Minus Plus Equal (- + =) is a collaborative project I've just finished working on with Jack Oudyn, who has also posted about this collaboration on his blog.
Like our previous collaborative book Chance, this collaboration was inspired by a talk given at the State Library of Queensland earlier in the year, by two visiting German book artists, Ulrike Stoltz and Uta Schneider, who work collaboratively as USUS.
We began by individually making ten abstract linocut blocks, each measuring 7 x 7 cm. and mounted them on single wooden blocks that Jack had very kindly prepared in advance.
We each printed off our ten small prints. We met and alternately chose one of the prints until we had put them together into a compilation of 12 squares.
Many experiments ensued as we tried to find the best way to print the compilation. Inking them and lining them up to print individually was tedious and difficult, so Jack mounted the twelve blocks together on a board. Neither of us has a press and we are both interested in simple hand-made methods of production. The compilation block was printed by hand using wooden spoons. The first five prints were in black ink on white paper.
The second five were printed in white ink on black paper.
We marvelled at the differences and optical illusions of the black and white combinations and the positive and negative space.
The title "- + =" came from the progress of the work, subtracting from the block to add to the alternative colour, and how although both prints and paper sizes are equal, when they're side by side they do not appear to be so.
They were then folded and mounted into both black and white folders I had made and linocut prints of the title Jack had prepared were glued on to each folder.
The final task was to construct Perspex boxes to house each pair of black and white prints in our edition of five.
A few weeks ago my younger son, Tristan Davies, made a video for Ross's book Middle-Aged Men in Lycra. Tristan does this for a living.
All involved enjoyed participating and making the video and I got to drive the car from which Tristan filmed the men in action.
A great Christmas present if you've got a cyclist in the family, and Ross has had much positive feedback from women readers who have loved the unfolding story of the men's past and present lives, and the quality of his writing.
As you will all have noticed by the few blog posts, this year has been a bit of a write-off for me as far as my artists books are concerned. I have been almost totally occupied with other unrelated things that needed priority.
I did however make a book about WWI called Si Vis Pacem which went to the exhibition "Pieces for Peace 14-18" which is due to open in a few weeks time in Ypres in Belgium and will be on exhibition from 21 November until 14 December at the Cultuurcentum Het Perron te Ieper.
I decided to make a small edition of 4, but one didn't quite meet the standard and got tossed, so it is now an edition of 3.
Another one of these will be exhibited in the 2014 Australian Bookbinders Exhibition which will be held in the Art Gallery of NSW Research Library from the 19 November to 13 December, coincidentally almost the same dates as the exhibition in Ypres!
Middle-Aged Men in Lycra is the first novel written by my husband, Ross Davies. It has just been published by Boolarong Press here in Queensland.
The blurb on the back of the book says :
“In 1969 the streets of Brisbane are rocked by a violent street demonstration against the Vietnam War. Two teenagers, Griff and Mia, take centre stage in the incident. In the following months, they find themselves positioned on opposite sides of a love triangle that is about to be torn apart following the tragic death of a young soldier in Vietnam.
Fast forward thirty five years and Griff’s life is in crisis after the death of his wife and the subsequent loss of his job. Alienated from everything that once defined his world, he meets up with a disparate group of cycling mates every morning at a cafe in the Southbank Parklands. The antics of the other riders provide a perfect diversion as they try to convince him to join them on a night out to find a new partner. However, he soon discovers that one of his friends, John Kelly, also holds the key to what happened in Vietnam and this ultimately sets Griff off on a quest to find Mia again.
The book reveals an up-close and intimate view of Brisbane’s cafe culture and a cycling fraternity dominated by middle-aged men in lycra. Shifting time frames allow the reader to peer through a window into a turbulent period of our recent past.”
Ross did his first book signing at Dymocks at Carindale in Brisbane last Saturday.
