Monday, 28 March 2022

Depictions of Light


Ghosts of the Past.  Helen Malone 2016

In 2016 I made a book called The Legacy of Silence which was about the search for knowledge about our personal past and our ancestors.

The book begins with the words -  I stand in darkness peering into silence and on the second page - looking for ghosts of the past and traces of vanished lives.

I created a print for the second page which showed shadowy fragmented light in the background with the foreground purely black and blocking the viewer from entering the image.  My intention was to create the suggestion of a vital living past that was not accessible to the viewer.

          Last year I received the gift of a beautiful small print made by my friend Susan Goddard.  What a fantastic print and depiction of light it is.

The drive home...down the bush track, at night. Susan Goddard  No 14/15

The viewer experiences the feeling of being in the car in the bush with the headlights piercing into the darkness and lighting up fragments of the close trees and surrounds whilst the background remains black and impenetrable.

I decided to hang these two prints together in my room and was immediately struck by the interesting way light has been utilised in these prints.  In both the viewer is peering into the darkness. However the intention is quite opposite - in one the foreground is well lit and the background impenetrable and in the other the foreground is dark and closed off with the suggestion of  unreachable life and light in the background.  

I enjoy seeing them both hanging together and am constantly fascinated by these two images, their similarities and differences.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Merry Christmas

Every Christmas for about thirty years I used to make handmade Christmas cards to exchange with many friends who also did the same thing.   Sadly, in the past few years most of us have stopped doing this.

It seems that the most popular of these cards were two that I made in 2004 and 2005 from perspex.

In 2004 I etched a piece of perspex with a Christmas tree and finished off the edges with some copper foil that I used in stained glass making. 

 In 2005 after etching the perspex I glued on an arch-shaped fragment from a canvas painting to form a stained glass window.

   Holes were then drilled and fishing line attached to enable the cards to be hung. 

While many paper/card Christmas greetings tend to get thrown out after Christmas (or go into recycling bins) it's very pleasing to know that these two were kept by a number of people and reappear every year as a Christmas decoration.

Merry Christmas 2021

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The What and Why

     I received a request from Sarah Bodman, Senior Research Fellow for Artists Books at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK about my book That Unbearable Lightness.

This book was made in 2012 as part of the Book Art Object Project.  A complete set of BAO books made by participants were sent to Sarah Bodman and are held in the Bower Ashton Library at UWE.     


Library and teaching staff at UWE have had the idea of making some short one minute videos about  some of the artists' books in their collections to use as a teaching tool so that students can get an idea of 'the what and why' of these books.  On the proposed videos, Sarah plans to handle the book whilst talking about it and the artist's practice.   The videos would then be published on the library website and be readily accessible by the students.

 I was delighted to be asked permission for my book to be filmed and to be included in such a great resource for book arts students.

I wrote some posts about the making of this book back in 2012.   

You can find them here (working on structure) here (the concept) and here (making the book).

Saturday, 23 October 2021

An Amazing Collection of Books

Ten Books on Architecture - Helen Malone

Books on Books is a site curated by the collector Robert Bolick in the UK.  This is where he documents his extensive Book Collection which focuses on the history of the book and book art.  His collection contains a huge and comprehensive variety of interesting books from the traditional codex and subjects, to non-traditional structures and sculptural books.  The images are accompanied by his learned description, analysis and interpretation of the books.  One could spend days and weeks exploring the books in this collection and working through this site.

The Books on Books site is easy accessed from the newest entries and works backwards.  However there is an alphabetical listing of the artists' names which makes it easy to look up the book artists you may be most interested in.  

I am honoured to be included in this collection with a number of my books and some collaborations with Jack Oudyn.  You can find these books here and here.  Jack Oudyn's books can be found here.

Monday, 6 September 2021

From my collection - 'Cacophony' by Ed Hutchins


I was excited to receive a copy of this new sculptural book from Ed Hutchins recently, a new release in 2021 from Editions, his small press which publishes his artists book multiples.  
Cacophony is a first edition of 200 copies.  It is quite large, about the size of an A4 page.
It went on an unusual journey from New York via Tokyo on it's way to Australia.  Due to the pandemic there are not so many flights in and out of Australia but I guess there were lots of planes flying in and out of Tokyo during the Olympic Games!  It went off the tracking radar but fortunately it did arrive at my home eventually in perfect condition.

Creating sculptural books whose structure and form relate to the theme or content of the book is a characteristic of Ed Hutchins' work and something I've always been interested in.  Ed's work definitely influenced me to consider structure as an essential element I could use to visually complement the content and create added meaning in artists books.  

Cacophony has a complicated structure made up of two intersecting concertinas that fold down flat.  The concertinas have cut-outs and irregular cut edges, with words seemingly popping up at you from every direction.  

