Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Siganto Foundation


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CODEX X Papers – Journal Cover+Text Page


Early in 2019 Vicky and I received an email from Monica Oppen and Caren Florance inviting our contribution to a report commenting on news and updates on book arts activity in the Antipodes that they were preparing for the Codex Foundation‘s new journal The Codex Papers. They mentioned that they were asking for those involved with projects, conferences, workshops, collections and awards to send through their comments and plans so the local scene could be collated into the report.

Monica and Caren added that, Your commitment to the photo books and also to documenting events for the past years (or is it decades now?!) has lead us to decide that we must ask you what you see as the trends and key events of the past couple of years. Any feedback (your personal view) on the state of the book arts in Australia at the moment would also be of interest.

We were particularly excited to have been invited to contribute and over the days following the request we collaborated on a document that outlined our view of the scene. Photo documents that we had made were reviewed and prepared and forwarded, along with our text to Monica and Caren. The task of collating and blending the individual responses into a single report was completed and forwarded to the Codex Foundation.

Early this year the report was published and we received a contributor’s copy. We were impressed with the journal and the many interesting commentaries on the book arts from around the world. It was interesting to see the complete report and to read the individual contributor’s comments.

Published below is our text and some of the photographs we contributed in response to Monica and Caren’s invitation.



Notes on the Antipodean book arts in the Antipodes for Caren + Monica


Noreen Grahame in the exhibition Lessons in History Vol. II – Democracy 2012


In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the world of the artists’ book in Australia was an exciting place. In Brisbane Noreen Grahame, through her Grahame Gallery, Numero Uno Publications, Editions and the Centre of the Artists’ Book championed the Australian artists’ book discipline. Grahame efforts were directed towards artists’ book exhibitions which started in 1991, art book fairs the first of which was held in 1994 and special invitation themed artists’ book exhibitions featuring clique of prominent national book makers.

Artspace Mackay under the directorship of Robert Heather hosted the first of 5 Focus on Artists’ Book (FOAB) Conferences in 2004. Over the years FOAB brought to Australia some of the world’s noteworthy practitioners and commentators on the discipline including Marshall Weber, Keith A Smith and Scott McCarney and juxtaposed them with local key practitioners. For the next 6 years those interested in artists’ books gathered to participate in lectures, workshops, fairs and a solid community of practice developed. In 2006 Artspace Mackay added the Libris Awards: The Australian Artists’ Book Prize that, with a few breaks, continues to be the premier curated artists’ book exhibition and award in Australia.


Noosa 08 Artists’ Book exhibition – Noosa Regional Gallery

Queensland also had 10 years of artists’ book exhibitions and 5 years of conferences from 1999-2008 at Noosa Regional Art Gallery. In many ways Queensland was the place to be if you were into artists’ books.


Southern Cross Artists’ Book Award 2007

In this period a few other artists’ book awards took place including the Southern Cross University’s Acquisitive Artists’ Book Award from 2005-2011.


Throughout the 1990s and until fairly recent times State Libraries and the National Library of Australia actively collected and built significant artists’ book collections. These included many forms of the artists’ book including: private press publications, significant book works by recognised international and Australian practitioners, books as object/sculpture, zines and the emergent photobook.


Now around the country major libraries are feeling the push by managers to move access to the library’s resources online thus the importance of the physical object and the tactile connection with items such as artists’ books is now not considered part of the service that the institution needs to provide. For example, the State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art, which houses one of the largest artists’ book collections in the country, is now without a dedicated librarian. Research fellowships and seminars that were once administered by the Library and supported the Siganto Foundation are no longer available. Information and advice about the collection and other exhibitions or group viewings of artists’ books from their extensive collection have been significantly affected.


In recent years two Artists Book Brisbane Events coordinated by Dr Tim Mosely at Griffith University has facilitated a significant connection between the American and European scenes with guest speakers like Brad Freeman (Columbia University – Journal of Artists Books), Sarah Bodman (Centre for Fine Print Research – The University of the West of England), Ulrike Stoltz and Uta Schneider (USUS). The conferences also have included a place for discussion and review of the discipline by academics and emergent artist practitioners from Masters and Doctoral programs. These two ABBE conferences have provided a platform for academic discourse.

The artists’ book medium has been principally the realm of the printmaker as their artform easily enabled the production of printed multiples. Digital technologies, new double-sided inkjet papers as well as print-on-demand technologies have enabled the emergence of a range of new self-publishers – particularly photographers.

