Monday, 8 August 2016

The Legacy of Absence and Silence

The Legacy of Absence and Silence 
explores the search for identity and belonging, the desire to be part of a bigger shared history and cultural background.  Many Australians whose forbears settled here from the early days of settlement throughout the 19th century share this absence of knowledge and this void.

These forbears never spoke of their families and their past lives in their native land.  Many Europeans anglicized their names and rejected their native languages.  Few stories, if any, were passed down, yet our identity is inextricably linked to these forbears through DNA.

When I started making this piece I  first made a traditional book structure with a spine which I called 
The Legacy of Silence.

 I worked on pages using predominantly drawing, some printmaking and others using photo transfers.

This page was about gold mining, so a strip of real gold leaf was added.

The book works well but I always like an interesting sculptural presentation and I had in mind that I would enter this piece in the Libris awards, So I kept this book as a more traditional version and started again designing a large sculptural structure.

I needed to make a few changes and the printmaking pages were redone as white marks, drawing and a photo transfer on black paper.

I had to make a number of each of the pages as all the work had to be original artwork which could then be folded into long concertinas.  I left the text off these pages and settled for a freestanding text page which folds into a concertina and sits within the front cover of the finished book.

The multiple concertinas were sewn together to form a more complex structure which still folds down flat into the book covers.  It ended up being really large, measuring about 75 x 15 cm. closed. 

The structure of the book enhances the meaning.  The viewer can peer into the darkness of the front pages trying to glean details and then look down into the white pages where a few known facts are revealed, but glimpses only of these images can be seen, never the full story.

The Legacy of Absence and Silence has been selected for exhibition in the Libris Awards at Artspace Mackay from 26th August to 16th October 2016. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Future of an Illusion

I have just finished working on another collaborative book with Jack Oudyn 
called The Future of an Illusion.

This is a book about death - about the processes the body goes through after death and the belief systems associated with death. 

When we began talking about making the book, by chance I had recently read a book by Jim Crace called Being Dead in which he documented the natural changes that occur in a dead body left in nature and how it begins to decompose and return to nature.

This led to much discussion and Jack was immediately enthusiastic about working with ideas about decomposition and started experimenting in different ways with how he would portray this.   Research revealed that the body goes through many changes of colour, some vivid and garish, as it begins to decompose and regress from Zoology to Botany.

We wanted the book to be a bit sculptural and we both agreed on including a void, which clarified our ideas about what we each believe happens after death and the definite decision that the void should lead nowhere.  We cut spaces of descending size into card folded into a concertina to give it perspective and enable the viewer to look down through the void which was closed off at the end with the black card.  

Around this time we discovered Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Future of an Illusion” in which Freud argued that an afterlife has no basis in science, is wishful thinking and a disavowal of reality. This reinforced the idea of our ‘void’ which had became a series of portals that lead nowhere.

 I was interested in the immediate changes in the early days after death, and Jack had already started his experiments with decomposition, so it fell into place that I would work on a concertina which focused on the early stages and Jack would work on a concertina focusing on later stages of physical decomposition.   
On the outside we used the blue/grey/green/silvery colours of the outside of the dead body.

On the insides of the concertinas, like the inside of the body, we used reds and vivid colours.  

The materials we used for the concertinas were acrylic, soluble carbon, gouache and ink on Arches 185 gsm watercolour paper. We each made four originals.

We wanted the book to look a bit scientific and Jack came up with a great method for image transfer which allowed us to use anatomical drawings. 



 I included a skull as an art historical reference to the Vanitas Still Lifes of the 17th century which reminded the viewer of the transience of earthly existence.  Lines of text were randomly placed across the concertinas and the phrases were sourced from Being Dead by Jim Crace and The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud. 

 Our structure was complete  with a painted concertina sewn onto each side of the void concertina  structure, 

We had great ideas for presentation – things like a zippered body bag made of black plastic, but in the end, due to the shape and fragility of the book, we opted for a more protective four flap folder. 

 Jack had managed to come across some ‘skull’ buttons when he was in Tasmania recently and they were perfect for the closure of the folder.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Delires de Livres

I am very pleased to have been invited to participate in Delires de Livres once again.  
I have been an exhibitor a number of times when the exhibition was held in the wonderful old Collegiale St Andre in Chartres in France.  However the organisers were no longer able to exhibit in this location.  Fortunately they were able to secure another venue  - the new Cultural centre in Rambouillet which is on the outskirts of Paris.  The only down side was that the number of participants had to be reduced from about 175 to about 65, so a much smaller exhibition this time.

