ART

Objectspace exhibition champions New Zealand typeface design

Wednesday 29 July 2009, 8:31AM
By Objectspace
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AUCKLAND CITY

An exhibition, Printing Types: New Zealand Typeface Design Since 1870, has opened at Objectspace (8 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, New Zealand), featuring work from New Zealand typeface designers including Joe Churchward, Jack Yan and Kris Sowersby.

Designer and curator Jonty Valentine noted that there had been an inadequate recognition of the discipline, even though New Zealand had been steadily building a type design industry over a 140-year period.
Running from July 25 to September 12, with free admission, the exhibition aims to remedy what Valentine calls the ‘invisibility’ of type design in New Zealand.

Valentine observes that ‘the purpose of this project is to begin to establish, or at least begin to lay the case for such a series of stories’ and to question ‘why there is so little written about this subject.’

Objectspace Director, Philip Clarke, notes that ‘Printing Types, is I believe, the first exhibition and related publication completely focused on contemporary and historical New Zealand type design.’

Two highlights of Printing Types include the 1960s’ achievements of internationally celebrated New Zealand–Samoan Joseph Churchward who is the subject of a new book, Joseph Churchward (ed. David Bennewith, published by Clouds, 2009) and Tom Elliott (designer of the iconic 1970s’ Air New Zealand typeface).

Jack Yan, whose typeface designs kicked off the digital era in the late 1980s, says that Valentine’s exhibition is welcome.

’I’ve seen type design ignored even by professional publications here in the 1990s,’ he recalls. ‘I remember the first bit of press coverage I ever got was in the US, at a time when the New Zealand design press didn’t want to know.’

One of the ironies from that era is his Décennie typeface family, shown as part of Printing Types, and used for the exhibition catalogue’s typesetting. It was originally developed for an Australian newspaper.
Since then, he says it has been a ‘battle’ to change perceptions, something which began to shift in the 21st century.

’Jonty Valentine’s Printing Types will be seen, in future, as one of the landmark events that has helped raise the visibility of New Zealand typeface design, just as Te Papa’s recent exhibition on Joe Churchward’s work,’ he says.

Valentine will give a talkon the exhibition at Objectspace on August 1 at 11 a.m.

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