In 2011 I completed my PhD the title of which was Self-publishing in the digital age: the hybrid photobook. From my experiences in the artists’ book field as a practitioner and commentator and my lifelong activities in photography I saw a future for the photobook which could be informed by the freedoms and the possibilities for the presentation of narratives. While some aspects of this prophecy have been the case with some photographers, particularly those involved in academic study, the main thrust for the contemporary photobook has been towards the collaboration with graphic designers. These books take on various design and structure enhancements including special bindings, foldouts, mixed papers, page sizes, inclusions and loose components that can, at times, dilute the potential power of the simple photographic narrative sequence. The contemporary photobook has developed into its own discipline and through the universal communication possibilities of social media, conferences and awards a new tribe has emerged quite separate from and unaffected by the artists’ book community.


NGV Melbourne Art Book Fair 2017

Over the last 5 years the National Gallery of Victoria has presented the Melbourne Art Book Fair. In keeping with the art book fair worldwide movement participants man tables selling their publications. These can range from Institutional/gallery catalogues, trade art publications and monographs, artists’ books, photobooks and zines. The umbrella-like term and the spectacle of the ‘Art Book Fair’ as an event to witness and participate in has captured the individual disciplines and united the various tribes into one, not so homogeneous – community.


A quick review of the 2019 Melbourne Art Book Fair’s 86 table-holders there were only a handful of artists’ book-makers, perhaps a similar number of photobook publishers and a large contingent of zinesters and self-published magazines. The bulk of the tables were held by book distributors, bookshops, arts organisations, educational institutions and art galleries. The discipline of artists’ books was not significantly represented in this space. Was that due to the National Gallery of Victoria’s selection of table-holders or was it to do with artists’ book practitioners not considering the event as a relevant opportunity to show and sell their works?


Ultimately the question is – what is the status of the artists’ book in Australia at this time? My impression is that one of artists’ books key strengths was its closeness to the printmaking discipline and the cohesive bond of makers, critics and commentators, educators, journals, collectors and patrons. As many of these are connected to the tertiary academic environment and collecting libraries, both of which are fighting for their relevance in a changing education and library world, could it be considered that this is a defining moment in the history and the future of the artists’ book in this country?


Doug Spowart co-written with Victoria Cooper





All photographs ©Doug Spowart




MONTAGE+THE ARTISTS’ BOOK: a paper by Victoria Cooper

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Victoria and the ARTISTS’ BOOK YEARBOOK 2018-9


 I’ve recently had a major paper on my research into the montage and artists’ books published in the ARTISTS’ BOOK YEARBOOK 2017-8 edited by Sarah Bodman from the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) at the University of the West of England. The paper covers ongoing research which was undertaken as part of my Siganto Foundation Research Fellowship at the State Library of Queensland.



Here are the first 2 paragraphs from the paper




Each time I am drawn into the montage image as a reader, I experience a liminal moment – I am at a threshold where I will enter into an unknown space. Although I may recognise familiar characteristics in each fragment I am disorientated by their juxtaposition in these hybrid images. My focus for the Siganto Research Fellowship in the Australian Library of Art (ALA) collection, at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) is to review and study this liminal reading of the montage through the edges and joins of the fragments. In this research I am guided by the writing of Pierre Bourdieu, Roland Barthes and Sergei Eisenstein to orient myself in the reading and articulate my findings from the perspective of the reader. Also underpinning this research is the extensive history of combining, gluing, montaging, and collaging of image work in many mediums including film, photography and book making.


During my fellowship, I have reviewed over 100 artists’ books and many artists’ statements held in the ALA. The scope of this research was limited to particular works of Australian artists including Peter Lyssiotis, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison. However selected works by British artist Helen Douglas and other international artists from the ALA collection were also considered in my research to include an international perspective. As I am a montage maker and thinker, I have decided to include some artists’ books that–although by the artist’s definition are collage– I ‘read’ as montage. My focus is on the visual ‘reading’ of the combined fragments through their edges and the spaces between. There are also considerations for the combination with mixed media including sound, photography and drawing.

This investigation does not set out to define a lexicon for montage or collage for the makeri and as such, in the writing, I will refer to the image works I am researching as montage/collage.

