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Sunderland has ‘A Way with Words’

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Published on 26 February 2019

A Way with Words exhibition
A Way with Words exhibition

“A Way with Words” celebrates the work of the UK-based Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society (CLAS) and its contribution to the calligraphic community for the past 25 years, featuring almost 100 pieces of work showcasing the best of contemporary calligraphy and lettering arts.

Curated by world-renowned calligrapher Dr Manny Ling, who is also programme leader for MA Design at Sunderland, the show will feature two of his pieces alongside a range of other works. The University will also host the second leg of the exhibition’s nationwide tour, from March 7 to April 2, in Priestman Building, City Campus.

Traditional manuscripts with illumination and gilding will be on display alongside many other techniques, such as writing on metals or glass, work with nibs, brushes and other tools, paints, inks and engraving, linocuts and digitally manipulated images. There are 56 calligraphers’ from around the world selected to exhibit and represent CLAS’s diverse and international range of members’ work.

One of the largest western lettering societies in the world, UK- based CLAS has an extensive membership and is a registered charity that provides educational support for its members and the wider public.

Manny, who is an Honorary Fellow of CLAS, said: “The opportunity to curate this exciting exhibition has been a huge honour; showing the many ways to express words both visually and beautifully. In an increasingly visual society, calligraphy has gained a popularity as people appreciate the skilful demonstration of scripts and styles. It is also a thriving and popular craft skill that encourages anyone with a love of words to express themselves. We anticipate this will be a hugely popular exhibition.”

Manny has made it his mission over the last 19 years to create a hub for the traditional letter-making skills of calligraphy on Wearside, establishing the International Research Centre for Calligraphy (IRCC) at Sunderland. He has also launched a popular graphic design course in his native Hong Kong.

Manny believes Sunderland has now firmly established itself as an international centre for calligraphy.

He said: “We developed the IRCC at the University and since 1999 we have been hosting regular international calligraphy conferences, attracting calligraphers and academics from across the world, coming to Sunderland for master classes, as well as lectures and seminars to discuss the serious issues surrounding the art.

“As a result of our efforts, Sunderland is now perceived globally as the centre for calligraphy development.”

However, he believes it’s no coincidence that the city and university have become such a calligraphy hotspot.

“You only have to look back at Sunderland’s history at St Peter’s and the writings of the monastic scholar Venerable Bede, who studied calligraphy as a boy, to realise how connected this area is to this art form,” explained Manny.

He has forged his own successful career out of calligraphy, combining his knowledge and interest in Eastern philosophy with Western design and typographic practice to develop a distinctive approach to the subject. He has been invited to speak and show his work internationally, and completed a PhD in 2008 – the first practice based Doctorate in the world to be awarded for Western calligraphy.

He said: “Since I was 16 I have always wanted to promote calligraphy in a more formal and academic way to a broad audience.

“I want people to see calligraphy as more than just a hobby. It’s an art form in itself and something you can study for the whole of your life.

“A Way With Words”will be on display in the Priestman Gallery, First Floor, Priestman Building, Sunderland, from 7 March to 2 April, Monday to Friday, from 10an to 5pm. Free Admission. Most works are also for sale or commissions are welcomed.