The exhibition of artist’s book work in the old police station in Colchester has started with a bang of readings last Thursday night in the blizzard outside conditions but still about 30 folk turned up. This event flagged up this National storytelling week and it was well worth it. I was unsure what to expect altho I knew a lot of the bookartists were good I had no idea who was reading. The show was set up very well and the works look great. I shall list some I like below. Then the readings began at 7pm, 5 poets and writers; Steve Ovel (poet), Candyce Lange (writer), Natalie Pfeffer (poet), Pete Kennedy (poet, printer and prancer), Pete Smith (story teller).
Steve Ovel warmed the mike first, some of his poems seethed and what a lot he had got. I really liked several but I would suggest he finishes his next reading on a high note not down in the dumped relationship darkness.
Candyce Lange with her American drawl read her short story beautifully. For me there were touches of the way Bukowski reads. Her story was well crafted and held my interest, I really loved it and was shaken when she revealed that she had written it in a couple of hours.
Natalie Pfeffer read her poems beautifully and once again they were well crafted. I wasn’t taking notes so I cannot recall a word of them but she was impressive.
Pete Kennedy that’s me, well all I can say my reading from the combined texts in David jury’s letterpress version of my poems went down really well much to my surprise as I felt I was following some experienced practitioners whose word-smithing was excellent. Even my little jig went down well.
Pete Smith then told a story, ‘The Waterfowler’, this is national story telling week after all. He was lovely. He told the tale of how a man who used to shoot geese for a living from a punt and how he got lost during a shoot to be guided home by a mysterious man in a long black cloak a floppy hat and an upside down pipe. It warmed the cockles of me heart.
Artist’s books show
and the other volunteers at Slack have mounted this widely varied selection of books really well using the limited resources at hand. I thank them for all the hard work and dedication it must have taken. A special mention must go to Chris Clarke – who is responsible for the ‘mathematical equations and the unique logistics of hanging the work’. He is also a very personable bloke what has offered me advice on how I can improve my ‘talk and prance’ act! And of course my abject apology for accusing him of setting up the wrong track on Thursday nicht! I had just zoomed into the clouds reading the amalgam poem and I did not recognize the music so I hurled some nearly expletive deleted…s at him, something about not being able to get the staff… which he took graciously in his long stride (he’s about 6 foot 4!) and he put the next track on and THAT was the wrong ‘un, so there i were blithering away and he got it right and am sure I heard him whisper, ‘Shut up you twinkle toed prancer, just DANCE!’, but then again maybe he didn’t? Bless him.
Paula MacGregor has some lovely assemblages of interesting items picked up from second hand shops which she combines cleverly with her knowledge of making books. I liked the use of scrolls.
Sandie Cottee I think I am right in saying Sandee uses a ring binder machine to create some of her books which feature lots of collages. Many of her books ‘tell stories’ using ‘upcycled materials’.
Karen Dennison Karen is mainly a poet but she like to illustrate hers and others’ work. She is working on multi-layered imagery. I added the layer of the windows reflected in the glass.
Helen Armstrong Bland has done some brave complex folding using maps and images of people in which her stories emerge in ‘reconstructed narratives’.
Chris Rushton makes astounding books with dyed papers which she tears and folds in complicated ways sometimes adding words in her exquisite hand. Texture, pattern and shape abound.
Wendy Allen has done really tiny but significant books of late using letterpress and stitching. She is another book artist using the ancient art of scrolls but with an intricate swirl of stitches alongside words.
Ailsa Clarke has only one book in the show but it is very beautiful it’s hand-drawn words and marbled paper with careful folds enhanced by ‘scarlet thread’ looks like a bridge astraddle a river.
David Howe has sent in one of his unique ‘books’ with pages in a grid made of twigs which echo the window panes. His use of natural materials and the play of textures, pattern and space is always exciting. It is possible to read the words but I see them more as another texture, woven words symbolising signs for language.
Miranda Campbell has also used things from the woods to hold her beautifully curved stories on paper strips. Her ‘normal’ bookwork is ace and then she makes these wonderful book-sculptures.
Paul Garcia has taken to book-binding like a mathematician takes to Escher’s work and his output has the twists & turns of that Dutch master printer especially in the lovely red ink of his Celtic Knotted illustration. His attention to detail in his leather sculptured book in a box with a concave hole produced by the receding holes growing smaller reminds me of the apple shaped holes in my book ApulGold which is replicated in his rendition into which Garcia has put an infinite amount of skill and dedication into his work.
Pete Kennedy (talking about me) has put in a new concertina book showing images which he took of barges in the early 1980s. The quote from Joseph Conrad rings around the red sails. Also showing is the original jar shaped composition for the pages of Inside This Earthen Vessel.
David Jury has brought his wonderful version of Inside This Earthen Vessel which Paula has exhibited alongside the original. This set of prints show David’s requisite skill as a letterpress printer. Also congrats to Paula MacGregor and Pete Smith for the hanging. I love the posters of David’s letterpress set up which show the difficult task he had bringing together all of those differing fonts.
Sally Chinea has made some beautiful book-sculpture stories with which I complete this short report
The image of the cells at the back of the police station tells its own story of the history of this remarkable place.