Tom Burtonwood


  • Four Letter Words


Text is one of the most commonly used inputs and outputs in both the digital and analog worlds. I became aware that my geometric blocks were analogous to letterforms and that my grid structures were akin to paragraphs and text blocks. In the summer of 2011 I produced my first font. Its title, Hedgehog-Regular, is a nod of the head to the fictional cipher system, Pufferfish, featured in Neal Stephenson’s novel The Cryptonomicon. Hedgehog-Regular is a font that I have created replacing both upper and lower keystrokes A-Z with custom geometric blocks. I really enjoy being able to type on the keyboard and see these geometric forms appear. These forms can be deconstructed and remade in many different permutations.

Hedgehog-Regular has been distributed freely via the Internet as a .ttf file. With this file in the public domain, people are able to decode the paintings. There is an int­er­est­ing synergy between formal non-objective ab­straction and embedded data produced by utilizing a cus­tom al­pha­bet as the compositional system. For Typeforce 3, I have editioned six images from my series Four Letter Words. Each word is encoded using Hedgehog-Regular and can be decoded by a number of methods. I have provided several clues in the installation and titles of the work.


Tom Burtonwood teaches at Columbia College Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is co-founder of WHAT IT IS, a roving exhibition and project space. He holds a BA Hons. in Fine Art from Loughborough University (UK) in 1997 and an MFA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2001. Burtonwood’s recent exhibitions include: the Chicago Cultural Center; Sidecar Gallery, Hammond, IN; the residence of the British Consulate, Chicago; Hinge Gallery, Chicago; Gillock Gallery, Paris, France; NOISEfestival, Manchester, UK; Fountain Studios, Brooklyn. His current research is focused on 3D printing and scanning.


Archival inkjet on Moab Entrada rag paper