an article by Cristina Vannini Parenti on "Italiana" Rai magazine
At a time when the advent of digital culture appeared to have prevailed, the need to reexplore the expressive spaces of creative potential has given new impetus to forgotten, ageold arts. Handwriting, explored in recent decades in its broadest sense, has found new lifeblood and new drive. Not just a refined system for sending messages, it is a visual art all its own, a new space for creative, spatial, and subjective expression. Art and science once again find a bridge of communication: the “intelligence of the hand” – the part of the body most strongly linked to the brain’s circuitry – taking shape in recovering the creative functions, from handicraft to handwriting, and particularly in recovering the calligraphic arts.
The expression of Western calligraphic art has been rediscovering itself; it has crossed boundaries, coming up against all those cultures that have maintained an ageold attention to the value of the sign and of expression, like those of Japan, China, and the Islamic world. Japan – the country of Shodo, the “way of writing” – has especially welcomed and promoted the work of Western calligraphers, supporting the rise of a syncretic movement, an intercultural calligraphy, a bridge of fusion and exchange between cultures particularly different but intimately close. “Free handwriting can and must be practised with the intent to make it truly communicative of human impulses, capable of touching a person’s deepest soul, and it requires honesty, courage, and a lifetime of artistic seeking. In this sense, handwriting also allows us to open a door to understanding the calligraphy of other cultures” says Monica Dengo, a worldwide artistic figure in the study and teaching of free handwriting.
Monica, who has been teaching historical and experimental calhandwriting with the intent to comunicate human pulses ligraphy in Italy and America since 1997, has held workshops in lettering, calligraphy, and handwriting all over the world, and pioneered innovative experimentation of intercultural visual communication. She has deeply investigated the link between Eastern calligraphy and handwriting, “the gesture of the body and of the hand that writes, producing honest, unretouched signs”. She began to explore handwriting in order to get her students at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University interested in calligraphy and to make it available to them, while investigating the creative potential of an existing art. “We created textures of writing, working with sign, rhythm, instruments, and inks. Over the years, I combined writing experiments with design and book production, and I began to probe the possibilities of breaking the hard and fast rules of legibility, to leave more room for expression of the sign, and for the free play of balance between sign and space. I thus began, in my work and with my students, to probe illegible writing, which remains, as Roland Barthes said, completely writing, and which at the same time leaves room for visual components at the expense of verbal ones”.
The return to calligraphy also overcomes the apparent conflict with the digital world, by influencing the systems of linear writing and mindmapping, and finds an ally in the social media for broadcasting the eternal relationship between thought and fluidity of writing over the air, while promoting and spreading calligraphy courses online creating the hashtag #scriviamoamano.
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