Skip to main content

Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress

The Lighthouse, Glasgow until March 5th
Five stars

For six decades, the typographical work of Darlington-born Alan Kitching has blazed a quiet trail that has given printed matter a visual identity which has defined its various times. To coincide with the publication of a lavishly illustrated 400 page monograph by John L Walters, this major retrospective charts how a trainee compositor went on to create a canon that moved from Jan Tschichold-inspired modernist experiments, to reinventing letterpress with an explosive energy while the rest of the world went digital.

Kitching's work has consistently channelled the vibrancy of its age, even before he combined skewed poetics and monochrome classicism for his poster advertising a screening of Peter Watkins' film, The War Game, at Watford College of Technology. It was during his tenure here that he learnt as much as he taught en route to producing his seminal manifesto, Typography Manual (1970), which the bursts of colour that define his later letterpress work all stem from. Inbetween is a breathtaking panoply of broadsides, maps and polemic, all fired with the same dazzling and forensically crafted force. The result is a vital document that illustrates a very British form of DIY radicalism it remains a part of, turning words and worlds upside down as it goes.

The List, January 2017

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…