Painting language

I have never expected to be any good at anything relating to drawing or painting. I enjoyed it as a kid but never had any formal training, and once I grew up enough that drawing and painting was “childish”, I never really missed it or went back to it, perhaps except for frequent droodling in my notebooks as a student and academic. I guess that is why I have enjoyed getting my old watercolours out for Creative Boot Camp. Since no one, myself included, expects me to be good at it, I don’t have that nasty mental voice telling me that what I do isn’t good enough.

{228/365} Painting language [shooting language]

When asked to jump right in and get some art on the page, in order to keep away that other mental voice that says you can’t do this, it is no coincidence that the first thing that occured to me to paint was letters. I have always been a verbal person more than anything. Much more so than a visual person. My parents tell stories of how I was far more interested in the letters than the pictures in my books as soon as I became aware of the letters themselves and their connection with what my parents were reading to me. Learning to read and write, I was fascinated by the shapes of letters and the relationship between them – the similarities between the sounds and shapes of p and b for instance, and the fact that all the letters combine on the page to make up an infinte amount of different utterances. –This focus on forms and shapes – including the circle – is something I want to develop more in my photography in general.

When I began to focus seriously on photography, my interest in letters planted an urge to translate language into something visually interesting to look at. Language itself is in essence an intagible entity; only by using letters to abstract it onto the page are we able to “see” it. My project Shooting Language is where I stumble along the path of discovering what language looks like.

There is a political side to this idea of shooting language, quite apart from the my artistic fascination with letters. Like many smaller countries in the world, Norway cannot do without English any longer. This fact is displayed not only in the fact that quite a few Norwegians achieve fluency in English and use it frequently in their work, but in the linguistic landscapes of the country. There is advertising in English, English film titles displayed on cinema facades, English books on the bookstore shelves, and so on and so forth. Norwegian is not, at this point, at risk of being replaced by English. That being said, it will serve us well if we are aware of it when English starts to become more dominant in certain aspects of Norwegian life. I certainly agree that happiness is a way of life, but I would by far prefer to live a happy life in Norway in Norwegian.

Happiness is a way of life. [shooting language]


About Jenny Graver

Living in Oslo, Norway, with her partner and their infant son, Jenny struggles for balance between all the things that makes life worth living - her family, her job in university administration, her writing, learning and her photography. View all posts by Jenny Graver

8 responses to “Painting language

  • Debra

    Jenny I find this post so interesting. First off, I can totally relate to your description of yourself as a verbal person. I’ve always expressed myself in words until I started with photography kind of by accident. I find it interesting, too that I have also photographed this same sign, in a store where I live in Ottawa, Canada. I think that world culture is becoming so homogenous in many ways, not that I think it’s a bad thing. Like you, I think it’s something we need to stay aware of.

    • littlescribe

      Have you really photographed this exact same sign?? Wow, that really is saying something.

      Canada is an interesting case when it comes to minority languages, with the whole issue about French vs. English. Out of curiosity – is that something people are generally aware of in Canada in your experience?

      Thank you for commenting 🙂

  • alita

    I’m not sure if I have always been an extensively verbal person, but I’ve always been an avid reader. I get that! However I’m visual, extremely visual. I connect to things much better that way. And what I get from your painting is an abundant amount of love and fun for language. This post was thought provoking & colorful. Thanks for sharing!


    • littlescribe

      Gah, good heavens – I can’t believe your comment ended up in the spam folder o_O So sorry I didn’t see it and dig it out again until now, and thank you so much for commenting!!

  • Chelsea

    Jenny I love your painting, love your style! I don’t have mine on my blog yet but you saw it on twitter. Thanks for your kind words! It Is so interesting about the English language in other countries. I love reading about it from your point of view…crazy that it can just phase out other languages.

  • Kat Sloma

    I love, love, love that last image. The reflections and processing make it incredible!

    • littlescribe

      Thank you, Kat 🙂 So sorry I didn’t moderate your comment until now; no time/inspiration for blogging, and I’m used to your comments skipping the moderation queue by now!

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