[i] See my blog post for the Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland, http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/


Key books that I discuss in the paper are from the following artists:

Peter Lyssiotis, Feather and Prey, (1997), Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne

Peter Lyssiotis, Products of Wealth, (1997), Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne

Lorelei Clark, Brisbane: River City, (2010), Lagoongrass Press, Brisbane

Jack Oudyn, The very first book of fish, (199?), Micro Press, Ormiston, Queensland

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, And we stood alone in the silent night, (2008), Melbourne

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, Salvaged Relatives, Melbourne

Lyn Ashby, 20 minutes, , (2011), ThisTooPress, Victoria

Helen Douglas & Zoe Irvine, Illiers Combray. (2004), Weproductions, Scotland

Dianne Fogwell, Gene Pool, (2000), Edition & Artist Book Studio, Canberra School of Art, Canberra


You can download a copy of my paper HERE

PLEASE NOTE: This download version contains colour photographs of the books discussed – the Yearbook is published in monochrome.


Thank you to all the artists who gave permission for their works to be photographed and presented in the publication.

Enjoy — and I would appreciate any comments you may have about the paper…


You can buy your own hard copy of the Yearbook from UWE HERE

UWE Publications website












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Post event resfreshments on level 5 of the SLQ

Post event refreshments on level 5 of the SLQ



The Program: The Siganto Foundation Fellowship artist book series 2016 – April 17


From 10am-1pm – White Gloves Room, level 4. The Siganto Foundation Fellows presented a display that featured their research and creative works which included research papers, artist books, drawings, letterpresses and prints. The Fellows spoke with attendees about their work and research outcomes. Participating in the Fellows White Gloves event were Peter Anderson, Lyn Ashby, Julie Barratt, Victoria Cooper, Marion Crawford, Jan Davis, Clyde McGill and Doug Spowart.

At 1:30pm on the Knowledge Walk Stage on level 1 – Clyde McGill presented Looking for Place, a performance for his artist book.

At 2pm The lecture component of the event was opened by Chief Executive Officer and State Librarian, Sonia Cooper. This was followed by a presentation by guest, UK artist and designer, Guy Begbie who talked about his current interdisciplinary arts practice. Following on – Dr Victoria Cooper, the 2015 Siganto Foundation Fellow, talked about her research into the use of montage in the State Library of Queensland’s artists’ book collection.

From 3.30pm attendees enjoyed refreshments in the SLQ Boardroom on level 5.




Siganto Foundation Fellows in the White Gloves Room

Siganto Foundation Fellows in the White Gloves Room


Clyde McGill performing Looking for Place @ SLQ Sigantio Artists Book Series 2016 event

Clyde McGill performing Looking for Place @ SLQ Sigantio Artists Book Series 2016 event


CLYDE McGILL: Looking for Place, a performance for artist book (an extract)

Crossing the river under the Goodwill bridge, knee then neck deep in the warm water, not too salty, navigating around the mangrove roots, expecting to hear mud crabs clanking and whistling, curling my toes just in case, alloneword, who calls me fictivefriend, if only he knew, shows me another pressed flower (soggy) and a leaf. Then a pterodactyl feather he says was floating down from Mt Bartle Frere last night, I suggest it was the southern end of the Glass House Mountains. It looks like it’s from the ibisosaurus between GOMA and SLQ. We are dodging the rivercat (aow carrying our bag of sandwiches above his head), the tide is running. Finally making our way over to HMAS Diamantina to borrow her (alloneword thinks we’ll have to pay), in our bid to sail her along the Diamantina River (there is water). It’s an incredible resonance of names and place, isn’t it fictivefriend, he asks. Soon we’ll picnique (no replacements found, typeahead here) on the shores of the Inland Sea. We drip mud as we tell the man at the dock entrance about our project, it’s exciting, he raises his eyebrows, says what(?) looks away and closes the gate.


SLQ VIDEO of the performance: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/audio-video/webcasts/recent-webcasts/clyde-mcgills-performance

Clyde McGill performing his artists' book Looking for Place

Clyde McGill performing his artists’ book Looking for Place

Clyde McGill performing Looking for Place @ SLQ Sigantio Artists Book Series 2016 event

Clyde McGill presents a fragment of his presentation to Dr Marie Siganto.



Christene Drewe from the SLQ introduces the program for the day

Christene Drewe from the SLQ introduces the program for the day


Guy Begbie presenting @ Siganto Seminar Series 2016

Guy Begbie presenting @ Siganto Seminar Series 2016




Guy Begbie is an interdisciplinary artist, bookbinder & university associate lecturer.

As an artist, he makes book works influenced by a core interest in parallels between bookbinding structures & architectural forms.

He works in a variety of media, that includes traditional bindery materials, drawing, painting, printmaking, sculptural casting and filmmaking.

