Wednesday, 14 April 2021

A Much Loved Book


When an old friend of mine, Helen Bryant, handed me this book box containing an artists book
 a few years ago, it was obvious it had been well handled and much loved.  
Helen said she had bought it from an exhibition at the Doggett Street Gallery in Brisbane in 1994.
 It had been one of her favourite possessions, and she wanted me to have it to enjoy.
 She said her family would have no appreciation or understanding of it.  
Helen also returned to me two early books of mine she had bought back in the mid 1990's.  
She was an art teacher with little time to do her own artwork 
and liked to support artists by buying their work. 
Helen B died soon after that day after a long battle with breast cancer.
It is a lovely reminder of her to have one of her little treasures. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the box contained an artists book 
called Containers made by a friend of mine, Jack Oudyn, back in 1993-4, before I knew him.
The book measures 15 x 8 cm. has a Japanese binding, and 25 double pages.
Jack has used a combination of photography, collage and drawing, techniques
 often seen in his artwork.  Some of the pages
 have lift up flaps cut into the photographs to expose underlying text or images.
Here are some of my favourite pages from the book.


    Jack likes to play with words and this book contains a number of examples.

Couplings and Stackings

Multiples and Twins

Well Stacked and Topless

The book juxtaposes aerial views of freestanding houses, backyards and gardens, with
stacks of shipping containers.  Jack made this book about 25 years ago but it seems so 
contemporary and very relevant to the present times where inner city suburbs are
 being bulldozed and tall buildings of small apartments are filling the space.
Many of them are so ugly and the apartments so small, it would actually feel like 
living in one of these stacked shipping containers.

                                                                    The sky's the limit

                                                                           Con  tainer

Hidden tiles and Tile (Hidden)  (ITEL)


Well we all know the priorities of the developers and the City Councillors who
always seem to cave in and allow the developers to break a few rules and add
another floor or two above the established height limit, previously enforced,
thus maximising profits for both parties.

I plan to post about one of Jack's more recent books in my possession in the near future.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

From my Collection


             One of my favourite books that I own is Altered Angels made in 2015 by Helen Sanderson.
         I was very excited to acquire it as a swap with Helen for one of my books.
         It consists of 8 altered postcards of Zurbaran paintings from the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla.
    My interest in these Saints is not religious but in the beauty of the paintings.

          In her Artist's Statement Helen says she was in Seville visiting the Museo de Bellas 
            and at the time was unfamiliar with the painting of Francisco de Zurbaran (1598 - 1664) 
      but found his work wonderful and purchased these postcards from the gift shop.  
            "The ladies have all been altered with stamps from my husband's stamp collection.
                I quite like the idea of re-facing the faces.....most of the stamp faces are facing 
                  in the same direction as the original."           

          Helen told me that the original paintings were huge and I have read that they are life size.
         The martyred female saints in this book are from left to right, Santa Marina, Santa Catalina,
       Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, Santa Eulalia, Santa Matilde, Santa Engracia
         and Santa Dorotea.   A few of them are holding books, one a tray of fruit
         and roses, others a sword, a banner, a lamb, and one a heavy stake. 

                     I found Helen's book wonderful.  I knew of Zurbaran as a Spanish painter of 
                        religious subjects, mostly austere simple beautiful paintings of monks in their
                        simple robes emerging from plain black backgrounds - not the kind of subject
         I'd normally go for,  but I found the paintings gorgeous and I
      loved this simplicity in a baroque painting.  The contrast of the robes
                 and drapery against the background is striking and Zurbaran shows his
              mastery of 'tenebroso', a pronounced and dramatic chiaroscuro effect.
        In 1629 Zurbaran was appointed painter to Philip IV in Seville and it was during this time 
     between 1640-1650 that he painted the large series of female saints, mostly martyrs.

These paintings of female saints are intriguing. 
            They also use the same composition of a figure emerging from a dark background 
         that Zurbaran used in other religious paintings of monks.  
     The painting of the plain silk drapery is beautifully simple and the 
           patterned fabrics seem to be painted with a kind of restraint.
       The stamps Helen used to reface the figures are from eight
              different countries featuring black, white and Asian women making them universal.
           I particularly like the way Helen has chosen to leave long threads as part of the Japanese 
                binding on the front of the book rather than hiding them at the back.  I think it
               works extremely well visually and reminds me of the sewing together of
         pieces of fabric to make these wonderful garments.

 It seems unusual to see martyred female saints, some of whom died in the most
 horrific circumstances dressed in these expensive and sumptuous outfits.
We've become accustomed to realism and the depiction of suffering.

           I'm so pleased Zurbaran chose beauty. 

You can view a copy of  Helen's book in the State Library of Queensland.   

Tuesday, 9 March 2021


My friend Jack Oudyn had prepared a number of pages for a book using lots of different methods like painting, dipping in wax, carbon paper, creating folded patterns etc.   He passed on to me a little pile of paper offcuts and suggested I might like to make a haptic or tactile book, meaning a book which communicates through touching as non-verbal communication.

This sounded like a fun thing to play around with but it wasn't as easy as it sounds, especially the idea of communicating through touch.

I kept the biggest and most beautiful page Jack had prepared for the cover. 

I tried to think of things I could do to the pages to make someone looking at the pages want to touch them and interact with them.

There was a piece of pianola roll paper painted black - well that is good to touch and it actually does communicate music.  I had a starting point and a way to move forward.