For anyone wanting a signed copy or to have a chat with the author he will also be signing books at the following bookstores.:
Angus and Robertson, Post Office Square, Brisbane City, Friday 5 September, 2014
New Farm Editions, Merthyr Village, New Farm, Saturday 20 September, 2014
Angus and Robertson, Brookside Shopping Centre, Mitchelton, Saturday 18 October, 2014
Earlier in the year an artist's book talk took place at the State Library of Queensland, by two visiting German book artists, Ulrike Stolz and Uta Schneider, who work collaboratively as USUS. I attended the lecture with my friend Jack Oudyn and we were both so impressed and excited that we went home inspired and wanting to work on something a little different to our normal work. We emailed each other and agreed to work on our own collaborative piece.
We had looked at a 'Fluxus' exhibition in GOMA before the lecture and had noted some chance happenings and coincidences on the day. In fact there were so many 'chance' happenings around this event that we felt compelled to make our book according to the laws of chance in the style of early 20th Century German Art. It immediately seemed appropriate that our pages should be of brown Kraft paper rather than expensive art papers. USUS had worked on a book arising from exchanges of text by fax, and Jack and I liked this idea, thus our starting point was an exchange of alternate lines of text by email, each line relating to the previous one and each linked to ideas of chance and 'chance' in art. Our starting line of text was Chances at an exhibition.
We both completed a drawing when we received our new line of text and we didn't see each other's work until a set of ten drawings each was completed a few weeks later.
We were pleased to find that the book was going to come together really well and that we had used the same materials - gouache, pencil, ink and collage. I had also used rubber-stamped German words, which I subsequently added to Jack's pages. We had intentionally left space for additions to the drawings so we swapped booklets and worked on completing each other's drawings.
This was really nerve-wracking and I was very nervous about working on another artist's work. We were also a bit nervous about how the other person would change our drawings but we needn't have worried - we were both so pleased with the results and agreed our original drawings were improved. I think that trust is a big part of a collaboration like this, and now we both have no doubts with our current collaborative and as yet uncompleted project.
Initially we thought that we might mix the pages of our work by interleaving them throughout the book, but in the end we decided to keep each set intact in a dos-a-dos book which worked with both ends as a starting point. We used Kraft card for the cover and Jack made the gorgeous linocut which was printed on both ends and hand-coloured.
We experimented with copying the drawn pages and made up a few more books so we could at least keep one each. I think in future on a similar project we would make a few originals at the same time to cover a copy each and perhaps one or two for exhibition and sale.
Writing books is a very different activity from making artists books, one of the biggest differences being the amount of time it takes to produce the work! I know this first hand as my husband, Ross Davies, has just finished the first draft of his historical non-fiiction book The Governess, The Writer and The Wren - an untold story about Miles Franklin and two Australian lifelong friends who met in Chicago in 1914 and subsequently joined the Scottish Women's Hospitals in London and served in the Balkans during World War I. The story follows their lives over the following four decades as they struggled to create their own brilliant careers.
Ross has just started a new blog where he will talk about writing, researching and other relevant topics as well as his other interest, cycling. You can find his first post about an interesting research experience in Paris at http://rossdavieswriteandride.wordpress.com
I've been a bit quiet here lately but some new work has been happening behind the scenes - more about that soon!
Meanwhile a few of my books have been travelling to exhibitions. Bloom is included in Bookworks 2014 at the Skylight Gallery in the San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco USA as part of the Pacific Center for the Book Arts Exhibition to be held from 21 June to 6th September 2014.
The other day I received the catalogue of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here exhibition that was held at the Center for Book Arts in New York last year and included my book Absence. This exhibition has now opened at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, Rochester, New York, USA from 2 June to 2 September 2014. It's always great when your books just keep travelling and appearing in exhibitions!
Paper, Scissors, Uluru is a collaborative book I made last year with Jack Oudyn. It's just had an outing at the Art on Show Awards at Mackay in Queensland, presented by the Mackay Show Association from 16 - 19 June 2014. It was exhibited in the Artspace Mackay Artist Book Award section.
