‘The Art of Writing Your Name’ Documents a Global Movement
Whether you it "calligraffiti" or "urban calligraphy," it's fresh
Graffiti is a constantly evolving form and throughout its history, it’s reached beyond the foundation itself. Whether it’s street art or graffiti canvases, eventually it enters new realms that incorporate people and styles that are not directly related to those roots. Calligraffiti, or urban calligraphy, is the newest movement—a fresh wave bringing various calligraphy styles to public walls and large canvases, blending them with graffiti and rolling it all into a new whole.
To celebrate this global community and highlight its history, German artists Patrick Hartl and Christian Hundertmark have put together the new book, The Art of Writing Your Name. Through interviews and photographs, it features dozens of artists exploring a fresh landscape of mediums and techniques of large scale lettering. There’s the OG Chaz Bojorquez, Japanese calligrapher Mami, French urban explorer Soemone and the boundary-pushing Lek and Sowat, among many others.
We caught up with Hartl and Hundertmark to learn about their background in graf, labels in art, the goals of the book and more.
Where are you from?
We’re both from Munich, Germany. We grew up here. We’re both graffiti writers, and started together in the early ’90s and were active for many years, then turned into “street artists”… or whatever you call it.
How’d that transition happen?
We were active painting trains from the early ’90s to the late ’90s, then we parted ways. We both studied design and met each other really often. Calligraphy and design were more than just painting trains, where you’re always are limited by the circumstances.
What’s the “calligraffiti” scene like?
It’s really growing all over the globe. With the internet, access is easy and the Calligraffiti Facebook page has nearly a million followers. If you’re checking the stuff every day, you’ll realize that they’re popping out calligraffiti artists every day. It’s hard to say if they’re all “calligraffiti” artists in the book, cause calligraffiti includes the word graffiti and most of them are just kids who did calligraphy and tried out the same thing with other materials on walls. I don’t know if you have to separate it, but to me, it’s not really graffiti cause they’re not all painting illegally.
Yeah, trying to capture something with one word almost never does it justice. Would you attempt to label it, or is it just a theme?
I think things always get labeled. It was the same with street art in the early 2000s. In the end, it’s all “post-graffiti art. “Calligraffiti” is kind of similar, it’s just the newest thing. People always want to pigeonhole. We’ve found that maybe calling it urban calligraphy makes a lot of sense, too. A few people in the book don’t like to have their art called calligraffiti. A lot of people can identify with the name, and others can’t cause they have a different history with it.
What was the goal with the book?
It’s similar to Chris’s book, The Art Of Rebellion from 2003. We just felt that this kind of book was missing in this whole calligraffiti and calligraphy world and that there’s a much deeper history to it—people like Chaz Bojorquez, who’s a father to it. The intention was to show that there are other artists who made the way for this prominent label that everyone knows now.
Do you think it’s a more exacting form than graffiti or street art?
Most of the artists in the book probably learned from tagging or stuff like that. But then it’s about the evolution of each artist. If they stick to this really strict style of calligraphy it could get boring.
Is the exploration of new mediums and materials part of what makes this exciting?
Most artists are trying to be unique with their materials and their technics, so they’re looking for new stuff all the time. Every artist wants to do something special and get his own stuff. That’s part of the process, doing experiments with your own tools. People using sponges and their own giant drip markers.
What can artists do to avoid the formulaic phase that comes with art once it becomes labeled?
I don’t know if you have to do anything. If you really stick to your art, your work becomes unique. We are at the beginning, so you have a big stage for your stuff. But there are a lot of large circle murals and tattoos.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
We’re really proud that we finally made this book and people are really happy with it. It’s something we want to give back to the scene. We can really say it came from the heart from both of us and we are so thankful for the help from all the artists. We hope people enjoy it and inspire others to start this kind of art by themselves.