese-style font into world-class design. He worked at Kanebo and the Sankei Shimbun and later became a co-founder of the Japanese Design Center. Together with his colleagues, he held the group exhibition “Persona” in 1960 and gave his first overseas private exhibition in the Netherlands. From CI to space design, Tanaka created Japanese graphic designs known to the world. The exhibition features some 20 pieces including his representative work “Man and Writing” series.
Xu Bing is an artist and educator who expresses visual language beyond the boundaries of Eastern and Western cultures through his representative works such as “Book from Sky” and “Book from Earth.” Xu’s use of text, language and books has impacted the dialogue of the print and art worlds significantly. His works have been invited to numerous international exhibitions, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London. The exhibition features his “Men, Nursery, Women” series.
As the sideline program, a symposium will be held over two days — the forum on Aug. 29 and the work presentation on Aug. 30. The forum will discuss the identity, direction and future of East Asian typography while the work presentation will feature 14 designers from three countries to share their works and design philosophies.