At Bstudio Style, we are conscious of the delicate situation we are all living worldwide and the struggle humans beings are going through at this moment in Ukraine, we send our best energy and prayers for all of those in need, and certainly our hopes so this situation ends soon.
I know that looking and putting our minds and soul into art can lift us and encourage us a bit or a lot to become better humans beings and refresh us and takes us to a better place through the power of our thoughts.
So this is why I like to present to you an outstanding artist, perfectionist , with powerful messages, committed, full of life, with a big heart and love for what he does, we had the enormous privilege to interview our dear friend Master Denis Brown.
We hope you enjoy his interview and work as much as we do.
Miguel A. Briones
“The Power of Thoughts”.
Can you remember the first instance when you felt an inclination towards the written word? How old were you?
I noticed Gothic fonts used as mastheads in newspapers at about nine years old. I liked these distinctive letters. I did not know calligraphy or chisel-edged pens yet. However, I had seen fat poster markers with a wholly square tip (not a flat chisel edge). I imagined that if I used these markers tilted onto one side, I could emulate the Gothic fonts. Dear Santa, please get me some for Christmas?
—I made them work!
“Blessed Art” Sheets of engraved glass photographed before framing. The art reflects controversy over abortion legislation. Calligraphic sperm cells close in on a medal of the Virgin Mary.
How does your Irish background inform your art, and how do you make this legacy contemporary?
Ireland has a rich heritage of insular manuscript styles, popularly known as Celtic. The Book of Kells is the most famous and finest example. After my art class in high school introduced calligraphy, I would bicycle out to Trinity College Library in Dublin City to see this manuscript most weekends. I could also see European medieval manuscripts in other libraries. Irish peoples spirit tends to be proud and lively as we are a small nation. Although I had not yet seen good contemporary calligraphy, these three elements combined began to make my teenage work distinctive. To modernise any legacy requires adapting it to engage with modern living. We should not just emulate the past but push on forward.
“Covid 19”, Five sheets of engraved glass over calligraphy on gilt and painted paper.
What do you consider the pillars of your training as a calligrapher?
My first pillar was passion: the desire to make things. The second was education. I was fortunate to get that from my teacher Ann Camp in London, where I studied full-time for three years. That education was in direct line of descent from the teaching of Edward Johnston, known as the father of contemporary calligraphy (unfortunately, we cannot say modern calligraphy anymore, as that term has been hijacked). Johnston spoke of disciplined freedom, which might summarise this second pillar. The third pillar of my training must be my desire to push boundaries and explore.
“In The Beginning”, An example of Denis Brown’s “polyrhythmic” calligraphy
Can calligraphy be considered a form of storytelling? How does the reader decipher this means of expression?
Look, these days, posting photos of one’s lunch every day on social media may be called a form of storytelling! What matters is the quality of the story and how and when to tell it. If the viewer cannot decipher the expression, it is a meaningless story. It may become meaningful with either better storytelling or a more educated reader. Calligraphy made for a child would have a simple story. The calligraphy I make for myself will be challenging for some. My messages may not be written in the text, they may require intellectual decoding. However, the intellectual aptitude of many calligraphy followers these days appears that reading an alphabet is sadly most popular!
“Dandelion Wishie”, From the series A Thousand Wishes. Denis invited his followers to send him a wish. He engraved these in many works of glass layers. They emulate dandelion seed-balls, such as children blow while making a wish.
ou have been working with mediums like glass and digital art, what is the balance between tradition and exploration?
Exploration is part of every tradition, I think. We see styles change all through history. History teaches us many valuable lessons. The human spirit and the changing world lead us to move forward.
“The Calligraphers Kitchen”, Titling for an artistic film where ink was allowed to make its own calligraphy in milk.
How do you break boundaries with an art that is so precise?
Calligraphy is often perceived as precise, but the best is strong. The very best is open to risk. There is energy in the pen or brush strokes. It remains visible in the dried ink to those who know it. My videos of my writing may show that more clearly. Writing out the alphabet is predictable—that may be where we begin, but that is not the journey. The journey involves literature, empathy, revolution and change.
“Nowhere, Now Here, Knower”, Wordplay on the getting of wisdom. Calligraphy on paper that is gilt with aluminium and gold.
What are your favourite writing instruments and how do you care for them?
Mostly, I use simple Brause® nibs. These have firm metal that allows more dynamic pen-strokes. Some strokes may be soft and others vigorous. A single stroke may begin with strong pressure that gets released to nothing as it progresses. Like in music, there is pianissimo and fortissimo. The pianoforte has lost the dynamic meaning in its abbreviated name today. The word piano suggests only playing softly. Similarly, calligraphy loses dynamics if it is only soft without some fortissimo. Guitarist Jimmy Page calls it dark and light.
Different substrates demand different writing tools. I use diamond bits to etch layers of glass. For my large transparent works, clear acrylic such as Plexiglas® is more suitable and, on that, I tend to use a pointed nib. Each tool and substrate affect the writing, completely.
“Bitter Blade”, Calligraphy on and between layers of oil paint.
Which poem, phrase or quote is more meaningful to you and why?
The one I engage with at any time is most meaningful. I often try to communicate beyond the meaning portrayed in any quote. Occasionally, I lampoon a text in satirising it. An early example was writing texts about leprosy on calfskins, into which I burned artificial sores. It was when some were citing AIDS as God’s disease for homosexuality. That was despicable as an argument to me, even as a so-called “normal” person. At the time, some were offended by my work. It was a retort against calligraphy as merely decorative writing. More people are a bit less “queer” now and can acknowledge the many colours of the rainbow.
“The Rose of Time”also Denis behind a large Canvas. A work on gilt canvas that hangs behind the reception desk of the Beijing Rosewood hotel in China.
What is the single most important thing you want your students to learn about calligraphy?
To know themselves.
What is the first jolt for new work and what is your process like?
The stimulus may be in the news, a piece of literature, a gesture, a perception to extend an earlier theme, a tool, a celebration, a mourning; even a smack on the ear! In many cases, one work leads to the next.
“Dublin Airport Installation”also Dublin Airport Portrait. Each panel comprises six sheets of clear acrylic covered in writing, with a seventh, painted in translucent oils, at the centre. A translucent, double-sided artwork.
You can follow and contact Denis Brown in the following links.
About Mariana Briones our collaborator
Mariana Briones is a Mexican US based journalist and producer. She has published articles for magazines including Newsweek, Elle, Marie Claire and Cine Premiere, and has worked as line producer for Canal + and Television Espanola among other networks.
Throughout her career she has interviewed over 100 international personalities including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Diane von Furstenberg, Bradley Cooper, Alex Wang and Oscar de la Renta.
Based in Miami Mariana is now a special editions editor for Ferraez Publications of America and a freelance PR constant. She recently launched Mariana Basso, an artisanal line of gold and silver plated accessories and decorative objects made by silversmiths in Mexico City.