As my new bookart exhibition opened on Monday in Colchester I was asked to try to define an artist’s book. An impossible task i think but I shall try to indicate some of the possibilities. the good news is that Peter Donaldson has agreed to let me do more than one ‘reading’, so the tousands of you who cannot make it this Saturday have at least one more opportunity, sorry about that.the time for the second ‘talk’, Saturday 15th Feb, is going to be different, it’s at 4pm, so that I can attend a talk from 2-3pm at First Site about the Agnes Denes show there.
Nowadays people would have you believe an artist’s book is ‘like this’ or ‘like that’ or ‘like the other’ but no, it’s not ‘like’ any set thing. To some folk Artist’s Books are ‘craft’ and the preference is letterpress but really the field is wide. Open to development & interpretation still and that is why I love it so. Jayne Knowles did these beautiful jewellery like ‘books’ precisely because she was a jeweller-type. Miranda Campbell makes beautifully crafted leather bound books but also, for me even more beautiful, because so exceptionally different assemblage material sculptural ‘bookartobjects’. I made a book from six clay tablets in pothi form. Some books are like origami folds, some are BIG some are small many are not bound at all, just sheets, some in order some not, sometimes in boxes sometimes in folders. Some are scrolled, some folded over several times, some intricately bound in as many ways as can be imagined; perfect, Coptic, Japanese stab, blind Belgian, the list is as endless as the people are creative. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with a book traditionally bound in the age old way with folios, thread, tape, glue or no glue etc.
Artist’s Books are made from almost anything. John Doubleday has one made from a stop tap box with a figure in it, the box opens like a book to reveal a man revealing himself (but he could have been relieving himself, just as funny). This is a one off, what is called a unique object, as opposed to an edition. Editions come in any number from 2 to say 2,000 or 2 million. Some artists take pride in making every aspect of their artist’s book, the paper, card, covers, folios, stitching et al. some artist’s books are mostly photographs, like those produced by Andrew Roth and in David Jury’s Morocco with its Humphrey Spender photos and carefully placed typo.
Lots of artist’s books are made from unusual materials & objects.
The field is wide open. Still some people support the notion they have to hand printed; letter press, screenprint, etching etc, whilst others use the wider variety of photo-reproductive processes available nowadays.
There’s a wonderful book full of many differing artists books
It gives some indication of the many different styles out there but I feel is only the tip of the iceberg. It seems that Coptic is a very popular form for binding. See Anna Johnson’s one about bookworms and Anglo Saxon riddles.
I hope that helps explain a bit about what artist’s books might be.