Bookmarking Book Art – Chris Ruston

Ruston’s art celebrates the natural world and human spirit, inviting viewers “to follow, to unravel secrets, and to pay close attention to the world around them”.

Chris Ruston She Returns (2011) Ink, Watercolour Paper, Concertina Fold, 23.5cm x 18.5cm, Edition of 2
Chris Ruston
She Returns (2011)
23.5cm x 18.5cm, Edition of 2

Part of a series called Ocean Blue, the book She Returns uses a double concertina fold and ink on Fabriano watercolor paper to invite us to follow the image of a leatherback turtle making its way through the deep, which fluctuates between the depth of blue-black and the shallows of blue-white. The text reads

ruston-ocean-blue2

ruston-ocean-blueShe Returns
BLACK and GLEAMING
in the Moonlight
her Primordial needs
Roaming
Wave Washed Dreams.

 

Originating from the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-908) in China as the Orihon, the concertina fold is also called the accordion fold and sometimes the leporello*. For “She Returns”, Ruston employs a variant of the binding approach in Figure 9. It is

From Hedi Kyle, "Orihon's Triumph: Origin and Adaptations of the Concertina Fold", The Ampersand, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 1982.
from Hedi Kyle, “Orihon’s Triumph: Origin and Adaptations of the Concertina Fold”,
The Ampersand, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 1982.

essentially two pages folded together into a concertina fold, but in origami terms, the “mountain” fold of one page is inverted to a “valley” fold, which creates “small boxes” between the pages when the concertina is opened as seen below. The single signature of transparent paper with text is sewn into the centre page. It is bound by a simple stitch top and bottom of each fold.

Painted board covers were then attached.”The stitches at the top and bottom of the page work well as it allows some small movement of the two concertina folds. As I saturate it with water and ink it needs to be a bit more robust but this means it can be bulky when put together.”

Binding detail of She Returns
Binding detail of She Returns
Binding detail of She Returns
The Holuhraun lava field, on 4 September 2014, during the 2014 eruption
The Holuhraun lava field, on 4 September 2014, during the 2014 eruption

The Bárðarbunga volcano in Holuhraun, Iceland, is active. From August 2014 to February 2015, it erupted for 181 days.

Lava fountains of the fissure eruption in Holuhraun on 13th September 2014 around 21:20.
Lava fountains of the fissure eruption in Holuhraun on 13th September 2014 around 21:20.

Ruston responded to that natural event with the work Holuhraun, 2014-2015.

Holuhraun, 2014-2015. Top view of closed box.
Holuhraun, 2014-2015 
Top view of closed box
Holuhraun, 2014-2015. "The pages are contained within an exploding box structure where the sides collapse as the lid is removed."
Holuhraun, 2014-2015
“The pages are contained within an exploding box structure where the sides collapse as the lid is removed.”

The box contains “181 individually painted pages, signed and dated for each day the volcano erupted producing ‘new land’.”

Holuhraun, 2014-2015. View of the pages.
Holuhraun, 2014-2015
View of the pages
Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston
Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston
Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston

Ruston’s Holuhraun reflects that duality of nature’s destructive creation and creative destruction. The sides of the box falling away mimic the volcano’s production of new land. But the work is more subtle than that; it implicates the viewers in that duality. In taking apart the closed object, we “create” or, at least, reveal another object of art.  

Ice is the countervailing passion in Ruston’s art.

What a sight to wake up to on a cold winter’s morning – a blanket of thick frost over everything. Armed with camera, and a thick warm coat, I  couldn’t resist taking a detour on my way to the studio. The air was still, the grasses and branches coated with ice crystals, all bathed in a soft gentle light. I spent a pleasant hour surrounded by the gentle rustle of ice crystals softly  falling to the ground. (12/12/2012)

In response to her natural surroundings, as well as powerful films such as James Balog’s Chasing Ice (PBS, Nova, 2102) and installations like Olafur Eliasson’s Your Waste of Time (MoMA, New York, 2013), Ruston created Are We Listening?, a work of small pieces of handmade paper into which random text is incorporated and overlaid with transparent paper. Human time and earth time, destruction and creation, recurrently emerge as central themes in Ruston’s art whether touched by fire or ice.

Chris Ruston Are We Listening? (2013) Handmade paper, ink, transparent paper 15cm x 10cm
Chris Ruston
Are We Listening? (2013)
Handmade paper, ink, transparent paper
15cm x 10cm

In capturing these themes, The Great Gathering (2015) may be Ruston’s masterpiece — so far — in making visible how the world touches us, and how we touch the world. In this work, she has drawn her inspiration from ammonite fossils on display in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge, and the Colchester Natural History Museum. The Great Gathering first appeared as an installation at the Colchester Natural History Museum, which is housed fittingly — especially for this work — in a deconsecrated church.

