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GRACIA+LOUISE: A whisker of light @ Maitland Regional Art Gallery

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A Whisker of Light ………PHOTO:  a hold-up of a cut-out from the exhibition’s activity table

 

A Whisker of Light

An exhibition by Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison @ Maitland Regional Art Gallery March-April 2018

Along with the recent work of artists book shown in the vitrines, there was a few wall installations of Haby’s collages and Jennison’s pencil drawn birds.

The books are based on the layering of image fragments into a visual form of poetry and shown under glass much like museum specimens. These books when time is taken to ‘read’ can stir the imagination beyond the space of words.

The wall works, All breathing, all right, are a breathtaking 446 collages constructed on to antique postcards by Haby from 2006 to 2015. Overwhelming to take in on one visit these transformed postcards are regimented into columns that disrupt a formal ‘reading’ by left to right or of the entire work at once. Instead one discovers them individually, up close and at random bringing a kind of child play or ‘I spy’ to the engagement of this work.

Across the room in a free flowing formation is a flock of birds and one butterfly in flight, All flying, all right, drawn by the sensitive hand of Louise Jennison. Serendipitously, in the gallery space at certain times of the day, a streak of sunlight falls across the wall and seems to guide the birds as a reference to the exhibition title. In this gallery space these works form a kind of habit for the reimagining of the fragile relationship between humans and animals.

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All breathing, all right by Gracia Haby

Gracia Haby
All breathing, all right
2006–2015
Postcard collages

All breathing, all right (detail) by Gracia Haby

Gracia Haby
All breathing, all right (detail of 2 components)
2006–2015
Postcard collages

 

All flying, all right, by Louise Jennison

Louise Jennison
All flying, all right
2011–2014
Pencil on paper

 

3 books by Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
Disrupted and rumpled
Dim wood, spark bright
A warmed pebble in my hand

 

For further information about Gracia & Louise’s exhibitions see:

http://gracialouise.com/a-whisker-of-light

http://gracialouise.com/all-breathing-in-heaven

http://gracialouise.com/unwinking-night

 

Maitland Regional Art Gallery

 

 

 

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VICKY DISCUSSES ‘READING MONTAGES’ on the SLQ Blog

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Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

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Vicky has recently posted a her latest paper about her research on the State Library of Qld’s Blog. This latest post comments on the montage and is illustrated by some interesting books from the SLQ’s Artists’ Book Collection.

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Read on or visit the post here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/

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Reading Montages: perceptions, dilemmas, edges and resolution.

Nomenclature Dilemma: Collage or Montage

In this third blog post I will share the dilemmas of encountering the blurred boundaries associated with the lexicon of these art forms, for example: What is the difference between collage and montage? Does it matter? Are there different “readings” of collage vs montage images that have been reproduced by mechanical or digital means for both wall art, or as encountered in my research, book forms? I will present an Occam’s Razor resolution arising from the considerations that inform my research to provide a path through the complexity of these issues.

Responding to terminology dilemma:

As I progress through the research I am continually confronted with terminology issues and questions regarding the nature of montage and its intersection with collage. The dilemma is with me as a kind of Sisyphean cycle where, after climbing the mountain of wondrous diversity in the Australian Library of Art artists’ book collection; I am drawn back down by the weighty issues of inconsistent terminology.

Many artists, who cut, arrange and glue disparate and/or mixed media elements refer to their work as collage or for computer made images, digital collage.  This should be the end of the debate as the etymology of collage is the French word ‘to glue’. But there are others who cut and piece together disparate elements and ‘glue’ and then fuse them within the image and refer to their process as montage (or digital montage for computer images). Also interesting to note is that the origin of the word montage is a French word meaning ‘to mount’.  Is there a need to differentiate between these similar practices? Does terminology affect the ‘reading’ of these works? In my art practice I refer to myself as a montage maker, thinker and reader and as such I bring my own perspective to reading visual narratives.