 The book is laser printed from Ed's artwork and as the different panels intersect with each other, it must have been a very exacting procedure to have part of the artwork at the intersection on one panel and the matching part on another panel.  Absolute precision would have been required. 
 The T D and P seen below are examples of letters printed on two separate sheets of card and meeting precisely.

The concertinas contain 127 words that express sounds and exclamations.  Their intersecting nature  allows all the words to mix and mingle inside and out and some of them pop up or out at you visually creating the idea of a cacophony.  

A card accompanying the book contains a list of the words included as the text. 


WOW was my first impression and a cut-out freestanding Wow has been inserted into slots in one of the cut-out circular areas on the front side of the book and takes the word count to 128! 
Ed has created a colourful, joyful masterwork that makes you smile.   
A video posted by Ed Hutchins on You tube displays the book moving in the round here.
You can also find a number of other teaching videos on You tube where Ed demonstrates how he worked on different aspects of this masterpiece of construction. 

Saturday, 14 August 2021


 Intertextuality is the juxtaposition of two texts which together create a new meaning that is not contained in either text when used alone.  The term was introduced by semiotician Julia Kristeva in the late 1960's.  It has much potential for use in artists books and I think it could and should be a method used by artist book makers more often.

I first used intertextuality as a means of creating meaning in an artwork I made in 1993.

The piece was a sculptural book made of calfskin vellum called In the Beginning Far off in the Dreamtime.  The form of the book is an icosahedron - a crystal shape created in nature.  This icosahedron carries excerpts from two different creation texts, In the beginning from Genesis in the bible and Far off in the Dreamtime, the story of the Rainbow Serpent.  By juxtaposing the texts, meaning and issues not contained in the individual texts were created, relating to Australian/Aboriginal cultural issues, reconciliation and belief systems.

This artwork was purchased by the State Library of Queensland in 1993 after being included in an exhibition at the State Library.  It is now held in its Artists Book Collection.  It was also included in a book by Kay Saunders Between the Covers: Revealing the State Library of Queensland's Collections, Focus Publishing NSW 2006 p. 147

Another example of intertextuality is the work of British digital artist and printmaker Phil Shaw who has used intertextuality in a series of digital prints he has been producing for over ten years called Bookshelves. When the viewer reads the titles of the books in sequence, they connect with each other and create a new text and meaning.

A recent print of his called Shelf Isolation 2020 utilises these book titles to create a new story about the pandemic.  

Image and text below Copyright Phil Shaw

The titles of the books read
The English Patient/Had/Caught/It/On the Beach/I should have stayed home/She said/Now/She was/in Quarantine/In the Dark/House of Splendid Isolation/Still/Hope Springs Eternal/With a little bit of Luck/Common Sense/And/Personal Hygiene/The Corona Book of Horror Stories/Must End Soon/Always Remember/Clean Hands Save Lives/And/When in Doubt/ Don't/Go/Out.

Phil Shaw has made a number of different Bookshelves in this series and you can read how he creates the prints and view others in the series on his website here or at the Rececca Hossack Art Gallery in London here.  

Saturday, 31 July 2021

From My Collection - 'Edge' by Jack Oudyn


One of the most beautiful books in my collection is Edge, an Artists Proof by Jack Oudyn.

The book is A5 size and contains 6 double sided leaves. It is bound along the outside edge of the cover in Japanese style. The handmade cover paper is made from grasses and plant fibre of the type that would be found in nature.

Jack went on a trip to Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) in 2019 when the lake was in flood with historically high levels of water. He took a flight over the lake to see the scale of it and also to view it from above.  This enabled him to create his personal impression in these wondrous images created with his own homemade mangrove and pomegranate inks, acrylic paint, coloured pencils, pastels, 
chinagraph pencils and found maps.

Jack called the book 'Edge' as a reference to the edge of the boggy and shallow shoreline which it is impossible to approach on land.  He varies the size of the dark paint on the outer edges of the pages to indicate the continually changing edges of the lake.

The pages of the book are double sided and Jack has made tabs on each spread that can be lifted from the surface image to show underlying maps of the area.  He has included a little card lifter inside the front cover to facilitate this.

I find these colours and images of nature and of our country incredibly beautiful and contemplative.  I can imagine every spread as a framed painting that would give enormous pleasure.

The interesting and amazing thing that struck me was that in his portrayal of our wonderful landscape from his aerial view of his experience and his mapping of the land, one is struck by certain aspects of Australian indigenous art. 
In a comment on his blog he says
When you are in a little plane you see our indigenous art in nature.  
They would never have seen it from the air so how did they visualise their landscape?
Yes it is a wonder of our landscape - so glad I had the chance to experience it.

 You can view Jack's blog post on this book and his comment here