His work uses non-linear narrative and sculptural forms to investigate further innovative structures for the book and the potential in its transition from a closed two dimension to an opened three dimensionality.

The notion of a contained space in the book is of particular interest, both conceptually and physically, with book works alluding to spatial qualities in architecture and the built environment.

Filmic and time based qualities are also examined in other book works, using painterly printmaking media to present visual distillations of memories of place and the the fleeting moment.

The relationship of the book juxtaposed with the solid non-paper based artifact is also of concern and is tested through placement and the filming of constructed books and cast objects that both share some common aspects in media and construction methodologies.

This dichotomy of the kinetic book structure and the static cast form, is re-scaled in projection and further informed by the sound of the book, captured through recording the making and placement processes, then configured to provide audio soundtrack supporting the moving visual image.


SLQ Video of Guy’s presentation: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/audio-video/webcasts/recent-webcasts/guy-begbie


Dr Victoria Cooper presenting @ Siganto Seminar Series 2016

Dr Victoria Cooper presenting @ Siganto Seminar Series 2016



A segment from Victoria’s presentation follows:


Montage Readings: Informed by History


There is a long tradition of artists and designers creatively combining images.

Photomontage or combination printing has its origins in late-nineteenth-century pictorial photography, most notably in the work of Henry Peach Robinson and Oscar Rejlander.

Then in the early twentieth century, Russian filmmakers, notably Sergei Eisenstein, pioneered the practice of montage in motion picture films to present animated visual concepts and to record the passing of time. Also in the first part of the 20th century, there was the work of the German and Russian visual artists including Hanna Höch, George Grosz, John Heartfield, El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko used the “cut and paste” mediums of photocollage and photomontage to create political and social commentaries.

The surrealists such as Max Ernst, and Salvador Dalí and many other artists of this movement used the montage/collage to create visual contradictions referencing the uncanny connection between psychology of dreams and familiar experiences of the world.

Bauhaus teacher, pioneering designer and experimental artist László Moholy-Nagy became well known for his creative use of photomontage with text and image to construct innovative posters and page designs for his visual narratives. In a 1925 text, Painting Photography Film, Moholy-Nagy described this work as photoplastics.


My Project

Rather than see the concept of montage limited to that of a special case of film editing, he argues that the montage … is a principle to be found underlying artistic construction of all kinds

Eisenstein’s original concept of montage was that meaning in the cinema was not inherent in any filmed object but was carried by the collision of two signifying elements.

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith Eisenstein on Montage, in Towards a Theory of Montage, 2010 pp. xiii-xvi

From the research I was drawn to the montage as a way of thinking and making. In this Fellowship I am now engaged with the montage and its ‘reading”. In this project I intended to investigate the montage through the Reading the elements… their Edges, Borders and Intervals.. or their ‘collisions’ The act of cutting and splicing in the creation of the collage/montage assigns new meanings and readings to the individual fragments. Each element, fractured by tearing or careful cutting (whether physical or virtual) before the blending, overprinting, or collage construction phase, forms the basic structure, a mise-en-scène, or syntax, of the final visual composition and narrative work.

I am interested in the differences of reading that is created through of the visible edge As opposed to the Fused and the seamless edge of the elements in montage.

These edges, whether seamless or visible, always refer to the nature of its original content, as in the grafted fruit tree where the origins of the elements are still evident. The narrative then becomes embedded or montaged inside the reading of the image or the page.


More to follow in a subsequent post on this Blog. The SLQ will post a video of the presentation shortly


SLQ Video of the lecture: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/audio-video/webcasts/recent-webcasts/victoria-cooper


We offer our thanks to the SLQ team: Christene Drewe, Sharon Nolan, Bec Kilner, and Janette Garrard and also to the Dr Marie Siganto and the Siganto Foundation for their support of this event.



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Recently Victoria’s ongoing research on the topic of montage in artists’ books was published. This paper discussed Peter Lyssiotis’ work and the use of photomontage.