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who prefer to be known as paper artists, make collage works. Their unique state artists’ books and democratic multiples in the form of zines and editions of artists’ books have a place within this discussion.
Haby and Jennison responded to my email question regarding the nature of the digital work in their book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, where they state that: ‘Digital collages are made in chorus with unique state pieces. They are all a means of making, with the ‘how’ of lesser interest to us than the ‘why’ or ‘message’.

In their statement above they suggest that the means of the making is secondary to the final work. Even when the collage has been digitally scanned and then printed it remains, for them, a collage.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

The book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, presents the reader with an enchanted narrative through the composition of images and poetic texts across the pages. Underpinning the reading is the smooth and seamless joins of the elements creating a surreal landscape with a theatre of colourful inhabitants. The compositional elements draw the reader into a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience of reading: where the fused elements are arranged in a mise en page; and the turning page emulates the scenes of a paper movie (i) . The small size text comes through the reading as a poetic aside to underscore the scene.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

Haby and Jennison’s careful cutting and pasting of added elements over or alongside the original image distinguish their broader collage work.  Again, in these works the silent edges between these interventions and the original image provide uninterrupted reading. Importantly as this transition or interval between the elements goes unnoticed the added element ultimately colonize the interior space and time of the original image.

So far in my research, I have not found many artists that tear and roughly cut their elements intentionally leaving these edges in the final montage for the reader to interpret. One example however is Lorelei Clark’s work, ‘Brisbane: River City‘.

Although the elements are fused by digital

reproduction, their roughly torn or cut edges seem to separate the elements so that the reading is disturbed much like a jump-cut (ii)  edit in a film.

'Brisbane: River City'

‘Brisbane: River City’

The elements combined in this way demand separate attention and focus on individual parts of the narrative or issue presented. As the source material may have been glossy magazines or pictorial publications, these edges could represent a critique or even an attack on social issues that affect the human condition. In many ways the reading is unsettling, rather like the political montages of Peter Lyssiotis, they shout back at the reader.

'The very first book of fish'

‘The very first book of fish’

Another example of the rough cut collage can be found in Jack Oudyn’s Book of Fish series of small books, where the original collage or paste-up can be seen in the ALA collection along with the small zine like productions. Rather than attached to the surface, the reproduction of these collages fuses the elements into the page and transforms the reading of the text and images. In these little books, the elements are submerged within the narrative and seem to float around like the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.

Jack Oudyn 'The very first book of fish'.

Jack Oudyn ‘The very first book of fish’.

My resolve:

For the purpose of this research, I have decided to take account of how the artist defines their work as stated in the Library catalogue. As a researcher I am reliant on the information supplied by the artist, either in the form of an artist’s statement or catalogue information. This information allows a deep engagement with the work that ultimately enriches the reading experience for the researcher. Many may consider that too much information may reduce the potential for the book to be reimagined, but for readers like myself there are many ‘readings’ of an artists’ book.  As social scientist, Pierre Bourdieu suggests that an artwork is:

‘in fact made not twice, but hundreds of times, thousands of times by all those who have an interest in it, who find a material or symbolic profit in reading it, classifying it, decoding it, commenting on it, reproducing it, criticizing  it, combating it, knowing it, possessing it.’ (iii)

As mentioned earlier in this blog I refer to my work as montage, and align my methodology and inspiration with that of film and the pioneers of montage and page design from the early 20th century. In this research I have found similarities in the ‘reading’ of collages that have been either created or reproduced through mechanical or digital processes with the images created as montages. As I strive to engage with the many new ways of reading that each artist presents, any background information can take me into new spaces and places, each time I read the same book.

So rather than questioning the terminology, either a collage or montage, I am more informed by the way elements are grafted or combined; their arrangement on the page; the typography and page design. When the elements such as type, photographs, painting, drawing, found objects etc have been fused within the space of the page of the book by photomechanical, digital or another printmaking process, I will read these as a montage. As such, in the research I will consider the following:

•    whether I am seduced by nature of the smooth transition and the interval between elements is subliminal or if the torn edge focuses my attention;
•    whether the adjacency of the elements is disturbing or attacking my attempts to flow smoothly;
•    whether the transition has been digitally achieved or by hand if the information is available.

The nature of the edges of the combined visual elements within the composition is a profound aspect to reading these visual books. So rather than questioning the terminology, whether a collage or montage, I will continue in my ‘montage readings’ informed by the narratives contained within and between grafted edges.

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Victoria Cooper

 

PART 2 of this research series can be viewed here https://wotwedid.com/2016/03/19/victorias-slq-blog-post-montage-research/

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i. Lou Stoumen is the author of visual books including ‘Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie‘ (1975)
ii. Film makers Jean-Luke Godard and Sergei Eisenstein championed the use of discontinuity devices such as jump cuts in scenes to disrupt the flow of the cinematic narrative and create the illusion of moving through time and space. This was intended to engage the viewer proactively to think about the issues surrounding the scene.
iii. Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field’. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford University Press, 1996. Editions du Seuil 1992. Page 171.

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THE ARTIST & PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE

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The forum panel

The forum panel….Photo: Anthony McKee

 

In February this year Melbourne hosted the biggest photobook event ever in this country. Called Photobook Melbourne the event brought together exponents, collectors and critics from around the world as well as from around Australia and New Zealand. Hundreds of books were handled, read and appraised in the many galleries and venues that came on board to support the event.

 

Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in their second volume of The Photobook: A History (2006), recognised artists who worked with photographs in a specific chapter entitled Appropriating Photography: The Artist’s Photobook.

Participants in the artists’ book discipline have been active indie, DIY publishers worldwide for sixty years or more and many of them use photography in their books. They have well established networks, events activities, awards, critical debate and collectors both private and public.

At a time such as Photobook Melbourne where all things photobook are celebrated and discussed it may be worthwhile to consider what concurrence may exist today between the artists’ book and the photobook. How do artists consider their use of photography and the photograph in their books? Is there any sympatico between the photobook and the artists’ book.

To address these and many more questions I was supported by the Photobook Melbourne organisers Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith, to convene a forum to bring the voice of the artists’ book into the photobook conversation. The participants in the forum were; Dr Lyn Ashby, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, Peter Lyssiotis, Des Cowley and Dr Victoria Cooper (who was co-opted as Georgia Hutchison withdrew due to personal reasons in the final days).

The proceedings of the forum, with the support of the participants, have now been formed into a PDF booklet that can be downloaded FREE from this site. To provide a taste of the presentations I present the following quotes from the texts:

 

The PDF Forum book

The PDF Forum book

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DOWNLOAD HERE:  PM-OTHER PB-BOOK

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Lyn Asby

Lyn Asby

Lyn Ashby

I make books. With few exceptions, these are hand-made, limited-edition books that would generally be considered to be “artist’s books” using the standard codex form. These are not photographic books. That is, the photograph is rarely the core of the meaning or purpose of the book. But I often use components or aspects of photographs and composite these with graphics, texts, drawings and painting etc, all of which feed into the overall material on each page.

 

 

Gracia Haby + Louise Jennison

Gracia Haby + Louise Jennison

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison

For those of you who we have yet to meet, we are besotted with paper for its adaptable, foldable, cut-able, concealable, and revealing nature. In our artists’ books, prints, zines, drawings, and collages, we use play, humour, and perhaps the poetic, to lure you closer. And sometimes this will incorporate photography. For us, it is not the medium that is always of greatest import, but the message. And so, we use found photographs in our artists’ books and zines not because they are photos, but because of what they can enable us to say, and what we hope you might feel.

 

 

Des Cowley

Des Cowley

Des Cowley

History of the Book Manager, Collection Development & Discovery, State Library Victoria

One of the challenges for libraries and collecting institutions is to build representative collections of contemporary books and ephemeral works created by artists, photographers, and zinemakers. Artists books, photobooks, and zines generally circulate outside mainstream distribution channels – publishers, general bookshops, distributors – and are effectively off-radar for many libraries. It is therefore incumbent upon staff in these institutions to build networks and relationships with the communities creating this work in order to be informed about what is being produced, and to ensure this material is acquired and preserved for future researchers.

 

Peter Lyssiotis

Peter Lyssiotis

Peter Lyssiotis

I had a friend who lived in Belgium. He died a while back. Before he did, though, he painted a pipe on a canvas and underneath it he wrote “This is not a pipe”.

To continue my friend’s mission I say “This is not a book”.

The artists’ book is rather a workshop, a garage; a space where a time-honored craft is practised: it is here that the world gets repaired, reconditioned, reassembled.

 

 

Victoria Cooper

Victoria Cooper

Victoria Cooper

The digital cutting, dissecting, layering and suturing of the photographic quotations is an absorbing process through which the visual story emerges. I then materialize this virtual image of the narrative as a physical book in many forms: scroll, concertina or codex.     Rather than images on a gallery wall, the narrative space of the book offers for me an endless potential for interplay of the corporeal and the imagination through the idiosyncratic experience of reading.

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DOWNLOAD THE BOOK HERE:  PM-OTHER PB-BOOK

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GEORGE PATON GALLERY: Artist’s Books (reprised) Exhibition

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Selfie

Artists’ Book Selfie

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Digging in the archive: past and present

 

Artist’s Books (reprised) [artists’ books 1978-2014]: George Paton Gallery, University of Melbourne

Dates: 26 August to 5 September

 

A recent show entitled, George Paton Gallery, Artist’s Books (reprised), promoted that it would be showing “four decades of investigation into the possibilities and limitations of the artists’ book form.” Whilst the exhibition as presented had some gaps in the chronology, it did live up to its claim of presenting a significant collection of contemporary works alongside a carefully curated group of seminal artists’ book works from shows presented at the George Paton Gallery in the 1970s and 80s.

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George Paton Gallery Website notice

George Paton Gallery Website notice

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Visitors to the gallery encountered a space resembling a reading room with trestle tables and bookshelves presenting the contemporary books for viewing, handling and reading. Some books were marked as ‘white-gloved’ handling whilst the majority was available for direct tactile experience. Enclosed in vitrines were the historical books on loan from the University of Melbourne archives. Interestingly during the 1970s and 80s these books would have only cost a few dollars to buy but now they attract significant values. Included in this prized collection of books are: Ed Ruscha’s Small Flres and Milk; 1964; Marcel Broodthaers’ A Voyage on the North Sea; 1973; Sol LeWitt’s Grids – using all combinations of straight, not- straight and broken lines; 1975; Richard Long’s The North Woods, 1977 and Dieter Roth’s, Gesammelte Werke, Band 7, 1974. These books were sourced from past exhibitions held by the George Paton Galley: Artists’ Books/Bookworks from 1978 and Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! from 1982, the latter curated by Canadian Tim Guest.

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George Paton Gallery

George Paton Gallery

 

In all just over 100 books were available for viewing essentially coming from a ‘call out’ for artists book makers to present work for the show. There were some interesting names; Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser, Sandra Bridie, mail artist David Dellafiora, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, and photo-newspaper publisher Jacob Raupach. Anyone with a preconceived idea of what an artists’ book is, or should be, may have been challenged by some of the works in the show – but what an experience it was to be challenged in that way. It was a rare opportunity to view and compare such a diverse and historical collection of artists’ books.

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Exhibition installation

Exhibition installation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Antoni Jach’s Faded World and books by other artists

Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser books

Books by Peter Lyssiotis, Theo Strasser and others

 

After spending a couple of hours in the exhibition space I searched for a way of describing the show. Then I found a text that offered a perceptive critical evaluation of the artists’ book genre. Some relevant passages from this text follow…

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Artists’ books can most simply be described as those books which have been conceived, designed and produced by visual artists. As distinguished from those books about artists, such as a monograph of catalogue raisonee, or about art, artists’ books are instead complete artworks in themselves: they are artworks that are presented in the form of books.

 Since about 1960 a distinct genre of artists’ books has appeared. These are by artists who are self-consciously exploring the possibilities of printed books: the social dynamics of a reproducible vs. a unique art object; the aesthetics of the mass print media vs. fine art prints or deluxe editions.

 The contemporary genre of artists’ books is now a widespread phenomenon. Practically every significant development in western art has been reflected in the ongoing publication of artists’ books. There are books coming out of the movements of pop art, minimalism, arte povera, performance art, fluxus, happenings, and new image painting. Conceptual artists of the 1960’s and 70’s in particular, utilized the book form as a method of realizing artworks. We can regard these books now as a vein which runs through many areas of contemporary art and includes diverse movements, interests and preoccupations.

Or have the interests been so diverse? Pop art, minimalism, performance art, arts provera, were all movements distinct from (even antagonistic to) one another, yet they all belonged to a general tendency towards “non-objective” art… Briefly, this tendency has been reflected in a desire on the part of artists to explore new media, in an attempt to abandon the traditional (modernist) disciplines of painting and sculpture. It was/is in favour of the widened scope of the flux and flow of a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, an artist may be involved in sculpture as easily as film, performance, video, photography and/or books. Perhaps most significantly there has been a conscious determination to undercut the reification of artworks – society’s valuation of art – by concentrating on the non-objective. This has meant, for instance, producing works from common industrial or throw away materials (art povera, fluxus), works constructed only in theory (conceptual art, language art), imagery stolen from the banal repertoire of mass media (pop art) ….. All this seems to have been more successful as an ideal than as an actual practice. Minimal sculpture in the late 60’s was quite successful in the art marketplace. Conceptual art has been immensely influential, popular, and saleable. As much as these artworks were determined in opposition to the bourgeoise reification of art they were inevitably complicit with it. That is because capitalism is a social system which seems to embrace new ideas but in fact appropriates and establishes a commercial value for then.

 

Bling book - title and maker to be added soon

A book by Dianne Dickson

 

Artists’ books typify this interest in non-objectivity and reflect the internal contradictions of such an ideal in a particular way. In contrast to the traditional “livre d’artistes” of deluxe editions, artists’ books are usually inexpensively produced and sold. They are affordable, accessible and as plebeian as an art object can be. In fact they are almost too exemplary of the non-objective ideal.

As books they are not commercially viable simply because they defy the expectations of a mass market by presenting avant-garde information. Yet they have few patrons in the art world because their affordability to the public represents a low profit for a dealer. Also, books can not [sic] be viewed in the same way as other art objects; they must be held in one’s own hands and read. It is remarkable then that despite the contradictions and foils of art’s survival, artists’ books have become such a highly evolved genre of contemporary art, as evidenced by the works in this exhibition.

 

Suzannah Griffith's While The City Sleeps

Suzannah Griffith’s While The City Sleeps

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To illustrate means to make something clear by example, or to adorn a book with pictures. Within a publication, an illustration can be a picture, a drawing, a photograph, a design, or an ornament. Illustration is, of course, a prominent element in all mass media publishing. To consider all illustrations as a single genre is, in a way, quite boggling. It means imagining all magazines in the world and all the printed pictures.

With this imagining I try to analyze these pictures but have only an individual response to guide me. In principle my inquiries and suggestions are all subjective, my curiosity is intuitive, my critical remarks are speculative. These habits of mind and predilections constitute the trail of my argument. Because illustration operates as such an enormous social phenomenon, it is difficult to grasp its total meaning as a genre. It is too huge a concept. Yet paradoxically, all is intimately familiar.