View of exhibition of The Great Gathering Natural History Museum Photo credit: Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015)
Natural History Museum, Colchester, Essex, England
Photo credit: Chris Ruston
Chris Ruston The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015) Mixed media
Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015)
On display at Turn the Page, Norwich, England, May 2016
Photo credit: Chris Ruston

Ruston writes:

Using the ammonites spiral shape as a starting point, these books represent the unfolding story of evolution. The humble ammonite is an abundant index fossil, easily recognised, and a regular feature in museum collections. Often associated with journeys, symbolically these particular fossils are believed to have absorbed the knowledge of the Universe from across the centuries.

Science and art are the presiding geniuses over many works of book art.

In The sciences of the artificial (1969), Herbert Simon emphasized: “The natural sciences are concerned with the way things are” and engineering, with the way things ought to be to attain goals. Like the scientist, the artist, too, is concerned with the way things are. They are the raw material with which the artist works or to which he or she responds. But like the engineer or the designer, the artist is concerned with the way things ought to be to make visible “the way things are”:

Artist: Chris Ruston The Great Gathering, 2016 Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how a solander box ought to be constructed to operate with the work and, in enclosing it, be “the work”;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

what materials (photos from the Hubble telescope) ought to be used to reflect a moment in time;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how thread, tape and stitch ought to be to hold together a spine that will flex and spiral into the shape of a fossil;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the color of the material ought to be juxtaposed with the material’s altered shape to carry meaning;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the shift from content to blankness ought to be juxtaposed with the material’s altered shape to carry meaning;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the selection and alteration of text ought to be made to show the fixity and flux of knowledge and ourselves;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews
The Great Gathering (2016)
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

and how our reflection in the mirror in Volume VII under the maker’s tools and the made thing ought to implicate us — a theme echoed above by Holuhraun, 2014-2015 — in an ongoing process of making and remaking.

41ypojq70jl-_sx307_bo1204203200_For her next invitation to the viewer to follow, unravel secrets and attend closely, Ruston is returning to the ocean.

Inspired by Philip Hoare’s Leviathan and his fascination with Melville’s Moby Dick, Ruston recently began research into whales and whaling logs for her next work. Like evolution, here is a subject of grandeur, expanse and time, even fire and ice. The sketchbook pages below tantalize. How will the artist, this time, make visible how the world touches us?


More of Chris Ruston’s work can be found here.

*In Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni,  the main character’s manservant is Leporello, who, when singing the Catalogue Aria, produces a book that endlessly unfolds the list of Don Giovanni’s conquests.

Bookmarking Book Art – A “white book report” on “The White Heat” at MARC STRAUS

Cardboard Box (White) for Invisible Text, “Called Back,” Epitaph for Emily Dickinson
Jeanne Silverthorne, 2017
Platinum silicone rubber, acid free paper, archival invisible ink
9 x 17 x 13 inches / 23 x 43 x 33 cm
Edition 1/3 with 1 A.P

Dare you see a soul at the white heat?
Then crouch within the door.
Red is the fire’s common tint;
But when the vivid ore
Has sated flame’s conditions,
Its quivering substance plays
Without a color but the light
Of unanointed blaze.
Least village boasts its blacksmith,
Whose anvil’s even din
Stands symbol for the finer forge
That soundless tugs within,
Refining these impatient ores
With hammer and with blaze,
Until the designated light
Repudiate the forge.    –  Emily Dickinson, Part One, Life, XXXIII

MARC STRAUS, the contemporary art gallery in the Lower East Side of New York, opened “an exhibition of white paintings and sculptures by an international selection of artists” on 3 June 2017. It runs through 3 July, and its title The White Heat comes from the first line of Dickinson’s poem above.

Books on Books offers this “white book report” on book art not included to put attendees in the mood for their experience of the works in white by artists such as

  • Damien Hirst
  • Nicole Eisenman
  • Enrico Castellani
  • Robert Barry
  • Fernanda Gomes
  • Antonio Santin
  • Jeanne Silverthorne
  • Joan Levison and others.
Book Faced Down – Embedded in Plaster, 1999
Found cook book and plaster block
Irwin Susskind, born 1935
34.6 x 20.9 x 6.5 cm (13 5/8 x 8 1/4 x 2 9/16 in.)
The Allan Chasanoff, B.A. 1961, Book Art Collection, curated with Doug Beube

Irwin Susskind‘s “Book Faced Down” is an example of the technique of mixed media – a stark white plaster block facing down the objectified cookbook –  to create book art. A piece of sheet cake, a cutting board?

