Reintroducing: Hella Basu

Picked up a 1980 design annual today put out by the venerable (but soon after to fold) U.K printing house Penrose. In it I found many amusing bits about then state-of-the-art computer graphics technology, articles of interest to the design dork with a historical bent, purty pictures, etc. The most striking bit by far, however, was a feature on a calligrapher by the name of Hella Basu. Beautiful work which put me in mind of everyone’s current fave Marian Bantjes, except Basu was born in 1924. A subsequent internet search for information on her work came up empty. Judging by the samples in the feature that’s a real shame. It’s my pleasure then to reintroduce her here, on the web, with the following 10 pieces culled from the Penrose annual.

11.29. filed under: art. !. design. history. people. 8

Night of the Ground Stars

Or: urban shoe-gazing finds a purpose

Electric light, Concrete, and Chewing Gum, what have they in common? Though, admittedly, both concrete and chewing gum can ultimately trace their roots to antiquity, all three of these items, in something akin to their modern form, entered the American stage in the 1870’s.

Edison invented the first commercially successful incandescent lamp around 1879. At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 David O. Saylor exhibited the first American made portland cement, though it was not until 1891 that the first concrete street in the United States was paved. Thomas Adams opened the first chewing gum factory in 1870, and a year later Adams’ chicle based New York Gum went on sale in drug stores for a penny apiece. By the beginning of the 20th century all three of these items had become popular and were on their way to being staples of American life.

11.27. filed under: !. history. ideas. observations. play. 5

“It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing a beautiful woman, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention.”
-Malcolm Muggeridge.

11.26. filed under: !. life. observations. personal. 13

The Picture Frame

Or: the humble boundary between Art and reality

Recently I went on the hunt for some reference on picture frames and a trip to the Strand rewarded me with The Art of the Picture Frame by Jacob Simon. It was created to accompany an exhibition of the same name held at the National Portrait Gallery (UK) in 1996. Looking through the book It dawned on me instantly that I actually had no idea whatsoever what the history of the picture frame was, or indeed, why frames were invented in the first place. Since I picked up the book I’ve been intending to do a post on the origins of the frame. A concise summation of the info contained within the book, however, would be prohibitively difficult so instead I’ve decided to simply share some of the frames themselves and offer, instead of a summation, some related links. See below.

11.07. filed under: art. !. history. 5

Normal: the romanticized average

What percentage of the time is the concept of “normalcy” referenced in relation to human fears I wonder?

I am wary of the adjective “normal,” as I’m sure many people are, when used to describe anything other than geometric relationships or chemical solutions. It is a dishonest sort of adjective I think, seeking, at worst, to describe something which does not exist, or, at best, to pretty-up something which does exist, but which ought to be called by another name entirely.

11.01. filed under: !. humanity. observations. 9

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