Harry Pearce has joined forces with longstanding collaborator John Simmons, fellow Pentagram partner Jon Marshall and screenprinter Dan Mather on a new piece which will go on show as part of the 26 Inspirations exhibition at this year's Bloomsbury Festival.
26 Inspirations is the latest project from the renowned international writers' group 26, of which Simmons is the co-founder. With writers from 26 working both solo and in partnership with a wide range of artists and designers, the show features pieces that span writing, sound, illustration, photography, art, pottery and perfumery.
The writers‘ group has been a Bloomsbury Festival partner for several years now, and for this year's brief, its writers were asked to focus on what inspires them. John Simmons chose Raymond Carver's poem Late Fragment. The poignant poem about the beginning and end of life is the final poem in Carver's last published work, A New Path to the Waterfall, and was written while he was dying of cancer.
John first became aware of Carver's poem when he bought a book on a visit to the US in the 1990s. It included Late Fragment and soon became one of his most precious books. Hung in the British Museum as part of a display in the Wellcome Trust Living and Dying Gallery, the poem was something he noticed every time he was there. “It's easy to miss it, but I read it every time I come into the British Museum to write. It's like a talisman for me,” John adds.
John wrote his six-line poem The Carver of Fragments in response to Raymond Carver's. Harry Pearce and Johannes Grimmond then typeset a typewriter typeface and enlisted the help of Dan Mather and Jon Marshall and his team to bring the piece to life.
Late Fragments takes the process of screenprinting as a starting point, using two delicately exposed screens to display each poem. Dan Mather explains: “Using only light felt very powerful and echoed the poetry. Presenting them face-to-face allows the viewer to walk around the piece and see through the two screens; the void between life and death. Using the natural transparency of the materials, the screenprinted words can be read in two directions.”
Harry Pearce adds: “The essential idea is to capture the delicate distance between life and death, metaphorically bridging it with language. Carver's words written in 1988 appear through Simmons' words written today and vice versa. Time in this moment dissolves.“
The pair of silkscreens were made-to-measure from a raw metal frame, complete with threaded inserts and an Italian fabric mesh stretched over the frame, and with a custom red adhesive to match the typographic artwork. Different mesh counts were trialled to determine the amount of openness in the weave and level of transparency, as it was vital to be able to read each of the poems 'through' the pair of screens.
Dan Mather adds: “We especially loved how these screens have only been brought to life through light and water.” The screens were then fixed together with a robust but refined solid ash frame designed by Jon Marshall and team.
John Simmons reflects on Harry and their latest collaboration: “As a writer, it's always a special experience to work with Harry. He's the most creative and thoughtful interpreter of writing, bringing words and design together in a way that is seamless, unexpected, yet absolutely right.”
The 26 Inspirations exhibition takes place at The Building Centre in London, from Friday 14th October to mid-November 2022.