Ambigram artist Gowtham.S aims to integrate multiple languages by evolving a common script
It all began as fun a few years ago. When Gowtham S was in the ninth standard, he found his classmate struggling to write a friend's name that started with ‘A' on a birthday gift. The challenge was to write the name in such a way that it would look and read the same when viewed from the 180 degree angle.
Gowtham fiddled with a pencil for a while and accomplished it. His friends cheered, not knowing that the art already had a name: ambigram. Till then, this Mahatma School student was known as a “good student with an unusual interest in cartoons and sketches, paintings and portraits.” He now works as a software engineer with Infosys in Chennai for a living but essentially remains a designer at heart.
Says Gowtham, 21: “I have been toying with ambigram for the past seven years. It is unique and an inspirational art form in which the artist's precision and ability can rival any computer software!” So what started as a hobby is a passion today, but Gowtham awaits opportunities to demonstrate how “ambigrams as compressed and encrypted texts can take any language a step forward.”
He confesses spending much of his time on the net searching for information and updates on this creative discipline. He has found a number of ambigrams in English, he says, but not too many in Tamil or Hindi. With the help of the Head of Tamil Department at Hindustan College, Coimbatore, he got an opportunity to put up a stall at the World Classical Tamil Conference in June 2010. “It generated curiosity but did not evoke much response. Tamil is a flexible language and I experimented with the alphabets and now have a category of 50 Tamil ambigrams. I want these to reach more people so that they understand the richness of the language.”
Gowtham says it is important to be bold and explore new possibilities, concepts, solutions and phrases. “Once you start enjoying the process of discovering the workings of an ambigram, you become willing to learn more. One should never stop experimenting with the brain. The brain is one thing that is always available and never runs out of ink or battery.”
He has also designed ambigram logos for various companies. “But it is a Herculean task,” he says, “and there is no great rush for this kind of business at the moment.” Ambigrams also make good birthday and wedding anniversary gifts and even as death anniversary mementos, he says.
Gowtham is looking beyond for a wider application of ambigrams. It was during one of his daily 50-minute morning train rides to work from Tambaram to Chengalpattu that he started counting the number of hoardings and signages on the railway platforms. “They are mostly in Tamil, sometimes in English and rarely in Hindi. A person who knows only Tamil will only read the signages or hoardings in Tamil, same for those who can only read English or Hindi. It struck me that if I could make a bi-or multi-lingual ambigram, then people can also learn another language.”
So Gowtham is now burning the midnight oil to research a common script for these three languages and their practical applications, besides working on his book on an exhaustive collection of ambigrams of English alphabets. “I am trying them in all possible combinations and have so far come up with 676, besides a dozen bilingual ones. If the concept of multi-lingual ambigrams catches on, we can do away with those Learn-Hindi-in-30-Days books as these ambigrams will become self-teaching modules.”
“Drawing an ambigram requires lot of dedication and days of practice. It doesn't happen overnight. You should be willing to try anything. How the head guides the hand and the hand guides the pencil is honed through years of hard work. My each piece is a personal project. And it is always good to find your own style,” he says.
“You can never guess what will come next. You just have to follow your intuition and express the feeling with a line's bend, which should be both attractive and readable. The symmetry you achieve in the ambigram is inherently beautiful. Of course, the surprise of achieving something unexpected is pure joy,” he smiles.
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