‘Fractured Worlds’ (i) : Considering the photomontage work of Peter Lyssiotis


Photomontage is the cause before it becomes the picture.  . . .
For me, ideas present themselves as a presence. Their full realization depends not so much on thinking them, but rather in making them…. (ii)

Spanning several decades of artists’ book production, Peter Lyssiotis’ work both openly probes contemporary political issues, while in many books, presents an enigmatic personal vision through his poetic visual narratives. Lyssiotis is a not only an artist and maker of books he is also a reader; he has an extensive knowledge of literature along with historical and contemporary thinking on art. Inspired by the political montage work of German artist John Heartfield, Lyssiotis brings to his photomontage compositions well researched and deeply considered thought processes. As he creates his montage work, Lyssiotis will often have metaphorical conversations with Heartfield. In a recent personal communication Lyssiotis poetically expressed this deep connection:

The shadow of John Heartfield always crosses the work I am making. Sometimes he’s so pleased he smiles and sometimes he gets so annoyed his shadow becomes pitch black. . . (iii)

In my research at the ALA, I look at Lyssiotis’ work not only for its content but also for the deeply considered and painstaking aesthetic work behind each montage production in image, page and book. In his statement in Products of wealth (cited in the epigraph) he discloses how the power of the work is developed through the making. It is this Material Thinking (iv) process that informs my ‘reading’ of the artists books I have chosen to engage with in this research. All artists’ books are invested with rich imagery drawn from the artist’s mind and hand, including computer or photo-mechanically generated and composed narratives.

As a reader of these books I now hold the object that represents the time spent problem solving, the years of knowledge in making and working with materials, the conceptual development of all elements that is the book–whether simple or complex, the aesthetic choices for image, page and text design, the many small or big decisions that are embodied in this work of art that is made to be held and considered by a reader.  My challenge now is to find a way to share these insights with you as a distant reader who is unable to take in the necessary sensory and haptic experience of reading these works of art. In this blog I share my ruminations and questions that inspire me to read and read again many times these books of wondering and wandering, which are deeply poetic and sometimes melancholic.

I chose, Feather and Prey, for the deeply considered and poetic use of the page; the balance and arrangement of image, text and white space. Alternatively, Products Of Wealth has politically motivated photomontage prints tipped-in or glued onto the page. These are two very different ways of composing a narrative with photomontage and text and ultimately presented two different experiences for reading the montage.

Feather and Prey is bound in black leather with details of red leather on the spine and embossed images on the front and back covers.

Covers of Feather and prey by Peter Lyssiotis.

These embossed images at the beginning and end importantly announce that the reading starts from the cover rather than from inside the book. Along with this distinctive book binding, the use of fine art papers and considered printing processes, suggests a reverence in the reading of each page.

The photo-elements in Lyssiotis’ montage narratives are no longer records of reality but now have emerged, through a process of poiesis, as visual codes with a new life and purpose:

In these images giant moths are nibbling away at the perfect mechanical reproduction that photography promises. They don’t rely on the traditional borders of a photograph to tell them when to start and where to finish. They don’t want to be a photograph; they would prefer to be maquettes for pieces of sculpture. (v)

These new hybrid images create a disturbance within the familiar routine of everyday practice and present an alternate way of perceiving and referring to the world. The visual semiotics of reality that photography represents is now channeling through montage–new spaces for imagining–a poetics of dreams.

But what characteristic does Lyssiotis identify in each element as he carefully separates them from their original contexts? Does this question really matter, as each fragment will be transformed having little relationship to its origin. These montaged elements are then fused together perhaps as a metaphorical act of transcendence and then placed or montaged within the page.

These fragments of images and text strategically appear across the white space in the book. In a short exegetic essay or artist’s statement on this book Lyssiotis discusses his intention for the white space in the book:

The white spaces here constitute something unassuming: a whiteness more like a whisper; something neutral.

In the whiteness there are things the photographic paper has not been allowed to reveal; these are not omissions, they are commissions … of sins, failed intentions, of habit. (vi)

I turn the pages and they ‘whisper’ of something hidden where only hints and clues are allowed through as the photomontage emerges through the white space. A cherub holds a curtain rope that reveals a narrow view of the sky behind.

Feather and prey by Peter Lyssiotis

Does the white space hide knowledge from the reader as if in a white out or a fog? Or is Lyssiotis creating a collaborative space with the reader to bring to the reading their own narrative or composition–a psychological montage of memory and life’s experience?

Lyssiotis’ texts are evocative, poetic and political and appear sparingly in different places on each page. The texts and their aesthetic placement on the page–a mise en page (vii) –add to the layering of the reading as a montage. In Feather and Prey Lyssiotis signals that perhaps there could be shifting meanings arising in the reading of the words and their visual placement on the page. In the book he writes:

Words always arrange themselves to tell

The same story: that things will change

But words are heretics and later,

In the fire they will deny it all.