So I folded paper that could be unfolded, inserted slips, punched smooth holes in pages, rough holes in pages, made some cutouts, roughly scored a thick-waxed page, folded another long page to remind me of the ubiquitous masks we been wearing and seeing everywhere.

I scratched thick wax off the thick surface of another black page and pushed the removed strands of wax back into the page so it looked like a kind of raised text

and in the middle fold I inserted a folded page which needed to be unfolded twice and attached four circular folded pages of varying sizes

which then were also able to be unfolded to create 3D structures.

The second half of the book repeats the same pages going backwards.

So thank you Jack for that little exercise.  It was a fun activity and I may start playing around with some other bookie things.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Ed Hutchins

I received some correspondence from Ed Hutchins in Salem NY recently - his characteristic envelopes covered with stickers and interesting US stamps always look so joyful and are a delight to receive.

One of the things in the envelope was his business card for his collection.  Ed always manages to make everything seem like fun.

I was thrilled to see that a book of mine in his collection, Lost in a Million Dead End Streets was featured in the centrefold.   The title is a phrase from David Bowie's song Changes.  These words always fascinated me and conjured up many images.

Ed Hutchins' work was very influential on me and my further work after I first saw his book World Peace, dated 1991 and which I saw in publications in the early 1990's.  
 It was presented as a circular book made up of four quarter circle books.

Image from Book Dynamics by Ed Hutchins

 I experimented with sculptural books and cube shaped books, but I enthusiastically embraced the idea of quarter circle books with folded pages based on Ed's structure.

My first attempt was a little book in 1995 called How the Sun was made.
From then on, the folded circular page became much used in my work and was a wonderful structure for experimentation.

I created the structure of Lost in a Million Dead End Streets by first making a multipage quarter circle book.   I stood the quarter circle book up on its point with the first and last pages lying down flat and the pages fanned to form the middle spine of my new book.  I made a number of additional circular pages folded into the same quarter circle structure and these pages were then inserted into the folds of the opened standing book with an equal number of pages inserted on each side of the central structure.  After attaching these to the initial quarter circle book, I had created the structure of a semi circle book which also displays as a dome.

My artist's statement for this book was 
'The structure and format reflect being 'lost' and going round in circles, never reaching the end destination. The text reveals that the goal of the 'journey' is not to arrive, but to always be 'lost', searching and learning and open to new experiences.

I made 6 copies of Lost in a Million Dead End Streets between 2008-2010.  All are in collections - Ed Hutchins, Bank Street Arts, Sheffield UK, Linea d'arte Officina Creativa, Naples Italy (who re-exhibited their copy at a Biennale del Libro d'Artista in 2017) and three in private collections.

Thank you, Ed Hutchins, for your friendship, inspiration, encouragement and creativity.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

An Appraisal of 'The Future of an Illusion'

It has been very quiet here for a number of months but there have been a lot of things going on the in the background including working on a large commission, visitors from France and a son's wedding.

A very insightful appraisal of the collaborative book The Future of an Illusion by Jack Oudyn and myself  has been published on Books on Books, Curated by Robert BolickI am really pleased with this appraisal as it shows the writer really understood our intentions with this piece.  
Please take a look - you can find it here.

Other good news is that a copy of this book is now in the collection of the State Library of Queensland.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Some Book Discoveries in London

Foirades/Fizzles, Jasper Johns 1976

While I was in London in June I kept a look out for any artists books or related material.

One of the most enjoyable days was spent at the British Museum exhibition The American Dream pop to present which covered the unprecedented scale, ambition and experimentation with printmaking in America during the period from the early sixties onwards
and included artists like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Jim Dine and many others.

I've long been a fan of Jasper Johns' work and it was great to see his
screenprinted Flags on display in this exhibition.
 I was particularly thrilled to see an artists book by Johns from 1976 called Foirades/Fizzles.  
Johns used five texts by Samuel Beckett in the book which also contained thirty three Intaglio prints.  The book is about translation between French and English, words and images, colour and shades of grey. There are stencilled words moving forwards and backwards across the page which are impossible to read but create a beautiful surface.
Unfortunately it was a traditional book format displayed in a glass case 
so I could only see a one page spread.

The Picture of Dorian Gray Jim Dine

There was an illustrated book by Jim Dine from 1968 which was a script adaptation of Oscar Wilde's
The Picture of Dorian Gray and contained twelve lithographs and four loose etchings.

Two loose etchings by Jim Dine from the book

I also came across a small artist-run book art bookshop in Pitfield Street, London which sells
artists books and small press publications.

It looked really interesting with lots of Artists Books displayed in the window (behind wire security).
I saw some books there by Helen Douglas who had recently visited the State Library here in Brisbane for a lecture and workshop.  I have to say that most of the books I could see on display 
were flat rather than sculptural books.

The unfortunate thing was that I discovered this shop on a Sunday when I only had a few days
 left in London, and the bookshop is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday each week.  
So I didn't get to look inside and actually handle the books which was a shame
for me and for them because I am sure I would have purchased some of them.
However they do have a website with more details here.

Visiting the bookartbookshop on one of the days they are open will be on my to-do list
next time I am in London.

Elizabeth Brickell

And an unexpected surprise to see this perspex artists book by Elizabeth Brickell
 displayed in a gallery in the small town of Camarthen in Wales.