It was no surprise that the book of mine that was selected is Rimbaud's Drunken Boat and is based on a French poem of that name - Le Bateau Ivre by Arthur Rimbaud.  The book is made of triangles of perspex and is sewn together in such a way that it is flexible and can be displayed in a number of ways which can suggest the movement of the sea or the damaged boat.  
Each perspex panel contains an etching which I made in response to a line of the poem and subsequently coloured with aquamarine acrylic.   The book covers are of aquamarine perspex.


Delires de Livres 2016 will be on exhibition at La Lanterne in Rambouillet, France from 1st April to 21st May 2016. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Merry Christmas

With very best wishes for a very Merry Christmas
and a wonderful New Year.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Unique Piece of Leather

It has been very quiet here as I have been occupied by other things, however I hope to be working and posting regularly about my books again.

I made a small book a few months ago called Makes No Sense about World War 1.  It proved to be popular and the edition of 20 have all gone.  As the topic of war seems to be one of my favourite subjects, I decided to make a unique copy for myself.

I sewed the book together in sections and put a black leather spine on it.  I wondered what to do with the cover and remembered I had a great piece of leather stashed away that I had bought as a dud  faulty piece because the black dye had not penetrated fully and had left a kind of tie-dye mark in one or two areas of the skin.  I thought it looked great and decided to use it for the covers of this book.

The front cover (above) also had two holes in the leather which I filled with
red acrylic paint.
Below is a view of the pattern on the back cover.

The final view shows the completed book covers.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Troops Depart for War

It seems I'm still not ready to be finished with commenting on World War I.  
It came to my attention recently that the letters DIE are part of the word 'SOLDIER'.
I've made a few books about the unbelievable loss of life by soldiers serving in WW1 and I couldn't resist making a little zine using this.

I printed an A4 Kraft paper page with the word Soldier in murky green and highlighted the letters DIE in black.  I placed the words in columns like a battalion marching off to war.
The page was then folded and placed into a Kraft card cover onto which I 
glued an image of a WWI commemorative stamp which carries the words 'Troops Depart'.

I'd be delighted to send one to anyone who sends me their postal address.  You can contact me by email through my website

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Slim Chance

Last year I was very fortunate to work on a collaborative book with Jack Oudyn called Chance.  We really enjoyed working on that project and we'd both found the working method of the collaboration quite exciting.   We decided to use the same method and follow it up with another book related to 'Chance' this year.  We had been hoping to have it finished for the SLQ Book Fair in late June, but unfortunately I wasn't able to finish my pages in time due to the death of my mother.

Jack and I had been talking about the plight of refugees no longer being resettled in Australia and facing very uncertain futures.  We found this an interesting 'chance' topic and decided to use the same Kraft brown paper for the pages and the same Kraft card cover in a dos-a-dos format. Once again we exchanged alternate lines of text by email and  both responded with a drawing.  We agreed to use fresh turmeric, gesso, gouache, pencil.

Jack had used fresh turmeric in his work previously and suggested that we try using it and making a book which had an exotic spicy odour.   We found the pages did have a nice smell when they were finished, but even after keeping them in a sealed plastic bag, after a week or so the odour disappeared.  However the fresh turmeric was interesting to use as an art material and Jack used it very successfully in his work.  This is my favourite page of his, one I find powerful and beautiful.

A choice of freedom or death.  Jack Oudyn 

I experimented with turmeric but used less in the end as I wanted the blue of the sea to be predominant in my pages.   I started with the chance marks that resulted from a chopstick dipped in gesso and some of them looked a bit like jellyfish.  I had hoped they'd give some idea of movement through the water. One of my pages was inspired by a shot in the intro to the tv show The Vikings.

 A risky journey in a leaky boat.  Helen Malone

A choice of freedom or death.  Helen Malone

Jack produced some wonderful restrained drawings and I am so impressed with the way he was able to abstract the theme.  We included two lines from the second verse of our national anthem which say  For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share.

We've boundless plains to share.  Jack Oudyn

For those who've come across the seas.  Helen Malone

On each of our pages, there are a couple of words that have been translated into one of  a number of different languages.

 A land of hope on the horizon.  Jack Oudyn

For the cover, Jack made little embossings of a boat to which we added colour and he also found some reflective material to use for the cross.
Last time we made only one original of Chance which was acquired by the Manly Library in Sydney, however this time we thought ahead and made four originals, and I think two of them will remain in our own collections.