OF LETTERS & SYMBOLS

Tuan Shehan

ARTRA celebrates artist Tuan Shehan for his interpretive design that transforms the written to that of visual symbols. We find his skillset in typography unique, as he is able to look beyond decorative letters but also incorporate larger meaning and comprehension. Born and brought up in Gampola, Tuan possesses academic qualifications in Visual Communication from the Academy of Multimedia Design and Technology (AMDT) in Colombo. When we asked him of design motive, he stated, “I want to make things look good and that means, getting into details. I also like how design can make you feel things with colours and appearance. And for me, typography is the main way through which I explore design”.

ARTRA believes that typography can be considered an interlinking between written and visual art; both mediums instilling and influencing the reader through creative interpretation, where we find Tuan exploring his inventive thinking. We believe Tuan’s proficiency and skill allows visual elements to speak louder than words. His collection of calligraphic art taking form of live objects, pose as ways to communicate visually with undertones of a verbal aspect in its sense of personality, “There’s a combination of letters in my works, and I’ve used Arabic calligraphy style through a digital medium as I like its style. The Sinhalese letter ‘ba’ takes the form of a bulldog,” explains Tuan. Starting out as just a letter in the Sinhalase alphabet, Tuan adds character and meaning to a simple connotation allowing it to embody his subconscious thought. Yet another piece in his collection embraces the letter ‘ee’, manipulated and transformed so as to verbalise the subject envisioned to be a dog. 

As a skilled designer, ARTRA finds that Tuan combines Arabic calligraphy and the Sinhalese alphabet to value the collective communicative power of language, written art and composition. Tuan’s role as an artist proceeds to instil character into a letter. His work of art narrated through the Sinhalese letter ‘ta’ personifies a joker in its sense that the letter carries an odd sound correlating to the personality of a joker, “I want to give personalities to letters. When you say the letter ‘ta’, you should sense and see someone. It was interesting for me to give personalities to them and that was what intrigued me most about this collection,” explains Tuan. We commend his dexterity in drawing and implementing personalities in a simple letter, leading him to also draw the interaction between calligraphy and phonetics, type art and verbal communication, and components of the visual against a shape, each aspect complementing the other. Evidently, the visual representation of a written word enables us to communicate distinct characteristics and qualities of the matter at hand. Phonetics in written art allows an onlooker to not just see the image but hear it and its personality; we believe that phonetic type art becomes the relationship between speech and visual art told through interactive design. 

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7th November, 2019 Applied Art

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