Tag Archives: artist’s books

This Is Not A Book Review

The most amazing things that I saw walking around Fitzroy today (and there are many amazing things to see on Gertrude Street alone) was in the window of Artisan Books – the 7th Annual Artist Book Exhibition. There are more artist books inside; but these are three-dimensional (if not more considering the contents) objects and white gloves are provided for closer examination. There were 29 participating artists and slightly more books on exhibition (beautifully displayed – the elegant shelves of Artisan Books providing the prefect installation).

I was enchanted by the “Adventures of the Not So Well-Known Four” by Liz Powell brings back memories of Enid Bylton books (and the Comic Strip Presents “Five Go Mad In Dorset”). Also on display at Artisan Books is her “Tales of Daring Do”; the detail in these works and the collage of different elements makes them so appealing. Liz Powell is a NSW based a mixed media fibre artist and teacher. She who makes wonderful books complete with book boxes.

Melbourne-based artist, Sai-Wai Foo’s “The Early Bird Gets the Worm” is a magnificent example of paper cutting. I have seen many similar works by Nicolas Jones, a couple of years ago at Platform.

There are many other quality works in this exhibition; enough to appeal to many different tastes.

Image of book by Keira Hudson courtesy of Artisan Books

Image of glass book by Janis Nedela courtesy of Artisan Books

Around 2006-2007 I saw a lot of art made from old books. Old books have been stacked, folded and cut into new works of art. It appeared as if art made from old books has become a new genre; from Duchamp’s experiment, “Unhappy Readymade” (1919), a geometry book destroyed by the Parisian weather, repeated with variation until it become a genre. It was a wedding present to his sister Suzanne, who painted a picture of the book. Art from books was not a trend isolated to Melbourne – it is an international trend. At San Francisco Public Library in 2003 there was the “Reversing Vandalism”, an exhibition of over 200 original works of art created from the damaged books. There is now a book about it The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti  (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang). And “Extended Shelf Life” by Megan Johnston reports on creative ‘upcycling’ of old books in the Sydney Morning Herald (7/1/2012)

I haven’t seen as much art from books since 2010 Stephanie Hick exhibition “A Short Season” at No No Gallery featured wreaths of paper flowers made from pages from old children’s books. Now that I know about Annual Artist Book Exhibition I hope to see a lot more.



“Anthology” at Gallery 101 is a group exhibition of “artist books, journals, objects and two-dimensional work on paper and canvas” according to the entry in Art Almanac. But it is a lot more than that. There is so much to see in this exhibition and this short entry will mention only a small fraction of it.

I frequently complain about empty vacuous exhibitions lacking in content. This is not the case with Anthology. An exhibition with the theme of books has a lot of content. Even the list of works runs to 5 double-sided A4 pages. There is so much to look at in each of the nine artist’s installation. Each artist displays art and “resource materials’; the resource materials are often as aesthetically appealing as the art.

There has long been an interest in artist’s books, there is was even a trend two years ago of using old books as material for art, but this exhibition has more. Painter and mathematician, Peter James Smith’s paintings combine the beauty of nature with the chalkboard scientific diagrams. In adding antique objects – the ship’s brass compass, “the metal box containing 12 historical, scientific and literary texts” – the circle of aesthetics is completed.

Other artists also showed their inspiration in books and notebooks. Judy Holding shows the process from the reference material through to the completed work Diver Duck, a wall installation. Jan Learmonth eight travel journals are the book part of the exhibition along with her sculpture inspired by boat and river forms. (For a review of a previous exhibition by Learmonth at Gallery 101 see my entry The Trouble With Girls.)

For many of the artists (Angela Cavalieri, Mary Newsome, Carmel Wallace and Kate Derum) it was their artist’s books that were the focus of the exhibition, even if their display of resource material vied for attention. Printmaker Heather Shimmen’s display of resource material was so delicate with glass dome, coral, teapots with threads running between all of them.

The use of recycled material in the work some of the artists is a response to the plethorea of artifacts in the contemporary world. Carmel Wallace’s art practice has contemporary environmental sympathies. Her impressive net of “beach-found plastic objects and cable ties” – Red Sea 10: An Octopus’s Garden.  Kate Derum boxed tablaux, “The Gift Horse,” is a 3-dimensional collage of found material.

Pink dominates sculptor Stanley Farley’s part of the exhibition except for the large blue ‘Poetbureau’. The ‘Poetbureau’ is a large blue wooden cabinet in the shape of a Grecian urn with labelled draws in which to keep the work of poets.

I particularly enjoyed Mary Newsome in a “Box of Fragile Words” cutting up packing tape with the word Fragile printed on it to form other words: Rig, Rifle, Ear etc.

The exhibition looks like contemporary museum exhibitions rather than sparse art gallery installation. The art is not left in isolation on a white wall, the displays resource material completing the story. The curator, Dianna Gold, and installation team, along with the artists, should be congratulated for this approach.

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