In Products of Wealth the montages  (viii) are not embedded in the page but rather pasted over the white space where the page becomes the carrier rather than part of the message.

Products of wealth by Peter Lyssiotis

These images become windows–looking into a montage hybrid world that may seem alien to us but paradoxically it is of us. Looking into the space of the image–rather than the page as in Feather and Prey–I am transported to a place where there is no space left to think… claustrophobic. The view shows the reader terrifying and perhaps even diabolic territories for consideration and reflection.

The edition consists of six separate books stored and presented in a bespoke box.

Products of wealth by Peter Lyssiotis

The books are bound using the simple pamphlet style, perhaps referencing the tradition of the political publication. The covers of the books are red and the box is covered in red and black cloth again suggesting the political nature of the reading. As I read, I notice that the 3D relief pattern of the letterpress texts (ix) seems to bite emphatically into the paper.  Lyssiotis’ choice of font styles along with the red and black font colours also adds to the political tone that is invested in the photomontages and the binding. In book 6, Lyssiotis writes about the montage:

In these montages, the planet isn’t about to explode; the explosion has already happened. What is left is a fractured world

Finally, I find it interesting to note that these books were produced in the same year, 1997, and yet each have quite different approaches to the montage of image, text and page. Can these differences point to a deeper comprehension of the value in and values of visual reading? In this kind of reading the psychology and memory of the reader can be engaged in the transference of something more than knowledge and information.

So is the montage a space for questions rather than answers?  Reading these artists’ books is in some way also a montage where the visual narrative and the artistic intention is adapted and interpreted by the memory and mind of the reader. Perhaps the nature of the montage hybrid including the page could be comprehended in terms of gestalt. As it is greater than the individual parts–the montage can be a holistic comment or reflection on the cultural and human questions of its historical location.


Victoria Cooper PhD

Feb 2016


(i) Peter Lyssiotis, 1997, The Products of Wealth, Book 6: Political Photomonteurs Can Give You The Courage To Eat Bricks, Masterthief Enterprises, Melbourne.
(ii) Ibid.
(iii) Handwritten note sent by email to the author, February 23 2016. In this note, Lyssiotis presents an evocative and intriguing discussion on the montage works in his books Feather and Prey and The Products of Wealth. Although seemingly a dialogue between himself and Heartfield, it is more a self-critique informed by the Heartfield polemics and the political montage. This note will be published in full with the permission of Peter Lyssiotis in a future article I am writing on his work.
(iv) As presented in: Paul Carter 2004, Material Thinking, Melbourne University Publishing Ltd, Melbourne. In many ways this book is a philosophical discussion on the work and methodology of the artist including: the interaction with their materials, the intellectual nature of the artists’ visual research and their resulting art.
(v) In the ALA original Materials Archive there are several boxes of Peter Lyssiotis papers. This quote is cited from unpublished writing discussing his book “Feather and Prey” Call Number: item #29358/3 box # 13331.
(vi) ibid.
(vii) This references the mise en scène in cinema theory.
(viii) The montages are black and white archival fibre-based silver gelatin photographic prints where Lyssiotis worked with Robert Colvin to print for this publication.
(ix) Texts were handset and printed by Nick Doslov, Renaissance Bookbinding


PERFORMING the BOOK @ SLQ – Siganto Artists Book Seminar

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The Siganto Artists’ Books Seminar 2015

On June 20+21 the 2015 The Siganto Artists’ Books Seminar took place at the State Library of Queensland. Attendees were presented with a one–day series of lectures, performances and a forum addressing the diversity of the artists’ book and importantly visual and creative research being undertaken by Fellowships supported by the Siganto Foundation.

State Librarian Janette Wright welcomes guests to the seminar

State Librarian Janette Wright welcomes attendees to the seminar

The State Librarian Jeanette, introduced by MC Christene Drewe, spoke of the Library’s Artists’ Book Collection. This was followed by Dr Marie Siganto from the Siganto Foundation who spoke enthusiastically about the Foundation’s support of the Artists’ Book Collection.

Siganto Seminar and Artists' Book Fair - June 20+21, 2015

Dr Marie Siganto makes a presentation to the attendees of the seminar and presents 2015 Fellowships

A significant theme of this years’ event was based around the idea of artists’ books as performance. Brazilian artist, performer and academic Amir Brito Cadôr’s presented his keynote address The Book as Performance – he also performed a book reading of Momento Vital by Brazilian artist Vera Chaves Barcellos.