Pieces for Peace 14 - 18 is an exhibition which will be held in Ypres, Belgium later in the year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Calligraphy and Books, both traditional and contemporary will be shown, and the measurements for all work has been set symbolically at 14 x 18 cm.
There will be a little group of books from Queensland, as Susan, Fiona and Barry have made books which you can see on their blogs. The sections offered to binders contained war poems in different languages. I wanted to make my book uniquely Australian and decided to make a standard codex containing quotes from war diaries and excerpts of poetry written by the men who were there serving in the AIF in France and Belgium, and who were writing about the horrible and shocking realities of what they were seeing and experiencing. I will probably make a different version with the material as a more visual artists book at a later date.
I've already made two other books in the past specifically about the first World War - Was it Needless Death (1993) and Red Lips are not so Red (2007). Like the other two this one addresses the horrors of that war, and I used the Latin saying - Si vis pacem, para bellum (Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari) which means If you seek peace, prepare for war as my starting point and the theme for the book. It is a very painful thing to accept that so many of our men died whilst fighting there, far from their homeland, so peace could be achieved.
The text appears on a full page with preceding smaller page which shows an illustration and allows the viewer to read a few key words of the text that follows.
I have visited the battlefields of France and Belgium a few times to see the sites of the battles that members of my family fought in - Mouquet Farm, Messines Ridge, Villers Bretonneux, Menin Road and Passchendaele, so I was able to use my photos in the book. The colour and light of the photos were manipulated to a dark, brown, unreal and deathly landscape to which I have added drawings of white crosses as symbols of those killed - the beautiful European landscape I photographed is once again transformed into a battlefield/graveyard. The khaki/brown colour of the pages gives the book the muddy look of the battlefields and trenches.
The book is about the price that had to be paid for peace.
I used some words of Edward (Vance) Palmer, 14th Battalion AIF, to address the effects on the returned soldiers who were expected to get over it and return to normal life in days long before there was any understanding about post-traumatic stress.
The pages are bound in a French Simplified Binding with a leather spine and onlaid leather on the cover. I have tooled white foil crosses onto the leather 'landscape' turning it into a graveyard.
The 5th March 2014 marks the seventh anniversary of the Bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street, the street of booksellers and book culture in Baghdad since the 8th century. 30 people were killed,100 wounded and countless books destroyed and burned.
Many events and readings have been scheduled in different countries to remember this event by members of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project.
My offering to never forget this day is to share one of the most powerful books made for the Al-Mutanabbi Street Project, the book I Dare You, bound, burned, filmed and recorded by Stephanie Sauer which can be seen on vimeo here.
The video lasts for 15 minutes, the amount of time it takes to recite the list of sites where books were burned or destroyed throughout known history, while you see Stephanie's book being made and subsequently burned.
"I Dare You is my hymn to each and every page, person, symbol, codex, mural, tapestry, scroll, carving and oral account throughout history that has been banned, shamed, destroyed or subverted."
Hello, it's been a bit quiet here. I haven't been working on books but other things over the hot summer.
I returned recently from a trip to Sydney where I'd been doing some specific research in the Mitchell Library in the State Library of NSW. The trip was very focused and I didn't have time to do anything else.
I was excited to discover a large exhibition showing in the Library while I was there called Born to Concrete: Visual Poetry from the Collections of Heide Museum of Modern Art and the University of Queensland.
There was a lot of work by well known people working in the field like Alex Selenitsch, Richard Tipping, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Sweeney Reed, Mike Parr and so on. But I was delighted to see the work of Queenslanders like Madonna Staunton, Nicholas Zurbrugg, Malcolm Enright, Vernon Ah Kee, Eugene Carchesio,Scott Redford, Luke Roberts and others.
I'm ashamed to say that this excellent and large exhibition was on display at the University of Queensland only a few kilometres from where I live from 6 July - 6 October 2013 and I didn't know about it. It then travelled to the State Library of New South Wales where it has been on show since 23 November 2013 until 16 February 2014 so I just managed to see it before it closed - I would have said a show not to be missed!.