Bookmarking Book Art – Helen Douglas

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)

Helen Douglas has been kind enough to forward the notice above of her most recent work – In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James Based on her invited residency in Mexico City, this concertina book takes the viewer through Edward James’ jungle garden Las Posaz, its buildings and staircases, James’ surreal imagination and, best of all, Douglas’s own imaginative experience of them. See the interview at BookArtBookBlog that preceded the work’s unveiling at the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery and Berlin Art Book Fair.

When I go to Weproductions, the website of founding partners, Telfer Stokes and Helen Douglas, it is like taking a walk in Yarrow, Scotland, taking the measure of paper samples between forefinger and thumb, browsing in a bookstore, lingering in an art gallery. Two of Helen Douglas’s works in particular elicit this: The Pond at Deuchar (2013) and A Venetian Brocade (2010) .

Helen Douglas, The Pond at Deuchar, 2013 © Helen Douglas. Artist’s acknowledgment to Armadillo Systems (www.armadillosystems.com)

Was it London Book Fair where I first saw this bookwork, appwork, scrollwork … this work of art?  What you see above leads you to the app. Clive Philpott’s postscript to this work, featured on Weproductions and published by the Tate, offers all the background and appreciation of the work you need to read. Read it, then go to The Pond at Deuchar*, lean forward and trail your fingers through its waters. A Venetian Brocade equally makes the act of looking tactile and the act of touching insightful. I have my copy, so I am happy to urge anyone with a pair of eyes and hands to go and buy one of the few remaining.

You will see how these two strong works lead to In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James and wonder, where next?

Helen Douglas and Marina Warner, A Venetian Brocade, Weproductions, 2010

Helen Douglas and Marina Warner, A Venetian Brocade, Weproductions, 2010

See also JMW Turner, “Deuchar Old Bridge, Near Yarrow, Selkirkshire, 1834” from The Edinburgh Sketchbook, 1831-34.

See also Joseph Brodsky, Watermark (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992).

… bipeds go ape about shopping and dressing-up in Venice for reasons not exactly practical; they do so because the city, as it were, challenges them. We all harbor all sorts of misgivings about the flaws in our appearance, anatomy, about the imperfection of our very features. What one sees in this city at every steep, turn, perspective, and dead end worsens one’s complexes and insecurities. That’s why one—a woman especially, but a man also—hits the stores as soon as one arrives here, and with a vengeance. The surrounding beauty is such that one instantly conceives of an incoherent animal desire to match it, to be on par. This has nothing to do with vanity or with the natural surplus of mirrors here, the main one being the very water. It is simply that the city offers bipeds a notion of visual superiority absent in their natural lairs, in their habitual surroundings. That’s why furs fly here, as do suede, silk, linen, wool, and every other kind of fabric.

See also The Secret Life of Edward JamesGeorge Melly’s documentary film from 1975.

*Deuchar is pronounced “dew-ker”, the “k” as in “loch”.
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