Asemic writing

Early on in my progress as an abstract painter, and in my art journaling practice, I was inspired by handwriting as a mark making tool. The personal “hand” to create lines and texture feels raw and authentic. It provides a way to start a painting or to add a type of signature to a piece.

Wikipedia defines asemic writing as a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content”, or “without the smallest unit of meaning”. With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. All of this is similar to the way one would deduce meaning from an abstract work of art. ….Asemic works leave for the reader to decide how to translate and explore an asemic text; in this sense, the reader becomes co-creator of the asemic work.

I will often start my paintings or journals with asemic writing and continue from that point. Often all of the writing marks get covered up in the process of painting, but I know it is embedded in the piece under all the layers.

When I add asemic writing in my work, it is imbuing a sense of me and what my work is about. It opens me to vulnerability but, most importantly, I like to believe it creates a connection with the viewer that transcends modern language. It is a companion to my other abstract paint strokes.

asemic writing in abstract piece

Two famous artists known for their asemic approach include Cy Twombly and Wassily Kandinsky.

Satu Kaikkonen, a contemporary asemic artist/writer from Finland, had this to say about asemic writing:

As a creator of asemics, I consider myself an explorer and a global storyteller. Asemic art, after all, represents a kind of language that’s universal and lodged deep within our unconscious minds. Regardless of language identity, each human’s initial attempts to create written language look very similar and, often, quite asemic. In this way, asemic art can serve as a sort of common language—albeit an abstract, post-literate one—that we can use to understand one another regardless of background or nationality. For all its limping-functionality, semantic language all too often divides and asymmetrically empowers while asemic texts can’t help but put people of all literacy-levels and identities on equal footing.

Source: wikipedia

Emily Dickinson 1859

What was Emily thinking when she “wrote” this? Was it the start of a poem? What was she feeling? You can sense a meaning that transcends the literal.

I also often use “free” or asemic writing with students in my art workshops. It helps us warm up before a painting or journaling session and puts us in a mind space conducive for creativity.

If you are interested in learning more about asemic writing as an art form, check out these resources:

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