Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Ruin of Ruins

Like others I am moved by the tragedy of war, the loss of homeland and human suffering in Syria 
and also by the needless and wilful destruction of culture and heritage, particularly at Palmyra, 
one of the most important sites in Syria.  
Destroying a people's historical and cultural sites is an attempt to erase them 
from history and memory.

When I read the line in a news article - 
'A Syrian fighter stood sobbing loudly in the old ruins'
I wanted to sob too and felt compelled to make this book.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The First Artists Book.....

The First Artists Book that took my breath away was La Prose du Trans-Siberien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by the poet Blaise Cendrars and the artist Sonia Delaunay, dating from 1913. 

I was studying Art History at the University of Qld in the 80's and I was writing an essay about the work of Sonia Delaunay.  I was amazed and overwhelmed when I saw this book (or I should say I saw this book reproduced in books).  I have never been fortunate enough to view one of the original copies.

The book is a 2 metre long concertina book intended to be hung vertically.  It is made using letterpress and 'Pochoir', a type of stencil technique that was used in illustration at the time.

This book made such an impression on me that ever since I started making books in the late 1980's, the concertina and variations on it have been the most common structures I have used in my own books. The introduction to the 'galleries' section on my website mentions the influence of this book. 

Detail of Sonia Delaunay's artwork in  La Prose

A copy of the book was exhibited at MOMA in New York in 2013 and there is an blog post here about it written at the time of the exhibition.

The latest news I've just discovered is that Kitty Maryatt of Scripps College in Claremont, California is going to recreate the book as closely as possible to the original. She is writing a blog about the project here which also outlines her research to date. The book will be produced by letterpress in Paris, and Kitty will work on the pochoir with the Atelier Coloris in Ploubazlanec in France.  She will then do the making of vellum covers and the binding back in California.  
Sounds like a dream job!
I'll certainly be following the blog and her progress.   

Monday, 27 February 2017

Manly Artists Book Award

The Future of an Illusion detail 

The Future of an Illusion, a collaborative book I made with Jack Oudyn in 2016
has been selected for the Manly Artist Book Award
which takes place at the Manly Library in Sydney from 30th March to 2nd April
followed  by a travelling exhibition of the books that have been acquired.

A post I wrote about the making and meaning of this book can be found here
and Jack also wrote about this book on his blog here.

The judges for this year's award are Dr Michael Hedger, Director of Manly Art Gallery and Museum and Ben Rak an artist and independent curator.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets: Artists' Books Exhibition 2017 
will be presented by Gallery East in conjunction with Gallery Central in Perth, Western Australia from 18 March to the 8 April 2017.

Two of my books will be on exhibition.   

The Legacy of Silence  (2016)

I wrote a post about this book on my blog in August 2016 here.

and The Sunken Boat (2016) 

This piece is a reworking of a book sculpture called Rimbaud's Drunken Boat which had been on exhibition in France and was suitable for that exhibition with it's French themed poetry connection.
For this exhibition I reworked the etching on the perspex pages (moving currents, waves, water, seaweed, fish, debris) making it more dense and filled the gaps on each page with crosses referencing lives lost at sea - a reflection on refugees who have lost their lives in Australian waters. 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

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.