Zurbarán’s Color Plates, 2011
Jonathan Callan
Chiseled book in perspex
46.4 × 71.1 × 5.7 cm

Jonathan Callan‘s piece denies viewers the colorful still lifes of Francisco de  Zurbarán and leaves them with this drained-of-color, chiselled double-page spread of a book on the artist.

Work of Linear – Actions, 2000
Noriko Ambe

Where Callan chisels away from the edges inward, Noriko Ambe carves from the inside almost to the edges in her work above.

Absence, 2004
J. Meejin Yoon

As the Straus exhibition notes, “In Chinese cultures, White is associated with Death.” In J. Meejin Yoon’s book Absence, the absence of color in a solid white block of thick stock cardboard pages and the “text” of one pinhole and two identical squares die-cut into each of its 120 pages – one for each story of New York’s Twin Towers including the antenna mast – lead the reader down through the missing buildings to the final page where the footprint of the absent structures ends in a die cut of the entire site of the World Trade Center.

Your House, 2006
Olafur Eliasson
Teixeira de Freitas, Lisboa, Portugal
Your House, 2006
Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson seems to have followed Yoon’s technical approach in Your House, 2006, although the effects are far more intricate.

Coral Colony, 2017 in progress
Julie K. Dodd
Untitled
Julie K. Dodd

Echoing Yoon’s somber note, Julie K. Dodd‘s paper and book art often dwell on environmental issues, such as the death of a coral colony above and the contours of the natural landscape versus manmade as shown in Untitled.

The Great Gathering,  VII The Time is Now, 2016
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

A more hopeful note is struck in the whiteness of Chris Ruston’s final “ammonite” book in the series The Great Gathering, inspired by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The mirror under the maker’s tools and the made thing implicate the viewer here and now in an optimistic ongoing evolutionary process of making and remaking.

Michael Mandiberg, Print Wikipedia, 2015
Exhibition “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!” by the Denny Gallery, 261 Broome Street in New York City, 18 June through 11 July, 2015.

Where the white of Yoon’s and Dodd’s works evokes absence and the white of Ruston’s work evokes the blank invitation to singular creativity, Michael Mandiberg‘s installation of multiples, Print Wikipedia, evokes the plenitude of white noise that is our online lives.

Swiss Army Book
Swiss Army Book, 1990
M. L. Van Nice
Gift of Lois Pollard Price
National Museum of Women in the Arts

And just as technologically allusive, M.L. Van Nice‘s Swiss Army Book poses (tongue in cheek?) the single volume as somehow able to capture, store and transmit knowledge in ways it need not, albeit the meaning of the whiteness here is a bit elusive.

Legal Process Narrative, 1996
Werner Pfeiffer
Law Library, University of Connecticut at Storrs

Werner Pfeiffer’s works constitute an extensive treatment in white. The installation at UConn Storrs represents a small proportion of the works shown in retrospectives in the last ten years at Bucknell, Cornell and the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art. Pfeiffer’s works touch on censorship, and from his Cornell exhibition, he explains:

The objects I create are made with real books. They are not casts, nor are they sculpted imitations. At its core each piece has bound, printed pages. Glued together and painstakingly covered with gesso, they are silenced and sealed for good. I practice this destruction, this obvious censorship, simply as metaphor. It is to visualize, to demonstrate, to provoke. For these acts of violence are not about the damage done to stacks of paper, to books. The objects are about the harm inflicted on the human spirit. The ropes, the nails, the clamps, the hooks and knifes are real as well. They are symbols of pain, of torture, of suppression which are inevitably brought on by the censor’s act.

Knotty Story
Werner Pfeiffer
Difficult to Fit
Werner Pfeiffer

With the advent of ebooks, Pfeiffer celebrates the tangibility of the book with his white gessoed book objects and their punning titles as well as origami-like works such as Zig-Zag.

But back to the white works of art at the MARC STRAUSS gallery.  Book art is not entirely neglected. Following in their tradition since 1984, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (“Kids of Survival”) pondered, discussed and “jammed” on 1895 novella by H.G. Wells to produce THE TIME MACHINE (after H.G.Wells), which is included in the exhibition.

THE TIME MACHINE (after H.G. Wells)
Tim Rollins and K.O.S., 2013
Matte acrylic, pencil, book pages on canvas
4 parts, each: 12 x 12 inches / 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Overall: 24 x 24 inches / 61 x 61 cm
Courtesy Studio K.O.S. and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

According to the artists, “We believe that every total work of art is a time machine – a synthesis of a living past and present located in an object that can only be completed by the social experience of a viewer in the future. The total work of art exists in the invisible fourth dimension of space/time and it is this notion that unites the works in the exhibition. We paint on historic texts in the present so that they can haunt our futures.”

Suitably prepared? Jump in your time machine and head over to 299 Grand Street, on the Lower East Side in New York, and immerse yourself in “The White Heat“.