 

Sarah McConnell's 29 2011

Sarah McConnell’s 29 2011

 

Practically everyone looks through magazines, sees the pictures, knows what they mean. But try to separate yourself from a simple recognition of the picture and examine the picture as a conceptual model and you may understand how difficult it can be. An illustration is not simply a picture of an object or thing. In that object’s absence a picture is a way of visualizing it, recalling it or conjuring it. Then all together the medium of illustration is a way of visualizing the world. As illustration is a mass medium, it is certainly a very powerful and influential instrument of ideas. As a conceptual model, a picture is showing us how to think and what to think about.

Art characteristically departs from conventions. In leading the way from these conventions and artists can end up revealing and/or inventing upon a given culture, popular or otherwise. Furthermore, the artists’ books in this exhibition occupy a middle ground between the hermetic region of high art and the mass culture of popular illustration. They also embody a comparison between the two; they have been produced as a way of participating (in theory at least) in the mainstream of popular culture at the same time as they are an extension of art, extending beyond galleries and museums, and outside of the realm of the rarified art object.

 

Jon Hewitt's feel the confidence 2011

Jon Hewitt’s feel the confidence 2011

 

 

It may be noted that the photo works included in the exhibition are not photography books in the usual sense. For example in some books, the artist has exchanged the customary fine detail and high quality printing found in most art photography books for the flat, grainy, aesthetic of newswire or snapshot photographs, with all their vernacular associations. In other books the artist may manipulate the photographic frame by cropping it tightly to draw attention to narrative details or expanding it to the edge of the page for a window effect. Some books here constitute a repertoire of personalities through a wide array of photographic self-portraits. Others are collections of images specific thematic subject matter which suggests an interpretation of the complex meanings of culture and its institutions through the examination of its artifacts.

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Yasmin Heisler's formed in air 2014

Yasmin Heisler’s formed in air 2014

 

In opposition to the conventions of art photography, which dictate an aesthetic around the “integrity” of an individual print, these photo books, to some extent, are each engaged with the qualities inherent in reproduction by offset and other printing processes. The artists represented in this exhibition are utilizing photographs as something other than a clear, well-composed picture. In their books they manipulate the “natural reality” of photographs and so inform our recognition of photographic images with their mannered inventiveness.

There are also a few books included here which are constructed sculpturally to introduce a tactile sensation to the fingertips and so expand the act of reading illustrations into the field of sensory awareness.

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Bridget Hillebrand's Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

Bridget Hillebrand’s Book of Chalk 2014 and Book of Stone 2014

 

Finally, just as the works in this exhibition are included towards an exploration of the social and aesthetic attributes of illustration, they also demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world. Theses artist’s books reveal and embody a way of reading deeply into they dimensions of contemporary culture. As much as they foster an incipient consciousness they ask for sensitivity on the part of the reader.

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Tim Guest, the curator's essay for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist's Books and Not (e) Book!

Tim Guest, the catalogue for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book!

 

These words come from Tim Guest, the curator for the 1982 George Paton Gallery Artist’s Books and Not (e) Book! A copy of his catalogue for the show was made available at the exhibition. Guest’s commentary is as relevant today as it was in the early 1980s, and while we have moved on, and now view the artists’ book works of that time with a degree of comfort and acceptance, the new artists’ book works continue, as Guest points out to, ‘demonstrate a way of looking at and experiencing the world’. For me it emphatically confirms that artists’ book are still ‘edgy’ and still pushing limits.

 

Doug Spowart

September 5, 2014

 

DOWNLOAD the contemporary list of artists’ books gpg artists books list of works

 

DOWNLOAD the books on loan from the University of Melbourne ArtistsBooksloanselectionGPG2014 docx

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Part of the associated activity for the show – an artists’ book making event outside the gallery led by Michele and Laine. It was a a sunny and warm late winter’s day in Melbourne.

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist's Book activity

Michele Grimston and Laine Stewart and their Free Artist’s Book activity

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