bc, becuz, Because ASCII

  • Kate ShepherdEmail author
Part of the Mathematics, Culture, and the Arts book series (MACUAR)


The previous pages display original drawings that Kate Shepherd made in 2015 specifically for this volume. In his catalog essay for a recent exhibition of the artist’s painting, Paul Bright wrote, “Her paintings in most instances investigate how much visual information is both necessary and sufficient for a viewer to conjure a figure, without resorting to ‘expressive’ line, without modeling and shading, without detailed depiction” (Bright, Kate Shepherd: Lineaments, p. 8. Exhibition catalog. Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, Winston-Salem, 2015). Each of the drawings here is made up of printed characters that approximate a single hand-drawn figure. There is an algorithmic middleman, a computer program, that makes the specific choice of ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) character and position based on a source drawing, which in this case is a simple line drawing of a circle. The program also allows for control of the character width of the drawing, which partially explains the variation within the series. At first glance, especially when approaching the smaller drawings, the shape of the figure is the dominant impression, and we hardly register that the marks are printed type. But the type asserts itself as more characters are added and the image enlarges. Despite the medium here, which is new for Shepherd, these drawings could be thought of as a logical extension of recent work she has made using computer drawing tools. For example, her 2014 exhibition at Galerie Lelong, Fwd: Telephone Game featured finely painted white lines that were derived from opensource digital 3D wire frame models. She describes a breakthrough when she realized that repeated subdivision of the straight lines of a wireframe had the potential to approximate curves. Nevertheless, she added that while “The exercise starts akin to life drawing or drafting, [it] changes when the lines no longer capture what was ‘there’ and instead become the subject themselves” (Shepherd, Kate Shepherd: Fwd: The Telephone Game, p. 2. Exhibition booklet. Galerie Lelong, New York, 2014.). As monospaced typewritten works, these drawings bring to mind the more conceptual among Concrete poets, including Carl Andre and Jiří Valoch. Even if the constellation of marks does not evoke even a partial reading, nevertheless, once our eye consciously or unconsciously recognizes the characters, they punctuate our visual apprehension of the figure as a whole.


  1. 1.
    Bright, Paul. “Kate Shepherd: Lineaments.” In Kate Shepherd: Lineaments, 7–10. Exhibition catalog. Winston-Salem, NC: Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, 2015.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Shepherd, Kate. Kate Shepherd: Fwd: The Telephone Game. Exhibition booklet. New York: Galerie Lelong, 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations