Small quarto book chain-stitched in boards, with a paper label to the upper cover, 40 pages, H275 x W272 x D15 mm, housed in a paper four-flap enclosure H175 x W278 x D16 mm. Signed edition of 20, of which this is #18. Acquired from the artist, 29 July 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
In the playground of the alphabet, papermaking, calligraphy, page design and layout, image and text, printing and binding, John Gerard has created an outstanding and contemplative work of book art and the book arts. Eastern and Western traditions meet on the page and in the material and structure: Coptic-style binding, handmade paper and spirited brushing of the letters right up against the geometric constraints of Jan Tschichold’s diagram for deriving the text block’s ideal space and positioning from the Golden Ratio.
The cover’s paper label shows the image of Jan Tschichold’s canon for page layout, which is reproduced on every page of the work. Each letter of the alphabet is messily scrawled in black over and over to fill the mathematically precise text area defined by Tschichold’s canon.
The text and label papers for Alpha Beta are handmade from cotton and hemp using a velin mould with Gerard’s early watermark depicting the Eifeltor Mühle (Eifeltor Mill) and the letters S and G (Studio John Gerard). The weight of the paper is about 150-180gsm. The lettering is done with Indian ink, and the printing of Tschichold’s diagram, with a proofing press using a photo-sensitive nylon plate. The cover papers are also made with cotton and hemp using a coagulant with slightly different pigmented pulps, which creates the decorative speckled look. The sewing thread is linen.
Artist booklet, stitched with linen thread, two sheets hand-made of cotton and abaca fibers, the cover sheet being double couched using a layer of colored pulps, the inner sheet printed in 14p Book Antiqua in relief printing. H200 x W150 mm. Edition of 100 unnumbered copies. Acquired from the artist, 29 July 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Inspired by the 19th century poem “Seifenblasen” (“Soap Bubbles”) by Theodor Fontane, John Gerard uses pulp painting to create the shifting prismatic colors displayed on the surface of a soap bubble. By layering different colored pulps on a sheet of plain wet pulp, he evokes the same pleasure, color and lightness evoked by the words.Here is a loose translation:
Children to show their delight
Send soap bubbles up to the light.
How they shimmer in the sun —
Some big, some small.
Blown with a mouth just so, some
Hold out a whole second —
But several there —
Yes! — hold on for two.
One rises as high as the house —
Bumps there — then it’s over.
Gerard seems drawn to respond to things displaying a tension between spirit and form, be it the tension of soap bubbles or the tension between repeatedly scrawled letters constrained by a canonical grid.
Leporello of two connected sheets of hand-scooped cotton and hemp paper, pulp-painted with red and black lines. H140 x W130 mm (unfolded approx. 770 mm). Unnumbered, signed edition of 25 copies. Acquired from the artist, 29 July 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “The Panther” embodies the tension that Gerard seems to love. Three stanzas in black 12 pt Book-Antiqua pace across the leporello like the panther behind what seem to him “a thousand bars”, which Gerard evokes in black and red pulp painting on the reverse of the leporello. Fully open, the torn top edge slopes and rises like the back and shoulders of the panther as it strides and turns in the smallest circle it can make. The bars behind, or in front of it, end above the lower edge in rounded shapes like the panther’s paws, whose texture the soft and rough handmade paper mimics.
The alternation of black and red pulp echoes the tension between the cage and panther’s heart in the poem, and the leporello opens and closes on the panther just as its own pupil’s nictitating membrane slides open, then closes on its world. Reportedly, at Augusta Rodin’s behest, Rilke stood before the animal’s cage in the Jardins des Plantes in Paris for nine hours. At the end of the poem, he has placed the reader/viewer inside the animal, absorbed the reader/viewer through the animal’s movement and gaze. Gerard’s artist booklet — by giving the reader/viewer a chance to see through the panther’s eyes — makes Rilke’s poem just as tangible as Rilke’s poem makes the panther and its world.
Gerard’s three works belong with the Books On Books Collection’s first seven books of the Rijswijk Biennial. His Alpha Beta even features in that series’ Papier op de vlucht = Paper takes flight (2006) and contributes to two of the collection’s sub themes: abecedaries as well as the technique of pulp painting. Seifenblasen and De Panther exemplify the sub theme of “reverse ekphrasis” represented by works such as Barbara Tetenbaum’s version of Michael Donaghy’s poem “Machine” or herman de vries’ argumentstellen 1968 / 2003 (de wittgenstein — tractatus — ) (2003). Gerard’s two works are, in fact, the epitome of transforming a literary text into an artwork.
Bound in a leather folding case, a set of 7 hand-colored and variously collaged / cut / embossed etchings, plus title page, on Hot Pressed Saunders paper. H160 x W160 x D40 mm. Edition of XXXIX signed copies in existence, of which this is #XXXVII. Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Egyptian Hours falls somewhere between book and portfolio box. Somewhat like photos and captions in a photobook, text and relief images play off one another, but only somewhat: at a distance the table of contents names and orders the hours; only the Arabic number glyphs from the “table of contents” mediate the named hours. If the table of contents is held apart as in the photos, the distance shortens.
In the western tradition, the named hours suggest the medieval book of hours, another signal that this is more than a portfolio of prints. There is pleasure in trying to remember the name of the hours from their numbers or guessing it from the evocative images — the image of a window lattice through which to watch, an image of a tile fragment — but the name of the fourth implies a mystery narrative at which to guess.
Who is watching from the window? What does the broken pattern of tiles mean to the watcher? Were the numbered shards found beneath the tiles? What clue do the images of papyrus plants give, or the overlying image of a plot of land (?) bringing the plants into green, the diagonal pattern into blue and black, and the sheet of papyrus into burnt umber? Whose seal holds the folded sheet closed? Whose shroud? Whose garland or necklace with its thread weaving in and out of the intaglio?
The watcher could spend hours turning or spreading the panels out and guessing — and just contemplating this artwork as an evocation of ancient time and time passing.
Egyptian Hours — Addenda
This comparative view of the un-colored embossed prints — especially for the “Hour of Watching” and “Hour of Fragments” — enhances an appreciation of Phillips’ artistry.
Set of 7 blind embossed etching prints, plus 1 intaglio title page. Letterpress numerals. Unnumbered copies. 160 x 160 mm each. Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos: top row, Books On Books Collection and, bottom, courtesy of the artist.
Pack of magic playing cards. Offset litho, silkscreen, die cut and held in a silkscreened box. H110 x W62.5 x D22.5 mm. Edition of 10, of which this is #2. Acquired from the artist, 6 August 2020. Photos and video: Books On Books Collection.
Egyptian Cards may be the joker in the pack for the Books On Books Collection. A deck of cards? A magic trick? A dos-à-dos flip book? Without doubt, it is another evocation of different frames of time passing. In one time frame, Nefertiti becomes a mummy.
In another time frame, day dawns on the Pyramids.
And in a third and fourth time frame — the time of the artists’ collaboration and that of a magic trick — a joker (a self-portrait of Fiorenza Bassetti) appears.
Phillips, who has turned to watercolors of a photographic intensity yet pastel texture, continues to layer time in ways that lead the viewer as much into meditation as appreciation. Fitting, then, that these two early works strike that lasting chord.
Henry, David J. Beyond Words: The Art of the Book (Rochester, NY: Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 1986). Catalogue for the exhibition held 31 January – 30 March 1986. Catalogue designed by Scott McCarney.
Three small volumes with aphorisms by Aristotle, Euclid, and Antoine Lavoisier (one per volume, respectively, in both English and French); each printed letterpress in various fonts and typographical arrangements along with four intaglio prints on one sheet of paper. The paper is cut along some of the folds so that folding and unfolding reveals different combinations of the text and images. Typography by Vincent Auger on Rives 250 GSM. Engravings printed by René Tazé. Edition of 25 and 3 casebound. H215 x W120 mm. Acquired from the artist, 5 February 2019. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
According to Shirley Sharoff (Books On Books interview, 5 February 2019), the fold and form of these three books were inspired by Katsumi Komagata’s work, and “Making each one was like a different game I was playing or puzzle I was solving”. Although the fold and form of each book is the same, the effect differs in each because of the placement of text and image. The result is three works of book art teasing the reader/viewer into playing with the artwork or solving the puzzle of reading/viewing it — and appreciating how the text from Aristotle, Euclid or Lavoisier fuses with the fold, form, typography and prints in each book.
The game or puzzle of finding the order of unfolding the books has several interlocking levels. On one level, there are origami “mountain” and “valley” folds, there are kirigami cuts, and vertical and horizontal openings. As these present themselves, the process of discovering or reading the text — what it is and how its syntactic order suggests the direction and order of unfolding — emerges as another level in the game. In parallel are the dual levels of deciphering the order (if any) of the intaglio prints’ appearance and relating the images to the text. And then there is the level of the relation of French to English and vice versa.
While the sets of four prints occupy the same position in each of the three single sheets, they “illustrate” their texts in different ways. In Aphorism 1, the whole tree occupies the “concluding” position of the lower right-hand corner, making a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts depicted in the other prints. In Aphorism 2, the images of transportation — train, car, plane, feet — follow from the abstract image of parallel lines. And in Aphorism 3, the two images of leaves overlapping human creations — buildings and litter — are bracketed by a central image of nothing but litter and a lower right-hand image of nature and the human-made landing atop a protruding pair of legs and feet like those of the Wicked Witch under the house in the Land of Oz.
In their variety of relationship to the structure and text, the three sets of images feel a bit secondary. Not so the presence of two languages. From the start, the French title page backed by an English title page on translucent paper suggests some sort of centrality for this bilingual feature. The only variation among the three volumes is that in Aphorism 1 and Aphorism 2, the complete French expression appears in a single panel, whereas in Aphorism 3, the English expression takes up that position. Why the bilingualism at all? The breaking up the expressions across the folds and cuts, the interspersing of images among the phrases, and the summary panels (two in English, one in French) suggest a halting, fragmented relation of each language to the other. Despite the title pages’ implication, the bilingual expressions do not exist simultaneously in parallel in any one of the single sheet books. By extension, is the relationship of language-image-thought to reality (whether metaphysical, geometrical or chemical) similarly fraught?
Portfolio box with four hinged flaps; five gatherings of folios bearing seven prints, collages, photos and cut paper. Text in English and French. Portfolio box: H212 x W340 x D24 mm; Folios: H200 x W330 mm, closed; variable width open, maximum W780 mm. Edition of 35, of which this is #22. Acquired from the artist, 5 February 2019. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
In Impermanence subtile/Subtle Impermanence, Sharoff’s bilingual perception of the world displays itself as more parallel, simultaneous and integrated — more subtle — than in La Poésie de l’univers/Poetry of the Universe. Where Poetry of the Universe explores this perception through dual forms (single-sheet origami/kirigami and book), Subtle Impermanence uses a multiplicity of forms (portfolio, flap book and pop-up book).
The first gathering — a single-fold folio whose first page presents the photo-collage of litter, demolition, construction and warning signs and tape — opens to a double-page spread that performs the book’s half-title function and also announces the work’s bilingual theme with the English adjective leading and the French adjective following the noun equivalent in both languages: IMPERMANENCE.
The first page of the second gathering performs the “title page” function of the book. When it opens, the first flap-book feature appears, the French text initially covering the English and, then, revealing a more parallel existence of the English and French. This is subtlety layered on subtlety. The text that appears and disappears under the flaps, and unfolds across the gathered folios, proceeds syntactically in a similar way, unrolling its qualifying dependent clauses one after another seemingly without beginning or end. As if mentally preparing a translation, the reader has to hold in mind each qualifier until what is being qualified can be reached.
Those 5 flaps signal yet another subtlety. The text comes from the opening of Ian Monk’s Tri selon Tri (“sort by sort”), a concrete poem in the Oulipo tradition of Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino and Georges Perec. Following this tradition means creating a literary work that adheres to some rule or constraint — like those in a game. In its original presentation, the poem works within a structural constraint consisting of 5 blocks of text, each 37 characters wide with the first and last blocks being 25 lines deep and the three middle blocks each being 22 lines deep. In self reference to its main theme that humanity is replacing the 4 elements (earth, air, fire and water) with categories of human detritus, the poem calls the first and last blocks poubelles (“trash cans”) and the three middle blocks “dumpsters” (bennes). In each middle block, a blank space — 7 characters wide by 3 lines deep — appears, mimicking the side openings of trash sorting bins. Sharoff’s subtle sculptural nod is 5 flaps (as well as 5 gatherings) for the 5 receptacles.
The third gathering above consists of a shortened single-fold sheet bearing the large print of commuters and shoppers and embracing a larger single-fold sheet divided by a loose black paper stencil. With its cutout human figures, the stencil overlaying another photo-collage of litter foreshadows the extract’s concluding metaphor: that, after the first three new elements of paper, plastic and glass comes the fourth new element — those things that finish up in their own trash can, i.e., humanity itself.
The fourth gathering above delivers yet another hint in the form of a pop-up feature: three receptacles, two of which have human-figure cutouts. These human figures have been appearing throughout in the intaglio prints, and in their over- (or under-?) printing of litter and construction, they too have been delivering the same hint.
Just as the first gathering’s closed flaps display French only, the fifth and final gathering’s closed flaps display English only. The three flaps on the left rise to reveal the final print showing human figures entangled in their fully constructed world and undercut by the fourth flap’s articulation of the metaphor and implicit identification of them as “those things that finish up in their own trash can”.
Beneath that fourth flap, the artist concludes in French and English, leaving the colophon to appear on the last page — oddly — in French only.
These two works by Sharoff are perhaps bettered only by two others not in the Books On Books Collection: Ovi (1988) and La grande muraille/The Great Wall (1991). It is interesting that, while the former reflects her preoccupation with the Oulipo circle (Ovi draws on Calvino’s work), it sticks to one language (French); whereas La grande muraille engages with three languages (French, English and Chinese) yet draws on the text of a Chinese modernist (Lu Xun), not the Oulipo circle. Both, however, reflect the same ingenuity of juxtaposition and integration of language, image and forms to be found in La Poésie de l’Univers/Poetry of the Universe and Impermanence Subtile/Subtle Impermanence, which makes them defining works in the Books On Books Collection.
The most extensive essay on Sharoff’s work can be found in Paul van Capelleveen’s Artists & Others(2016). It comments on La reparation (2001), The Waves (2003), Les amazones sont parmi nous (2005), Bruits de la ville (2007), Impermanence subtile (2013), La poésie de l’univers (2012-2013). He addresses La grande muraille (1991) in Voices and Visions (2009). The special collection at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Netherlands is one of the few where several of Sharoff’s works — including La grande muraille — can be seen and handled in one place. Also prepared by Van Capelleveen is this entry “Impermanence subtile. Subtle impermanence“, KB National Library of the Netherlands, Koopman Collection, n.d. Accessed 26 July 2020.
Christophe Comentale’s essay captures the delight of exploration and discovery in the encounter with Sharoff’s art.
Shirley Sharoff, entre France et Etats-Unis, présente une pluralité d’inspiration consommée entre l’estampe et le livre devenu un média, entre unique et multiple. […] Magicienne des formes et des couleurs, Shirley Sharoff ne cesse de remettre en cause, par besoin autant que par défi personnel, tout ce qui pourrait ressembler au début d’un système de lecture, de vision, figé et donc clos. L’impossibilité de savoir -qui vaut aussi pour elle- de quoi sa prochaine oeuvre-livre-manuscrit-tableau-dépliant, ou tout cela à la fois, sera fait est assez excitant. La présence de textes sentis par affinités sensorielles, personnelles, avec des écrivains non encore classiques, autant de raisons d’apprécier de pénétrer dans cet univers où le conformisme est inexistant.
Christophe Comentale, “Shirley Sharoff, des livres a tenir debout et des estampes a voir aussi”, Art & Métiers du Livre, n°231 (Aout-Septembre 2002), p.63.
Box containing three books: two concertina books of different sizes and one tetrahedron shape of three pages. Two layered canvases painted with acrylic paint mounted on both sides of Perspex pages in Perspex box. Box: H230 x W160 x D80 mm. Unique edition. Acquired from the artist, 2 July 2020. Photos above: Courtesy of the artist. Photos below: Books On Books Collection.
Referencing ancient writing systems, hieroglyphs and engravings, this book is an investigation of sign systems and shared cultural knowledge. Fragmented coded images derived from familiar letterforms lie beneath the surface of the canvas and although visible remain undecipherable and incomprehensible.
The alphabet has traditionally served as calligraphic and typographic seed for book art, perhaps with roots of expression in illuminated letters, the Kabbalah, tomes on penmanship and calligraphy and typography specimen books. In its material and technique, Alphabetic Codes has a rough and smooth tactility; the former pointing to ancient, haptic forms, the latter to current, screen-generated forms. It enriches the subset of alphabet books and abecedaries in the Books On Books Collection.
Books 05 Image as Text as Image, Noosa Regional Gallery 9 September – 17 October 2005.
Botanical Books, Coffs Calligraphers, Botanic Garden, Coffs Harbour, 29 September 29 – 7 October 2007.
Perspex box containing two concertina books of different sizes made of recycled Perspex panels with mounted canvas painted with acrylics. Box: H360 x W125 x D75 mm. Unique edition. Acquired from the artist, 2 July 2020. Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Technological illuminations such as television screens, computer screens, big screens and advertising visually transmit images and act as carriers of global information, education and entertainment. The medieval purpose of stained glass windows, besides aesthetic and mystical was to visually educate and enlighten.
Purely in color, Windows on the World recalls Albers, Chagall, Mondrian (even though he hated stained glass) or Joep Nicolas. In material, technique and theme, it may echo Alphabetic Codes and its allusion to computer-screen-based windows, but Windows has a more architectural feel that can also be found in the I.M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe “volumes” of Ten Books on Architecture (2017) further enriching the architectural subset of the Books On Books Collection.
Books 05, Image as text as Image, Noosa Regional Gallery, 9 September – 17 October 2005.
Beautiful One Day, Blown Away the Next (2011)
Beautiful One Day, Blown Away the Next (2011)
Box containing circular concertina flag book of Fabriano paper, manipulated digital photographs cut and transferred to flags. H90 x W190 x D55 mm closed, 380 mm diameter open. Unique edition. Acquired from the artist, 2 July 2020. Photo: Books On Books Collection.
On the eve of 2 February 2011 Cyclone Yasi made landfall on the coast of Queensland. Sweeping through the coastal communities, the Category 5 Tropical Storm of historic proportions left a trail of mayhem and destruction that inspired the artist Malone to create this piece.
Photos: Courtesy of the artist.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Bringing together a flag book, concertina and tab-and-lot closure, Malone engineers an ideal structure to evoke the meterological pattern and order of the cyclone. The shattered, blue-filtered photographic images transferred to the flags contribute a kaleidoscopic chaos. The theme of the environment and the struggle between the human race and natural forces is a subset of the Books On Books Collection well represented by this work, Tsunami (below) and others such as Holuhraun by Chris Ruston and Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene by Philip Zimmerman.
Books…beyond words evolution, East Gippsland Art Gallery, Bairnsdale,Vic., 6 August – 3 September 2011.
Box containing “whirlwind” book of Japanese paper washed with sumi ink and water, Japanese stab binding, leather roll. H230 mm, variable width. Unique edition. Acquired from the artist, 2 July 2020. Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Part of the series of disasters explored by Malone through her art, this piece is her interpretation of the catastrophic tsunami that followed the massive earthquake that struck Japan in 2011.
The earthquake and tsunami were so powerful that their effects were felt around the globe: from Antarctica’s ice sheet to the fjords of Norway. Indeed the debris from the monstrous wave continues to wash up on North American shores nearly a decade later.
The combination of Japanese paper and mottled color of sumi ink and water, the way the work “fights back” as the scrolls are manipulated to display the work, the multiple displays generated by the piling wave-like scrolls — all evoke the picture of inescapable, roiling force of the 2011 tsunami.
Laser printed images of waxed drawing, collage, painting and Chinese paper covered boards painted by Jack Oudyn with earth pigments, acrylic and xanthorrhoea resin. Sculptural folded page book structure and box by Helen Malone. H105 x W95 x D15 mm. Editions: 6 and 1 A/P. Acquired from Helen Malone, 2 July 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Malone and Jack Oudyn collaborated to create this representation of Uluru to resonate with the pleas of the indigenous Anangu people of the Northern Territory in Australia to “Wanyu Ulurunya Tatintja Wiyangku Wantima” (Respect our laws and culture).
For the Anangu the massive sandstone monolith is so sacred that they will not climb it nor photograph it. They ask visitors to respect the spirituality of the site and to follow their customs.
The blend of laser prints of wax drawings, Chinese paper, collage and painting seeks to capture the changing light of the rock as the sun passes over it throughout the day. The boards painted by Oudyn with earth pigments, acrylic and xanthorrhoea resin contribute a glowing depth of color to this homage to the Anangu. As with The Future of an Illusion (below), this collaboration presents an unusual unity of vision and integration of technique, materials and process with structural “rightness” for the subject at hand.
Art on Show Awards, Artspace Mackay Artist Book Award, Mackay Show Association, Mackay Qld, 16-19 June 2014.
Sheffield International Artists Book Prize, Bank Street Arts, Sheffield UK, 7-31 October 2015.
Binding of French faux leather. Multiple accordions in Fabriano 200gsm HP paper and Strathmore papers, pigmented ink, acrylic ink, printing ink, gold leaf, chinagraph pencil and image transfers. Closed: H780 x W50 x D150mm; Open: W750 mm. Unique edition. Acquired from the artist, 2 July 2020. Photos: Courtesy of the artist.
The Legacy of Absence and Silence refers to the present-day Australians whose forbears were immigrants to the continent in the nineteenth century. Many of those who came to Australia during that period made such an effort to assimilate that they have left no clues for their descendants to discover their origins. In fact some immigrants went to great lengths to eradicate their beginnings.In this work Malone has designed the structure of the book to reflect the effort of a search for meaning. The black foreground requires the viewer to struggle to peer inside the construction to glimpse details. Beyond the visual obstruction the white pages reveal snippets of information but never the full story.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
This is a work that demands display in-the-round on a table allowing viewers to lean far enough over to catch the details within the cells formed by the joined accordions, to circle it to see how emblems and signs emerge and disappear, and to move closer and step back to experience the shifting geometric patterns.
Libris Awards, Artspace Mackay, Queensland, from 26 August – 16 October 2016.
Sculptural tunnel book structure (three joined four-fold leporellos) enclosed in a folder and protective boxin a box,. Box made with Lamali handmade paper, suede paper (lining), silk ribbon and Somerset Black 280 gsm; Folder: Canson black 200gsm, skull button and waxed thread; Leporello: center leporello made of Canson black 200 gsm, adjoining leporellos made of Arches watercolour paper 185 gsm with acrylic, soluble carbon, gouache and transfer ink jet images. Box: H275 x W313 x D34 mm; Folder: H258 x W295 x D21 mm; Book: H250 x W290 x D16 mm closed, D770 mm. One of an unnumbered, signed edition of 4. Acquired from Helen Malone, 12 September 2017. Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Like The Legacy of Absence and Silence, this work uses joined accordions, but builds on the cut-outs in the former to construct a tunnel book down the middle. The integration of structures here is further remarkable as a result of another collaboration between Malone and Jack Oudyn. Selected for the 2017 Manly Library Artists’ Book Award exhibition in New South Wales, Australia, The Future of an Illusion demonstrates an effective collaboration in a field of art densely populated with — almost defined by — collaborative efforts. One pair of artists to compare with Malone and Oudyn is Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars. Over a century ago and half a world away, they collaborated on La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, also in an accordion format modified perfectly to its subject with an aim to create a work in which color, image and words are experienced simultaneously. Malone writes that it “has always been very influential generally on my work” (correspondence with Malone, 24 September 2017).
Rather than springing from an interaction over one poem, The Future of an Illusion springs from two imaginations struck by two literary works: Sigmund Freud’s eponymous book arguing against belief in an afterlife and Jim Crace’s novel Being Dead documenting the decomposition of a dead body left in nature. The choice of the two texts, the colors of putrescence, the void toward which the central tunnel leads, the coffin-like box in which the work is stored, locked with a button skull — all create a simultaneous tension of several emotions — fear, humor, sorrow, hope, despair, revulsion and aesthetic pleasure.
Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Between the Sheets, Central Gallery, Perth , WA, 18 March – 8 April 2017.
Second venue for Between the Sheets, Australian Galleries, Collingwood, Melbourne, Vic, 13 June – 2 July 2017.
Manly Library Artists Book Award, The Creative Space, North Curl Curl, NSW, 30 March – 2 April 2017.
Art on Show Awards, Artspace Mackay in association with Mackay Show Association, 11-22 June 2017.
6th Artists Books Fair, Grahame Galleries in association with Griffith University, Brisbane, 7 – 9 July 2017.
Artists (1/4 & 3/4), State Library of Queensland Artists Book Collection, Brisbane (4/4).
Open-sided box containing ten individual adapted book structures. Closed: H175 x W440 x D110 mm; Open: H500 x W600 mm. Version 4. Acquired from the artist, 24 November 2017. Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Inspired by De Architettura by Vitruvius and De Re Aedificatoria by Leon Battista Alberti, Malone created her first version of this work in 2006. Three others followed: in 2012, for the Pratt Institute; in 2013, for the State Library of Queensland; and in 2017, for this collection. In the 2012 version, the sixth book — Queenslander — differentiates that version from the others. The 2017 version is differentiated by its tenth book — Zaha Hahid.
These differentiators signal the abundant variety of structures within each version. Their unerring “rightness” for the subject of each “volume” astounds.
Book One — Vitruvius — consists of embossed and cut concertina folds of Arches paper with diluted sumi ink; when displayed, the line of columns suggests a Roman temple. Book Two — Suger — celebrates the French patron of Gothic architecture with an adapted tunnel book with cut concertina sides in Canson and Arches paper, ink and watercolor; when displayed, the structure suggests the stained glass windows of St. Denis. Book Three — Brunelleschi — is a folded page construction of Canson paper with page inserts of Canson and Arches paper, PVC ribs and covers; when displayed, it references the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the internal colors of the cathedral and Brunelleschi’s credited invention of linear perspective. Book Four — Alberti — is a concertina fold book in Fabriano and Arches paper with PVC covers; its gutters and collaged pages make a structure resembling shallow facades on which several of Alberti’s statements elaborating Vitruvian principles are printed. Book Five — Mackintosh — adapts a French door construction in Arches paper, watercolor, ink and PVC to celebrate the Scottish architect and designer; when displayed, it echoes his design and its Japanese influences. Book Six — Le Corbusier — is a cube book of Fabriano paper and resembles a white concrete box; its page structure is adapted from Corbu’s internal construction plans with mezzanine floors. Book Seven — Mies van der Rohe — consists of a concertina of double Perspex pages linked with fishing line and containing digital photo images of Chicago taken by the artist; it can be manipulated to form various displays, with multiplying reflections suggesting the spread of the architect’s influence on twentieth-century cityscapes. Book Eight — Pei — is a folding triangular paged book made of Perspex and Canson paper, linked with fishing line; when displayed, the pyramid pays homage to Pei’s dome over the entrance to the Louvre. Book Nine — Libeskind — echoes the architect’s intentionally disorienting Jewish museum in Berlin; a slanted rectangular box book, made of kangaroo vellum and scored aluminum, presents its text in a way intentionally difficult to access and read. Book Ten — Zaha Hadid — consists of organic shapes and patterns on a folded pages construction of Arches paper mounted on PVC; when displayed, the book takes on a shape that echoes that of Hadid’s architectural designs.
Additional commentary and images for Ten Books of Architecture (2017) can be found here.
Exhibitions and collections:
2006 version was exhibited in Books.06, Ten and Beyond, Noosa Regional Gallery, 22 September – 22 October 2006 and was purchased from this exhibition by a private collector.
2012 version commissioned by The Pratt Institute, New York.The Collections on View at the Brooklyn Campus of the Pratt Institute and online, May – August 2013. Image published in 500 Handmade Books, Lark Publishers USA, September 2013.
2013 version commissioned by the State Library of Queensland, Brisbane.
2017 version commissioned by Books On Books Collection.
Here is a large-scale book installation that sharply challenges those who, objecting to books’ repurposing for art, would cite Milton: “he who destroys a good book kills reason itself”. Each 14-foot stack consists of a single title; one of Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson and the other of The Prison Poems by Miguel Hernández. For each column, Cordova has hollowed out a number of books to cover wooden shelves affixed to the wall and tightly fitted other books between the shelves to create the appearance of an uninterrupted stack of books. In making the bookshelf tower vertically and making the books as unreadable as bricks, he memorializes the two men and thoughts they expressed.
Acknowledging the influence of the shape of the Great Mosque of Córdoba and also Inca architecture in Peru where he grew up, Cordova elaborates in an interview with Lori Salmon in the exhibition catalogue:
Pillars/foundations are often designed to resist lateral forces. Columns also transmit any weight above and redistribute down below through compression. The content within the said titles inform the context of these pillars, antennas, and ephemeral monuments.
While the lives of Jackson and Hernández played out in different countries, their deaths in prison, the former’s letters and the latter’s laments drive side by side through the “pillars, antennas and ephemeral monuments”. In the context of mid-2020 protests against systemic racism and fascism, they could just as well be a pair of fuses.
Alicia Martín’s series of installations called Biografías has been frequently noted across the Web — Designverb (2009), Crooked Brains (2010), SFCB Blog (2011), Huffington Post (2012), Inhabitat (2012), My Modern Met (2012, 2013), Arte Al Límite (2014), TiraBUZón (2014), El Cultural (2014, 2015) — but Nicola Mariani’s 2013 interview with Alicia Martín is the most useful entrée to this book artist and her work. The most telling insight from the artist elicited by Mariani is this:
Las intervenciones en la calle son de impacto visual, provocan curiosidad, sorpresa y la necesidad de llevársela en el móvil, en el iPad … y compartirla…. Son efímeras, por un tiempo asaltan al que va por la calle sin dejarle indiferente, la escultura “real” es la sensación que ha quedado en cada una de las personas y en la manera de recordarla, pensarla, contarla…. Una vez que se desmontan sólo queda en la memoria del que las ha vivido. Como cuando se lee un libro.
The interventions in the street have a visual impact, provoke curiosity, surprise and the need to capture it on smartphones, on iPads … and share it…. The installations are ephemeral, striking the passers-by in a brief moment allowing no indifference; the “real” sculpture is the feeling that remains in each of them, the way they remember it, think it, tell it…. Once the installations are dismantled, they remain only in the memory of those who have lived them. Like when you read a book
When I came to The Hague in June 2015, too many months passed before I visited Lidy Schoonens, owner of a bookshop devoted to book art, book arts and calligraphy, and one of the founder of the Leiden Book Arts Fair. In her shop on the fourth floor of the early 20th-century house on Johan van Oldenbarneveltlaan, I found myself sitting across from one of the orchestrators of Alicia Martín’s visit to construct her installation for the Paper Biennial 2012 at The Hague’s Meermanno Museum — an experience that put a “real” Martín sculpture in her memory. With her help, I was able to find these images of the installation.
Lidy described how the community quickly filled large dumpster bins with old books otherwise destined to be thrown away. Martín proceeded to manipulate and attach them to a wire frame, leaving their open pages to flutter and give sound to the cascade. By virtue of its here-today-gone-tomorrow status and its metaphoric metamorphosis of books into a torrent of now barely accessible information, Biografías reminds the viewer of the ephemerality of what appears to be permanent and urges “living” such moments of art to store the sight and sound in memory — or YouTube.
Saddle-stitched with staples, card and pink end sheets over twelve sheets of copier paper, H280 x W215 mm. Edition of Acquired from John M. Bennett, 8 July 2020.
Clinefelter’s is not the first parody or spoof of Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard. That claim belongs to a nineteenth-century Australian poet and aficionado of Mallarmé’s poetry — Christopher Brennan. Brennan’s Prose-Verse-Poster-Algebraic-Symbolico-Riddle Musicopoematographoscope appeared in manuscript in 1897 but wasn’t published until 1981.
With images from a reprint of an early Sears Roebuck Catalogue and drawing on John M. Bennett‘s poetry as well as Un Coup de Dés, Clinefelter composed his book on a borrowed Macintosh SE — the late twentieth-century substitute for penmanship. Mallarmé only thought of having some images from his friend Odilon Redon separated from the text Un Coup de Dés. Clinefelter’s sense of fun and close attention to the original led him to integrate those Sears images throughout with the text to mimic Mallarmé’s textual and typographic road signs. Notice in the third row of the photos above how the hands holding pencils point toward lines (or perhaps enclose the lines between them like single quotation marks) and how the figure of the man’s head with directional arrows indicates the order or path in which the text should be read.
Clinefelter’s text, which draws on Bennett’s boisterous poems, pokes fun at the original’s emphasis on sonority even at the expense of semantic or syntactic clarity. It also pokes fun at some of the lines that have challenged readers and translators alike:
LE MAÎTRE surgi inférant de cette conflagration à ses piedsde l’horizon unanime que se prépare s’agite et mêle au poing qui l’étreindrait … becomes
“THE MASTER knees inferring from this conflagration drips there as soft threatens the unique clam”
and cadavre par le bras écarté du secret qu’il détient … becomes
“corpse mud the arm”.
For their parody, Clinefelter and Bennett may have to apply for honorary Australian citizenship. It seems that, starting with Christopher Brennan, the Australians cannot stop teasing Mallarmé. We have Chris Edwards’ A Fluke: A Mistranslation of Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un Coup De Dés…” with Parallel French Pretext (2005) and John Tranter’s Desmond’s Coupé (2006). Parody, pastiche or spoof — Clinefelter’s and these other responses enrich the genre of Un Coup de Dés. Somehow in their exuberance they are all saying “yes” to the abyss or, at least, managing one more guffaw of the dice.
Trophic Avulsions (2016) Jaz Graf Cyanotype accordion book with thread drawing, paper lithography and laser engraving on wood. Closed: H6 x W8.5 x D1.0 inches; Open: W80 inches. Unique. Acquired from the artist, 14 March 2018. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Graf has used satellite photos of various river deltas around the world to create the cyanotype prints in this work. The patterns from which are exposed come from paper litho prints made on fabric. The result is a blurring, softening yet “nearing” of the otherwise sharp, scientific and remote images normally viewed on digital screens or photographic paper. As Graf points out in her description, the word trophic “relates to an ecological concept of the trophic cascade, in which one action leads to another in an ecosystem, implying ideas of interconnectivity.”
That interconnectivity and the impact we have on “the separation of land from one area and its attachment to another”, which is what avulsion means, is implied by the streams of thread meandering across and off the panels of the accordion form from beginning to end. Even though the panels fold to fit within their laser-engraved birch panels, they vary in width, which breaks up the expected regularity of the accordion when it is extended. The engravings show a delta emptying into a desert and are mounted on wood blocks covered in muslin bearing the printed delta image made with paper lithography.
The environmental focus of Trophic Avulsions places it in a well-loved tradition in book art. Other works by Graf, such as Mother Water (2018) below, would be comfortably at home in an exhibition with
Biography (2010) by Sarah Bryant, who creatively connects the human body’s elements with those of the periodic table to bear witness to our impact on the environment and vice versa;
the Ice Books series (2007-17) by Basia Irland, who selects local seeds and embeds them as “text” in a block of frozen river water, carved into the shape of a book to be released into the local river where it melts, releasing the seeds;
the Whorl series (2013- ongoing) by Jacqueline Rush Lee, who returns books to their botanical origins by sculpting books and inserting them into the cavity of a tree to allow time, changing weather conditions and insect activity to rewrite them into the shape of a whorl in a tree hollow;
Batterers (1996) by Denise Levertov, Kathryn Lipke and Claire Van Vliet, who combine Levertov’s powerful poem extending a metaphor of abuse to the earth with Lipke’s clay paperwork set into a wooden tray as the base of this sculptural book, whose pages Van Vliet makes unfold into a fiery landscape; or
Silent Spring Revisited (2016) by Chris Ruston, who uses her frequent visits to natural history museums to inspire works that blend science and art that highlight extinction and the interdependence of humans and nature.
If such an exhibition — a twentieth anniversary of Betty Bright’s 1992 “Completing the Circle: Artists’ Books on the Environment”? — were organized, Trophic Avulsions would be available to loan!
Mother Water (2018) Laser-etched acrylic, cyanotype, porcelain Dimensions variable (15 panels – each 14”x11”) The river featured is Thailand’s Chao Praya. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Housed in acrylic tube, eight pages including letterpress printed colophon page, seven pages of USGS topographic maps inscribed with sumi ink by hand, bound with a small piece of Fabriano Tiziano green in Japanese side-stitch. H184 x W679.5 mm unfurled. Edition of approximately 65, of which this one is dated and initialed on 7 November 2012. Acquired from the artist, 25 March 2015. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
When as you continue first appeared, Jen Larson wrote of it in Multiple, Limited, Unique: Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Center for Book Arts (2011):
… this work serves as an elegant meditation and metaphor on the subject of life journeys — and orienting oneself in the midst of landscape or circumstance that can only be apprehended by survey and the will to move forward.
The year 2012 marked the centennial of composer and artist John Cage’s birth. An aficionado of “chance”, Robin Price revisited this work that had begun in December 2010 when she discovered on the Crown Point Press’ Magical-Secrets website the quotation by Cage. Cage had made this remark to Kathan Brown in 1989 after the Crown Point Press’ building was condemned following an earthquake. By chance, it now seemed fitting as a centenary birthday wish to this artistic master of “the purposeful use of chance and randomness”. Also by purposeful chance, Price turned to a technique that seemed entirely fitting for the work, its history and her personal perspective. Price writes:
… I took up the project anew and practiced writing on several different occasions, feeling dissatisfied with various trials. Eventually I found my way to writing with my left (non-dominant) hand as the most authentic expression I could bring to the content, as visualization of struggle, fear, and acceptance of imperfection.
Perfect bound. H305 x W229 mm. Acquired from the artist, 25 March 2015. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
The very covers of the book were created by chance operations. Generated solely on press using three of the four process color printing plates from the book’s interior via “make-ready”, areas of image were built up on the paper by repeatedly passing the sheets through the press, and consistently rotating the sheets prior to their feeding through ensured variation among the covers within the edition.
In addition to the theme core to Price’s art, Counting on Chance embodies another aspect key to her work: choice and collaboration. Published in conjunction with the exhibition held at Wesleyan University’s Davison Art Center, the volume includes a brilliant essay by Betty Bright, interview by Suzy Taraba and a catalogue raisonné prepared by Rutherford Witthus. Like choosing the right colors, the right combination of fonts, the right layout, the right weight and opacity of paper, and the right structure, Price’s choice of collaborators (or their choice of her) in her work and publishing is an artistic practice itself.
Housed in a custom-made, engraved stainless steel box (H370 x W326 x D44 mm), concertina binding co-designed with Daniel E. Kelm and Joyce Cutler-Shaw, produced at The Wide Awake Garage; twelve signatures of handmade cotton text paper, the central ten signatures each made up of one sheet H356 x W514 mm and one sheet H356 x W500 mm glued to the 14 mm margin of the first sheet, for a total of 96 pages, each measuring H356 x W253 mm. Binding of leather covered boards (a hologram embedded in front cover) with an open spine, taped and sewn into a reinforcing concertina structure: H361 X W259 mm. The hologram, produced by DuPont Authentication Systems, features an early eighteenth-century brass lancet. Edition of 50, of which this is a binder’s copy. Acquired from the binder, Daniel E. Kelm, 15 October 2018.
Generating two double-page spreads, one for the Fasciculus Medicinae on the left and Cutler-Shaw on the right, the foldout pages extend to 1016 mm.
Responding to the 1993 Smithsonian challenge to book artists to create a work in response to a scientific or technical work in the Dibner Library, Joyce Cutler-Shaw approached Price for assistance in creating a unique book based on Shaw’s response to the Fasciculus Medicinae (1495), the first printed book with anatomical illustrations. A decade later, Price was convinced to issue this 50-copy edition. In Counting On Chance, Betty Bright recounts the story behind this brilliant collaboration. Detail and additional images about the work can be found here.
Bright, Betty. “Handwork and Hybrids: Contemporary Book Art,” in Extra/ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, edited by Maria Elena Buczek (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). Essay highlighting the work of Robin Price and Ken Campbell.
(The artist always lowercases his name — to avoid hierarchy.)
Box folder of 36 postcards & box folder of juniper berries. Edition of 216, of which this is 189. Acquired from Peter Foolen Editions, November 2014. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
February and November 2013
This “edition of two”, as Peter Foolen has termed it, gives the reader/viewer slices of two much larger works. The first was a 320-page hardback edition of 750 copies, also entitled die wiese / the meadow but involving Marion Reissner for the concept and photography. Two copies of the special edition, signed and numbered, also included dried leaves that de vries selected from the 4000 square meters — the meadow — that is one of de vries’ most important works of art. In the Steigerwald near Eschenau, Germany, where they live, he and susanne de vries, his wife, started this work of nature’s sculpture in 1986. A peninsula anchored on the forest and surrounded by farmland, the meadow boasts a barrier of cultivated aspen and hedges. Within, a variety of shrubs, trees and wildflowers abound. A work of art in and of itself, it is also the source and palette for smaller works made of selections of leaves, arrays of briars and pressed vegetation. The dried juniper berries in juniperus communis signal that aspect of his art.
In small, juniperus communis reflects another important aspect: exhibitions and installations.
H166 x W210 mm. Edition of 1000. Acquired from Éditions incertain sens, 27 June 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
In the Books On Books Collection, infinity in finity occupies a mid-point between die weise|the meadow and argumentstellen. Whereas die weise|the meadow draws its art directly from nature or the artist’s interaction with nature, argumentstellen draws its art from the artist’s interaction with a book of philosophy and his visual translation/illustration of it through the book arts. Except for the photo of herman de vries as naturalist-cum-naturist, infinity in finity belongs more to that side of his work that focuses on wordplay and the book arts.
The single photo and the phrase “infinity in finity” point more toward intangible, abstract nature rather than the tangible nature of a meadow and handful of juniper berries. The strand under the artist’s feet and the repeated phrase evoke the lines of Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
Grafix Centrum Poligrafii (Gdańsk, Poland) has precisely executed the genius of the design that aligns the repeated phrase across the double-page spread, into and out of the gutter, and sends it off the top, bottom and fore edges. The meaning of the words and form of the book align perfectly. The reader/viewer holds infinity in the finite form of a book held between two hands.
The first date 1968 is the year the artwork was conceived and drawn; the second date, the year it was published. H296 x W210 mm. Edition of 1250. Acquired from Éditions incertain sens, 27 June 2020. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Argumentstellen (German for “arguing” or “making an argument”) roots itself even more in abstraction, allusion and the book arts than infinity in finity. Other than the title and colophon, there are no words in argumentstellen. Still, the little text on which it relies looms large.
The Dutch naar and French de translate as “after”; so argumentstellen is “after Wittgenstein — tractatus — 2. 0131 …” Here are English translations for the text from section 2.0131 of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
From Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Side-by-Side-by-Side Edition, curated by Kevin C. Klement, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Unlike most paintings and prints entitled “after [fill in the blank]” — but like many instances of reverse-ekphrasis in book art — argumentstellen is simultaneously a visual translation and interpretation of referenced text, not another artist’s visual work. Rather than the ekphrastic text/poem that proceeds from the visual or sculptural work of art, this is visual book art that proceeds from philosophical text. On each rich, thick, white page, the black dot (the “point in space”, full stop or period?) appears once but in different places from page to page. Against the texture and color of the page, each black dot almost performs a trompe l’oeil that surrounds it with ghostly text — implying that it marks the space or place where a statement or argument occurs, which differs from place to place, from perspective to perspective.
In the same year as the drawing for this work occurred, so did that for the lines (1968/1995). De vries’ comments on the lines shed light on argumentstellen as well as return our thoughts to walking into the ocean or through the meadow:
the position of a single line in the surface determines our experience of these surfaces, so that with another position of the line, an extension or a shortening, our experience of the surface is changed.
like every primary picture element, the line has its own unique effect.
a point, for example, determines the space around it, creates an area of tension out of it. a line does that too, but it is clearer that the line divides the area.
lines are like dams in water. the eye must overcome it like an obstacle.
but it can also go around, flow. Another option is to follow the line, walk on the embankment and notice the changes in the area. because the place where the eye is located is a point of perception in relation to the surface.
in this way the line is a series of 'arguments'. Walking along, around or over here means changing your perspective and viewpoint. — herman de vries. Accessed 30 June 2020.
At which William Blake and those other Romantics — those ambler poets — John Clare, Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth must be nodding and smiling.
As with many of the homage to Un Coup de Dés, the subtitle here matters. For Bennequin, it was “Homage” with it missing “m” from the French; for Broodthaers, “Image”; for Engramer, “Wave”; for Pichler, “Sculpture” and “Musique”; for Zboya, “Translations”. Graham’s subtitle, being in quotation marks, indicates that what follows is a missive, not a form. The missive addressed to a local tattoo artist was arranged à la Mallarmé and described an image of Popeye that Graham wanted. But the twist that makes Graham’s version work is the translation of the instructions into French and their publication in the 1913 format of Mallarmé’s poem. This is an intricate “set-up”. In a way, it is analogous to Mallarmé’s careful attention to the positioning of words and lines, the kind of mise-en-scène that characterizes much of Graham’s photography and painting.
H500 x W350 mm. Edition of 200, of which this is #162. Acquired from the artist, 15 April 2019.
In size, Larosche’s Un Coup de Dés outdoes most other versions and homage — except those that are installations. The large black cover suggests a dark movie screen on which Larosche’s version of the poem will play out in 3D. But why 3D? Trying to read Un Coup de Dés while wearing a pair of 3D glasses challenges the eyes’ patience just as much as the poem’s ambiguities challenge the mind’s. Within the Coup de Dés genre, there is a necessary strain of strained humor. Without it, art runs the risk of taking us too seriously.
Confirming this joking intention behind his version, Larosche commented to Books On Books:
I originally handmade the book so that it was to worn on the nose like a large pair of glasses, which was another practical joke because the letters were too close to read, as in so 3D that it was literally in your face. — Brian Larosche, 2 April 2020.
Even with puns and slapstick there is often a point. The anaglyphic print technique and sheer size of Larosche’s version draw attention to Mallarmé’s sculptural play with type size and layout on a 2D surface as well as the poem’s spatial metaphors that align with it. In Mallarmé’s original, the staggering and dispersal of lines and single words on the page buttress, and are buttressed by, the word images of a roiling sea, shipwreck and constellation. Other artists with other techniques have drawn attention to that sculptural play and those spatial metaphors: Marcel Broodthaers‘ superimposed black bars, Michalis Pichler‘s and Cerith Wyn Evans‘ cut-outs, Sammy Engramer‘s sonograms sculpted in PVC and Eric Zboya‘s computer graphic “translation”.
Other artists have also poked serious fun at Un Coup de Dés and each others’ homage. Jim Clinefelter teases the sonority of the poem with his A Throw of the Snore Will Surge the Potatoes (1998). With her Rubik’s cube version (2005), Aurélie Noury needles the poem’s and poet’s puzzle pose. With their piano-roll versions, Rainier Lericolais (2009) and Pichler (2016) pick on Broodthaers (1969) as well as Mallarmé (1897) for their spatial metaphors and, in Mallarme’s case, his assertions of musicality. In Rodney Graham’s version (2011), Popeye substitutes for le Maître as the ship’s captain.
Larosche’s perceptively humorous rendering of Un Coup de Dés has earned it a secure perch among the other birds of the homage feather, and the use of 3D glasses seems to invite another layer of homage from artists interested in virtual reality headgear and augmented reality devices.
Glued board with 26 removable postcards as pages, offset and letterpress on card. H102 x W155 mm. Edition of 500 and special edition of 25 signed and numbered, with original postcard attached to the cover, of which this is #22. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Like Hiller’s first book, Rough Sea (1976), this compilation of postcards uses the postcard as art material not only to create an artwork but also to color and shape it with this form of collective memory. By making the postcards detachable this time, she also taps into a democratic strain with artist books. Each copy of the work has the potential of being partly shared with 26 other recipients, leaving The Artist Palette Alphabet to exist only as its cover.
For a collection like Books On Books, the choice of the special edition copy showing Frankfurt-am-Main, home of the centuries-old book fair, was inevitable and lucky.
Belly band with edition details, spider style binding; eight leaves, 16 pages, 48 panels; laser printed onto 250gsm card glossy on one side. Open edition of signed copies. Acquired from AM Bruno, 9 November 2018. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
This spiral of imagery, is an allegory for breath, found in the material world, photographed in the house I was building. A variety of modalities of folds – from the fold of our material selves, our bodies – to the folding of time, or simply memory, an interiority and exteriority. — Artist’s description
The “spider style” binding here is not quite the same as that designated by Hedi Kyle as the “spider book” in The Art of the Fold (2018). It is more a cross between an accordion fold, crown fold and spider book as explained by Kyle. It also recalls the effect of the Chinese dragon fold, exemplified by the re-creation of the Diamond Sutra by Zhang Xiaodong. Whatever its source or name, the fold and binding create a prismatic bookwork that invites teasing away each sheet and fold, poring over each panel as well as setting the work up in various display aspects.
