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As a departure from our usual format of WOT WE DID, we invited a Guest Blogger – eminently qualified Helen Cole, to comment on an event that we were unable to attend. Helen was the judge for the 2013 Libris Artists Book Awards and in this post she talks about WOT SHE DID, and  provides insights into the awards and selects artists books to add to her commentary:


Artspace Mackay Libris Artists Book awards… some thoughts

2013 Libris Awards  .........Photo: Helen Cole

2013 Libris Awards installation ………Photo: Helen Cole

2013 Libris Awards installation  .........Photo: Helen Cole

2013 Libris Awards installation ………Photo: Helen Cole


The Libris exhibition, as always, looks fantastic in the Artspace gallery. The works are very varied, from codexes, scrolls, altered books, and boxes to woven and sculptural pieces.


Julie Barrett's Book

Julie Barrett: The mourning after …….Photo: Helen Cole.


The first thing that struck me when presented with the ninety books for the judging of the Libris Awards at Artspace Mackay was something that came up in our Trouble with artists’ books seminar last week- the inadequacy of the digital surrogate. Anna Thurgood, Director of Artspace Mackay had sent me images of each of the entries. Seeing them in the flesh mad me realize I had wildly mis-imagined the size of some of the works. For example, Julie Barratt’s The mourning after, perhaps 50 x 70 cm, I had imagined as a small hand-sized book. Conversely  Julie Bookless’ (interesting name for a bookmaker and a potential title for her book as it had neither image nor text but was still a very interesting work) Audrey was a tiny 10 cm tall  when I imagined it to be at least octavo size. Size does matter and it does have an effect on the impact of a book.


Julie Bookless: Audrey - Photo Helen Cole

Julie Bookless: Audrey ……..Photo Helen Cole


A noticeable difference between this and past awards was that, because there was no associated forum, very few of the artists who had entered attended the announcement of the award. This connection of the artists’ book community was such a wonderful part of the previous Mackay events and is perhaps the reason we had such a large attendance at The trouble with artists’ books seminar.


Michele Skelton: Wave form .......Photo: Helen Cole

WINNER Category 1. $10,000 Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal National Artists Book Award,
Michele Skelton, Wave form, woodblock print, unique. …….Photo: Helen Cole


The quality of the entries this year was very high and any of a dozen works could have won the major prize. The winner Wave form by Michele Skelton looks simple (in a photo) but as I said a photo can be deceiving; the book is deeply thought out and faultlessly constructed. It appears sculptural but is actually a traditional codex form with spine, cover and pages. The cover represents the calm of the sea and the shore when the book is closed and when it is opened the pages sewn into the spine spill out as waves which can be arranged and twisted to represent a raging sea. The choice of paper is perfect to allow this. The waves are printed from a woodblock and this choice of technique works beautifully with the colour and subject to evoke the classic Hokusai image The great wave. It has the advantage that it is an artist’s book that can be seen as a whole while on display without handling.


Caren Florence: WYSIWYG .........Photo: Helen Cole

Caren Florance: WYSIWYG ………Photo: Helen Cole


Another work that does that is Caren Florance’s clever WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). To enable the viewer to see the whole book without having to touch it, Caren letterpress printed a sheet multiple times then cut and bound the pages so that one line from each page is visible. They build up to a witty text written to the reader from the book’s point of view, stating that it understands the viewer’s problem and hopes it has solved it.  And it has.


Helen Cole  Coordinator, Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland


Thank you Helen for this commentary 









All  photographs  © Helen Cole 2013.    Copyright in the artworks resides with the artists.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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  1. […] on size as it’s not always easy to tell from a photo, a fact noted by the judge, Helen […]

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