St Bride Foundation, Fleet St, London EC4Y 8EQ
Jenny Wright’s illustrations have always been inextricably linked with words – from her captioned Peculiar Men to her tendencies towards book illustrating. By harnessing the written word, Jenny breathes more life into, and adds another dimension to her characters. This exhibition, in contrast, takes a step back and questions the potential of ‘the image as language’.
Picture, Letter has risen out of the contemporary obsession with emoji, and their expressive capabilities beyond words alone. An emoji can say one or several things, volumes are spoken in the looks of little yellow faces. Addressing the capacities of ‘Britain’s fastest growing language’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/32793732/uks-fastest-growing-language-is-emoji), Jenny has reinterpreted popular emoji in her own style, and curates the exhibition so that they may speak to each other.
Bringing together a fervent interest in both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture, all of the illustrations in the Picture, Letter exhibition are influenced by Japanese painting techniques and materials. Jenny Wright’s expertise in the expressive capabilities of Noh theatre masks lends itself very well to this, an exhibition dedicated to the diverse ways in which emoji transcend language.
To give a formal structure to the exhibition, the original concept was to create an emoji alphabet. The irony in adopting a framework which borrows from traditional methods of teaching language to infants (‘A is for…’ and so on) is intended to emphasise the transformative nature of language, and how images are further disrupting our expectations of literacy and education.
To accompany the exhibition, and to extend the celebration of Japanese culture which begins here, Lily Dessau has composed 26 haiku, to pair with each of the illustrations. She has also written a short essay elaborating on the exhibition and the parallels between emoji and haiku.
Follow @pictureletter instagram to see the gradual reveal of each letter of the alphabet and it’s emoji and haiku!