MA Book Arts
Unit Title: Induction/ Planning/ Research
Unit Code: MABA 1

Student: Hei Shing Chan
Supervisor: Susan Johanknecht, Les Bicknell
Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2 Sides: Dualistic coexistence and co-vibration

“Studying and experiencing in London is like standing in front of a polished mirror, I could reflect myself clearly. I regain the feeling of my body and my own existence in a different world.”

A piece of paper has two sides, so it is a physical object instead of a surface.
A spread of a book has two pages, so it shows the space-time sequence.
A world is combined by 2 parts — the East and the West, so they interact with each other.

Self-initiation of this project

    A personal story: Coexistence of various thoughts in mind

I was born in Hong Kong in 1984.
The year 1984 is a turning point in the Hong Kong history. The Sino-British Joint Declaration (formally known as the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong) was signed by the Prime Ministers of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United Kingdom (UK) governments in 1984. In the Joint Declaration, the PRC Government stated that it had decided to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997, and the UK Government declared that it would hand over Hong Kong to the PRC with effect from the same day.

I began to learn English in 1988 when I was four.
As a Chinese from Hong Kong, I have quite a strange learning experience. Under the British educational system, we are forced to learn English from kindergarten to university. We learn all kinds of subjects in English (except learning Chinese language & Chinese related subjects). Our textbooks are written in English but the teachers like to teach in Chinese. We did examinations in English but we seldom speak English in our daily life. Ironically, we always like to combine the English and Cantonese together in our daily conversation. Our spoken language is Cantonese, and our written language is traditional Chinese (the same with that used in Taiwan but not simplified Chinese that used the Mainland China). Many of us began to learn Mandarin after 1997 while we can never speak native Mandarin.

I learned to sing the national song in 1997.
I am the generation who experienced two different eras (both of the rule under the British government and the Hong Kong SAR government). Before 1997, I had a holiday because of the Queen’s birthday. We were using the Hong Kong dollars and stamps with the Queen’s head. I got a British National (Overseas) passport (until now). After 1997, I gain a holiday because of the birth of PRC. We spend the same currency but different stamps. I can get a new HKSAR passport but I still keep my BNO passport.

I went to Beijing to study Mandarin in 2004.
When I was visiting a different place from home, I can learn a brand new aspect to see; at the same time, I understand my home and myself better. Superficially, we have the westernized city, life, and appearance. After I got more and more experience of traveling to other countries, I realize that Hong Kong people are still Chinese with Asian minds under this western surface. Our thinking way, attitude and behaviour are still like Asian. I started to rethink all these kinds of coincidence.

I have come to London to study Book Arts in 2007.
After I graduated from the BA in Design (Visual Communication) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2006, I worked as a graphic designer and freelance book designer for a year. I gained the working experience in the design and publication industry. Fortunately, I got an award of scholarship. Thus, I decided to go to London to concentrate my study in Book Arts. It strengthens and deepens my understanding of western books and thoughts.

I was grown under this kind of special environment.

Two diverse thoughts and philosophies continue to develop in my mind and create a mixed cultural man. We are always having two different kinds of thoughts, sometimes harmonious but sometimes contradicting. I would like to mix these various thoughts together to create a new kind of book arts.

To create an atmosphere of multi-cultural habitat for books & typography

To mix the different cultural signs together to create a new kind of book arts

To reflect oneself in a different world

My work would be concerned with cultural difference between the people in the East and the West. Through experiencing, studying, analyzing and evaluating two different “book” cultures, my understanding of Eastern and Western spiritual aesthetic theories would be strengthened.

Two different book cultures would be examined. How do we treat a “book”? Owing to the cultural diversity, people in the two sides of the world read, make, design, use or treat book in different ways. It would be fascinating to study the paper, the typography (language), the structure, the form, the format, the visual impact, the binding, the sequence of images, the texture, etc. How does the cultural background influence the artists, designers and the readers? Why do we have this kind of preference?

Historical Research
Research would be conducted in the library, galleries, and museums for the history of these two book cultures. This part of study would be mainly focused on the comparison between the East and the West. It would also be related to the evolution of the book, types of the books, paper and materials, reasons of the rise of some kinds of book formats, etc.