Amir Brito Cadôr makes his keynote presentation

Amir Brito Cadôr makes his keynote presentation

In the morning session 2015 Siganto Foundation Artists’ Books Fellows Clyde McGill and Julie Barratt presented progress reports on their research projects. Jan Davis discussed her 2014 Creative Fellowship and presented the completed artists’ book to the Library. The book was entitled Drawing on the ground and referenced the historical aspects of work and toil on Queensland farms. Reference material for Jan’s book came from diaries, books and documents held by the Library. Her artists’ book features text fragments and line sketches – the book was bound by Fred Pohlman and the cover was styled to resemble an old station journal.

Julie Barratt discusses her Siganto Creative Fellowship

Julie Barratt discusses her Siganto Creative Fellowship

Clyde McGill discusses his Siganto Artists' Book Creative Fellowship

Clyde McGill discusses his Siganto Artists’ Book Creative Fellowship

Jan Davis discusses her Siganto Artists' Book Creative Fellowship

Jan Davis discusses Drawing on the ground, her Siganto Artists’ Book Creative Fellowship

Doug Spowart discusses Jacob Raupach's Radiata

Doug Spowart discusses Jacob Raupach’s Radiata

As the 2014 Siganto Artists’ Books Research Fellow I presented an illustrated lecture on my experiences as a researcher of the Australian Library of Art, a selection of the range of books I encountered that employed photography from very minor references in text to conceptual pieces based on photographs. This list included:

Anne Wilson in, Tock 01-01-2000, 2000

Codex Event: Darren Bryant .. [et al.], Wild Cherry Tin Mine, 2006.

Vince Dziekian, Blooms Books, 1993-4.

Barbara Davidson, Different moods of the Opera House, 2001.

Felipe Ehrenberg, Generacion 1973

Peter Kingston, The Blue Mountains, 1987.

Michael Buhler, Oblique Lines, 19-.

William Copley Notes on a Project for a Dictionary of Rediculous Images, 1972.

Adam Broomberg + Oliver Chanarin, Holy Bible, 2013.

Judy Barrass, Eden-Monaro in Summer, 2001.

Juli Haas, The oyster book of lessons from the memory room, 2007.

Jihad Muhammad aka John Armstrong, Ten menhirs at Plouharnel, Carnac, Morbihan, Bretagne, France, 1982.

Angela Callanan, 7 Signs of Absence, 2010.

Susan King, Photo bio, 2011.

Malcolm Enright, Western Wisdom, 1998.

Pierre Cavalan, Artists Book, 1998.

Compiled by Kay Faulkner Indulge, 2006.

Debra Gibson, Kamikaze, 2004.

Dick Jewell, Found Photos, 1977.

Julie Barratt, Collateral damage, 2008.

Alison Knowles, Bread and Water, 2004.

David King, Raw deal, 1997.

Valerie Keenan HY1, 2001.

Tim Johnson, Fittings, 1972.

Christian Boltanski, Scratch, 2002.

Amanda Watson-Will, Judy and the Jacaranda, 2010.

Phillip Zimmerman, High tension, 1993.

Jan Davis, Solomon, 1995.

  I then disclosed the principal research product the paper: The artists’ book, the photobook and the photo-a spectral approach, as well as recommendations to the Library for photobooks to be relocated from the General collection into places that reflected the significance of these books in the history of photography and the photobook. I also supplied Photobook Publishers and Info URLs that could be used by anyone wanting to keep up with new photobook releases an purchasing opportunities. I particularly noted that the Library held no Trent Parke books and provided, as an example, his book Dream Life that could have been purchased in 2000 for around $60 is now sold for $1,000+. Highlighting the need for the SLQ to be pro-active in purchasing contemporary book for modest outlay – rather than waiting until they are nearly unaffordable. I also highlighted the need for institutions to engage with and maintain links with artists’ book and photobook self-publishers as they exist outside of the usual publishing structures. I quoted Des Cowley, the State Library of Victoria’s History of the Book Manager from a statement made by him in his presentation at the ‘Other Photobook’ forum at Photobook Melbourne. He said:

… 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.  

My presentation concluded with two quotes from book artist and mail art aficionado Ulises Carrion that I felt related to the contemporary artists’ book and photobook. Carrion states:

I include books in the category of

living creatures … : they grow, reproduce, change colour, become ill and finally die.

At this moment we are witnessing the final stage of this process.

… if books are to survive they have to change. And [artists’] bookworks is the real possibility that books have for survival.

Schraenen, G. (1992). Ulises Carrion : We have won! Haven’t we?





