Gemma's cover image
Gemma

Gemma BLACK

Year of Award: 1991 Award State: Australian Capital Territory Arts - Visual > Painting And Illustration
To study the art of teaching calligraphy - UK, Belgium
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In 1991, when Gemma Black, from Tasmania, was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, calligraphy still was not at the forefront of most people’s consciousness.

Gemma longed to raise the awareness of fine lettering as an art form in the Australian community. Gemma Black had studied show-card and ticket-writing, graduating with two Distinctions plus she had a Calligraphy and Bookbinding course under her belt and taught classes in calligraphy. She knew the power of the pen.

Gemma longed to raise the awareness of fine lettering as an art form in the Australian community. Gemma Black had studied show-card and ticket-writing, graduating with two Distinctions plus she had a Calligraphy and Bookbinding course under her belt and taught classes in calligraphy. She knew the power of the pen.

In England, she met Sam Somerville, an expert calligrapher specialising in gilding, vellum and colour. Sam used his science and maths background to explain the intricacies of colour and design in lay person’s language. Another highlight of her trip was meeting Thomas Ingmire, whose workshop was a revelation for Gemma:

This was the first time I had been encouraged to free up my calligraphy. Thomas tried to break down our inhibitions towards our work and forced us to dig deep into our souls to reveal a spirit by which we could use and unleash real feeling through our letters.

They did this by listening to poetry, then listening to music while executing marks on paper to express their feelings. The exercise had interesting results that captured the movement, pace and force of the poem.

In these days of emails, Twitter and texting, are hand-written manuscripts relevant? Gemma reminds us in her report that a hand-written document can leave a trail of breadcrumbs through history in the way that a computer print-out rarely can. In a written letter there is the evidence of the human hand behind it.

When Kevin Rudd delivered the national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, Gemma Black was the Federal Government’s official calligrapher. She was convinced that the apology deserved a hand-written version. Now we can see the vellum document on permanent display in Parliament House, ‘for future generations to see what we did’.

(an excerpt from "Inspiring Australians" 2015)

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