Theoretical Research
Various art and design theories (such as Modernism, Post-modernism, etc) of books would have to be analyzed.

Art & Design Research and Experiments
The research on the famous book artists and designers in both Asia and Europe would be carried out. Their preferences and practices in book arts should be considered. Moreover, interacting with fellow students and various tutors from different countries would be best to know the different minds forming different results. In addition to this, a variety of experiments on book forms, structures, typographies and concepts should be explored.

Brief Discussion of its Content
One of the approaches of the content of this project would be “Poetry”. Personally, Concrete or Visual Poetry is one of my favourite visual arts. As Emmett says, Concrete Poetry is an art “beyond paraphrase, a poetry that often asked to be completed or activated by the reader, a poetry of direct presentation—the word, not words, words, words.” Not only the content and context of the poems communicate the meanings and stories, but the form, shape, size and layout of different chosen types are also presenting the whole feeling of the story.

Although the Chinese did not have the tradition of “Concrete Poetry”, there were some similar visual poems in the past. Those kinds of poems were presenting with the form and pictograph meaning of the Chinese characters. Besides, in Chinese calligraphy, each stroke is written at a different speed. Each Chinese character has its own speed. They blur colours around themselves, responding to their own speed and presenting the emotions of the calligrapher or author. It is a kind of visual presentation of poems.

Both of the English and Chinese poems are illustrious in the world. They would be visually presented as the content in this project. This is a rough idea which has to be further developed.

Research & Material Requirements
My research would be done with making full use of libraries, arts galleries, and museums in London. A Macintosh computer, a digital camera, and a scanner & printer would be necessary tools for my art production; the digital printing, letterpress and book binding workshops should also be accessed for printing and making books.

Ideas about End product
After all kinds of research, experiments and exploration of book and typography, an insight from these two “book cultures” would be found. I hope I can create a form of book/ series of books, which different kinds of cultural elements could be coexistent and co-vibrate inside.

Time Schedule


    English Book

AllRightReserved Publishing (ed.) (2007), 特技 SPECIAL EFFECTS: A Book About Special Effects, Hong Kong: AllRightReserved Publishing

Clay, S. & Rothenberg, J. (ed.) (2000), A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing, New York: Granary Books

Drucker, J. (1995), The Century of Artists’ Books, New York: Granary Books

Haslam, A. (2006), Book design, UK: Laurence King Publishing

Klima, S. (1998), Artists Books: A Critical Survey of the Literature, New York: Granary Book

Kenya, H. (2007), Designing Design, Tokyo: Lars Müller Publishers

Lyons, J. (ed.) (1985), Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook, New York: Visual Studies Workshop Press

Martinique, E. (1983), Chinese Traditional Bookbinding: A Study of Its Evolution and Techniques, Chicago: Chinese Materials Center

Meggs, P. B. & Purvis, A. W. (1992), Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, 4th ed. United States: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Schmid, H. (ed.) (2003), Typography Today, new ed. Tokyo: Seibundo Shinkosha

Smith, K. A. (1994), Non-Adhesive Binding, Volume I, 3rd ed. New York: keith smith BOOKS

Smith, K. A. (1994), Structure of the Visual Book, 3rd ed. New York: keith smith BOOKS

    Chinese Books


[Huang, S R (ed.) (2004), Hunting For Books, Taipei: Net and Books]

杉浦康平(2006)《疾風迅雷:杉浦康平雜誌設計的半個世紀 》。北京,三聯書店。
[Kohei, S. (2006), Wind and Lightning: A Half-Century of Magazine Design, Beijing: Joint Publishing]

杉浦康平(2006)《亞洲之書.文字.設計——杉浦康平與亞洲同人的對話》。 台北,網路與書。
[Kohei, S. (2006), Books, Text and Design in Asia: Conversations by Kohei Sugiura and Asian Designers, Taipei: Net and Books]





_prepared by hei shing chan on 6 November 07

1 Response to “C/ Project Proposal”

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Hei Shing

書就是… A Book is…


A piece of paper reflects not only time but also space. Books are formed by binding papers together to become containers of words that serve as a reservoir as well as a spring of wisdom.

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