A fresh look at the amazing world of letters

A fresh look at the amazing world of letters
Rhonda Dredge

For a graphic designer the alphabet is a major source of fascination, including as it does, 26 letters which can be varied in hundreds of fonts.

It’s unclear whether Maree Coote has a brilliant sense of humour or if the methods she has invented create clever simulations.

One thing is for sure – her original portraits of dogs and celebrities are quirky.

Take the silly little cross between a Labrador and a poodle that is known as a Labradoodle.

She has taken each of the letters and used them to create the nose out of the more serious B and D and the hair out of the loops of the L, A and E.

Any dog with outrageous hair gets Maree going. The As in a Pomeranian have a lot of fun being fluffy.

The more serious Basset Hound make a lot out of the solid form of an N and the ears are depicted well with an S.

These alphabetical creatures have all been enclosed in a book Dogography which is available at Maree’s cute little corner gallery on Clarendon St.

It’s apparent that Maree is obsessed by letters. She sees them everywhere, in the shape of branches, in architectural forms. Her alphabetising goes back to her childhood.

“I’ve done a photographic alphabet in the city, finding letter shapes,” she said. “I did it for kids. When I was a kid, my dad would say ‘look at that’. He made me see shapes.”

She is interested in the link between an object and its spelling. “With dogs it becomes a puzzle.”

She’s worried about kids and wants them to be more observational.

“I don’t think kids are challenged. They might be over-stimulated but they’re not active. All video games are passive.”

She uses Illustrator and approaches each portrait as a problem-solving exercise. The Es in Ed Sheeran, for example became the lenses of his glasses. Freddy Mercury, Patti Smith and Amy Winehouse also give up their names to be worked up into portraits in the current exhibition Letterheads.

She said that that she’d been bashed and beaten by COVID but still mounted exhibitions in the shop window.

She loves landmarks, images and published The Art of Being Melbourne, a book of paintings in 2013 of depictions of the CBD since settlement with profiles on each of the artists.

It was the first book on Melbourne seen through the eyes of artists who interpret the present rather than judge the past through a more cynical lens.

“It’s more of an emotional expression, like a family photo,” she said.

Letterheads: Typographic Portraits, MelbourneStyle Gallery, until Christmas •

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