Although Spiration is not currently listed in WorldCat, several of Goldhill’s other publications are: for example, In the Beginning and Sanguine Shifts, both of which arose from projects posed to the AM Bruno coalition of artists. Her work has drawn the attention of the British curator and writer David Alan Mellor.
Through abstraction and symbol, Louisa Boyd‘s art focuses on sense of place and our intrinsic connection to nature. The titles of three of her artist’s book series – Infinity, Landscape, and Mapping – and those of the book art in them – Aether (2013), A Walk (2001), and Cartography I (2014) – reflect that focus. How she manages abstract imagery and symbol across her range of material and techniques – paper (including hand-marbled paper), book structure, printmaking (block, screen, letterpress), watercolor, metalwork, leatherwork – adds to that unifying focus through a rightness of choice but also introduces a breadth of originality and variety.
In Aether, the crayon work, cutting and metalwork are applied with a three-dimensional sense wedded to an obvious understanding of the possibilities of the page and double-page spread. The stop-motion animation video tour of Aether (click on the image below) makes you wonder if Boyd conceived the work as a flipbook in the first place. There is no wondering, however, about the place of human existence in relation to the aether. In the video, look at the lower righthand fore-edge of the book.
A Walk illustrates Boyd’s skill with freestanding three-dimensional sculpture, a skill that has grown in The Flight Series (more later on two of its works from 2009) and The Paper Manipulation Series, from which the work Flare above comes.
Her use of abstract markings and the Turkish map folding technique in Cartography I demonstrates again her careful marriage of abstraction, symbol and technique.
The etching printed on each of the three internal folded pages is an abstract that nevertheless evokes mapping, which the form and fold of the pages reinforces. Each Turkish fold page can lay flat to be viewed individually, or as pictured above and below, the book may be viewed as a sculpture.
The video tours (links embedded the images of Aether and A Walk above) represent Boyd’s search for what she calls “a bridge between traditional and contemporary media”. So far, that exploration reflects the artist’s rootedness in the book arts and traditional skills and processes of drawing, printing and painting. It is intriguing to think what effect a bit of influence from Helen Douglas or Amaranth Borsuk might have on Boyd’s bridge. The use of stop-action video for Aether hints at an instinct for what Douglas calls “visual narrative”.
A professed recurrent theme in Boyd’s book art is “restriction and freedom”. Although it arises from periods of city dwelling and lack of access to the countryside, imposed by the UK’s 2001 “foot and mouth” epidemic, it manifests itself in the more “traditional” spur of constraint of form and structure that goads an artist’s imagination. Flock (2009) and A Walk bear close resemblance, but note the difference in invention whereby the former plays with the book form by placing the bird imagery at the edges, spirals the paper tearing upwards and gradates the watercolor from dark to light (like a flock dispersing) and the latter deals with the “restricted” walk by blending the watercolor with tearing and tunneling.
Take Flight (2009) frees its bird imagery even more fully from the structure of the book and occupies space as a fully three-dimensional work.
Although Multifaceted returns to the theme of different views that was the intent in A Walk, it tilts the theme more toward the abstract side of Boyd’s work. In this, Multifaceted is more akin to the works in The Paper Manipulation Series: Flare (2013), Whorl (2013), and Pleat (2013). It almost purely plays with the concept of differing perspectives. Again, techniques and form express concept with a simple rightness. This double-sided leporello is designed to be viewed from four different angles. The display of photos here cannot offer the intended perspective (pun intended): the viewer needs to circle the piece to view its facets. That word “facet” is tooled on the interior pages four times, the clue as to how the book should be read.
The abstract imagery evoking landscape or skyscape – whether juxtaposed vertically or horizontally – plays with viewpoint. Even the print technique on the interior pages plays with viewpoint: they are prints of an etching inked up both in relief and intaglio. Breaking free of the ultimate restriction of the book, the pages are not attached to the cover, allowing the piece to be read in four different directions. These features of the work and the seeming absence of that human figure from Aether throw it back on the viewer’s necessary engagement to establish fully the human connection: by engaging with Multifaceted – “reading” it – the viewer enacts the human place in the aether around the work.
Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 and winning the Paperchase Future of Design Award (2001) and receiving a high commendation from the judges of the New Designer of the Year (2001), Boyd has exhibited in 46 venues. Her 47th is the most significant so far: inclusion in the John Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition at Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, UK (21 June – 8 October, 2017). If this book artist manages to continue her sure-handed forging of concept, material and method, the Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition will not be her last significant exhibition.
‘The 2017 exhibition has a theme of the “Artist as Polymath” and the jury have selected a shortlist of artists and makers whose works cross boundaries, take a multidisciplinary approach and bring together varying techniques and materials. As an artist who has been making artist’s books since my final year at university in 2000, I have found that such an approach to work has been essential to bring together concept and visual aesthetics.’
Isn’t it surprising that, given the greater frequency in human discourse of “yeah, but” over “yeah, and”, we can write “yeah, &”, but there is no logogram for “but”? No one can say that the last word has been said, written, printed or had about the ampersand. Someone will always be ready to append an & … but that has not stifled many an attempt. Apparently they have occurred every twenty years or so since 1936.
Some twenty years later along comes Jan Tschichold’s A Brief History of the Ampersand (1957), initially in German in 1953), which reproduced and updated Goudy’s set of examples and deepened the scholarship on the subject.
After Tschichold’s “last word”, The Ampersand Club (yes, there is one) invited one of its distinguished members — Rutherford Aris, Professor of Chemical Engineering (and Classics!) at the University of Minnesota — to attempt another “last word” in 1980.
While there are a few publications falling around 1999/2000, nothing approaches the colophonic status of the Typophiles’, Tschichold’s or the Ampersanders’ efforts. It’s not as if ampersand aficionados were running out of &s. Consider Robert Slimbach’s Poetica™️ (1992), his family of type that boasts 62 different ampersands.
Robert Slimbach’s 62 ampersands in the Poetica™️ family
Jumping the gun on 2020, we have both the 2018 reissued edition of Tschichold’s “last word” on the subject and Ray Czapkowski‘s 2019 celebration of the Diggings of Many Ampersandhogs. It is somewhat fitting that the publisher of the reissue of Tschichold is named ~zeug, which is the German suffix appended to a verb to indicate the instrument for carrying out the verb’s activity — e.g., Spielen (to play), Spielzeug (toy). And entirely fitting, too, that ~zeug could not resist the urge to make up a deluxe version by adding Et & Ampersands: A Contemporary Collection to Tschichold’s A Brief History.
By definition, the Velvetyne/~zeug catalogue is not a last word, and its cataloging of newly designed ampersands attests to the ongoing “and-ness” of letter design, which brings us to the first item in this sub-collection within Books On Books …
Maret’s pattern, matrix and punch for the Hungry Dutch ampersand came into the collection in 2020 as recognition of Books On Books’ contributing sponsorship of the design and manufacture of the typeface.