Timothy Comeau

Book of Marks (1998 – 2001)


The Book of Marks consists of a Clairefontaine graph paper notebook with a leather cover, in which I have filled in each square with a mark. It measures 14.5 centimetres by 20.5 centimetres (5.7 x 8 inches) and contains a total of 192 pages. Some pages contain only a few marks, while others are completely filled in.

Statement (2001):

We forget how long it took for each of us to master these shapes, as we write little notes to one another day after day. I once found this taped to a door:

"Tim," she wrote, and circled my name, to get my attention. She had crossed out the original message. "Tim 3rd Floor." She drew out the rest of her thoughts, "You could just bring the glue tonight, since it's snowing and all Vic"

"It's like a script from an alien civilization, and you're its master calligrapher," another said, at a different time.

These shapes exist for me on the same level as foreign alphabets, whose meanings are locked away since I didn't learn their meaning in school. In the same manner that written languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese, whose scripts are nothing more than shapes to me, this Book of Marks appears to contain a script. It could contain an epic poem or a sacred text of some as yet unknown civilization. But, instead, it is nothing more than a collection of doodles and experiments in design.

The Book of Marks began a few years ago - I found it fascinating how these scribbles and marks when arranged in this way seemed to be a type of written language, yet consisted of absolutely meaningless marks. They just look like script. That opened up a new way of looking at text for me. Surrounded as we are by it, - these shapes that you are looking at now, forming silent words in your mind - are nothing more than exercises in geometry, taking years to learn, and then easily taken for granted afterward.

Exhbition History

Exhibition TitleLocationDate
ArdechesAnna Leonowens Gallery, HalifaxFeb 1999
CodeGallery 13, TorontoFeb 2001
Music for LawyersZsa Zsa Gallery, TorontoMarch 2003


“Timothy Comeau's The Book of Marks is about the grandeur of mark-making and the hubris inherent in our conviction that anyone else will ever understand them. The Book itself is a 192 page graph paper notebook, each square of which the artist has "filled in with a mark". The process, Comeau says, began in 1998. For Comeau, the indeterminate shapes with which he gradually fills his pages are similar to the runic shapes making up the alphabet of a language you do not understand. "The Book of Marks appears to contain a script", writes Comeau. But if so, it is a script anterior to his ability to read it back. In a Borges story, Comeau's exotic script would, in fact, turn out to be crystal clear-to someone.” – Gary Michael Dault, Toronto, February 6, 2001 published in Artery Summer 2001 Vol. 7 Issue 4 p.8