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Messenger, Norman: An Artist's Alphabet.

Messenger, Norman

An Artist's Alphabet

Walker, 2016, pp48, 15 [pounds sterling] 978 1 4063 4676 3

Norman Messenger has created a highly original boundary-breaking alphabet book. He takes the shape of each letter and transforms it into something rare, and beautiful in its own way. The spectator has to work out the relationship between the traditional language sign and the pictured object. There is no sound clue. For examples, a seated cat forms the outline of 'D'; a Swiss Army penknife displays the shape of 'f'; a serpent coils into a 'Q'. As the title suggests, there are many references to art and artists. Messenger starts to play with pictorial conventions on the board cover by using negative space--the unworked space around and between forms--to shape the letter 'R'. It's arresting because this usage is little seen in Western art. A great wave, similar to the one off Kanagawa by Hokusai, curls and crashes across a double page frame; one of Martin Creed's crumpled paper balls has been lobbed onto the title page; and mathematically inspired architecture worthy of M.C. Escher tricks the eye. But one doesn't necessarily have to know about art and artists to enjoy the surreal strange artefacts and creatures real or imaginary, modern or ancient, scaly or finny or furry--that inhabit the pages. All are portrayed with absolute conviction and literariness; colour is rich and harmonious. There is much in Messenger's art object to intrigue and inspire young beholders to pick up their coloured pencils.

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Author:Doonan, Jane
Publication:School Librarian
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Jun 22, 2017
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