Other artists’ book performances included: Virginia and Julie Barratt’s The Morning After, one by Clyde McGill and a performance by QUT drama students of the three-part book Robert Bringhurst’s artist’s book New World Suite number three: a poem in four movements for three voices. The performers were Thomas Yaxley, Emily Weir and Meghan Clarke and was directed by QUT lecturer Floyd Kennedy.

Clyde McGill performs his book

Clyde McGill performs his book

The afternoon concluded with a forum moderated by Louise Martin-Chew on the topic of collaboration. The forum participants were Clyde McGill, Julie Barratt and Doug Spowart. Each participant discussed a project that involved collaboration and questions were posed by Louise to bring out important points from each panelist. The most interesting aspect of this forum was when questions from the floor created heated debate around the idea of the physical book and its experience verses the virtual online experience.

Julie answers a question in the collaboration forum

Julie answers a question in the collaboration forum

On Sunday many local and interstate stallholders presented their work for an Artists’ Book Fair in the Knowledge Walk at the SLQ. Tours of selected artists’ books from State Library’s Artists’ Book Collection were well attended and provide rare access to special books from the Australian Library of Art Collection. The two-day event was significant for the opportunity for artists’ book aficiandos, makers, collectors and readers to engage with the physicality of not only the books but also to touch with the extensive community of the book. Our thanks must go to the SLQ, particularly Christene Drewe and Helen Cole, and to the Dr Marie Siganto and the Siganto Foundation for their continued support of the artists’ book collection of the Australian Library of Art and events such as these.   Doug Spowart

State Librarian, Janette Wright views a tunnel book by Wim de voss

State Librarian, Janette Wright views a tunnel book by Wim de Voss

What follows are a range of images from the Seminar and Artists’ Book Fair

Tim Mosely promotes the ABBE Conference @ QCA in July

Tim Mosely promotes the ABBE Conference @ QCA in July

Sue Poggioli at the Artists' Book Fair

Sue Poggioli at the Artists’ Book Fair

Amir and Noreen Grahame

Amir and Noreen Grahame

Julie Barratt at the Artists' Book Fair

Julie Barratt at the Artists’ Book Fair

Julie Barratt, Monica Oppen and Helen Cole Artists' Book Fair

Julie Barratt, Monica Oppen and Helen Cole Artists’ Book Fair

A section of the Artists' Book Fair at the SLQ

A section of the Artists’ Book Fair at the SLQ

Doug Spowart and Wim de Voss

Doug Spowart and Wim de Voss

Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper and their C.R.A.P. display

Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper and their C.R.A.P. display

Clyde McGill and Anne Kirker

Clyde McGill and Anne Kirker

Helen Malone at the Artists' Book Fair

Helen Malone at the Artists’ Book Fair

Helen Cole, Michael Wardell and Clyde McGill at the Artists' Book Fair

Helen Cole, Michael Wardell and Clyde McGill at the Artists’ Book Fair

Sandra Pearce at the Artists' Book Fair

Sandra Pearce at the Artists’ Book Fair

Amir Brito Cadôr with Helen Malone

Amir Brito Cadôr with Helen Malone

Amir Brito Cadôr with Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart

Amir Brito Cadôr with Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart

Adele Outteridge and Wim de Voss

Adele Outteridge and Wim de Voss

Judy Bourke at the Artists' Book Fair

Judy Bourke at the Artists’ Book Fair

Presented by SLQ with the generous support of the Siganto Foundation.   All photos and text ©2015 Doug Spowart


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Doug Spowart at the SLQ with his Security pass

Doug Spowart at the SLQ with his Security pass


A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Looking for photos in the Australian Library of Art

As the inaugural Siganto Artists’ Book Research Fellow I have had an opportunity to access the State Library of Queensland’s resources including the significant artists’ book collection held in the Australian Library of Art. During the Fellowship I have engaged in specific research related to my proposal and in doing so it has enabled the creation of a much-needed critique on photography and the artists’ book. It has enhanced my understanding of the photography and artists’ book creative products and has placed me in a position of knowledge of these disciplines, the nature of these creative works, their collection and description.


In this research my particular interest is in the intersection of photography and the artists’ book. Over a four-month period from October to January in 2014-5 I worked in the Fellows Room and in the Repository at the SLQ. During this time I engaged in a variety of activities that related to my proposed research activities. These included:

  • A review of artists’ books in the Australian Library of Art collection looking for the presence of photography
  • Creating and using a spreadsheet in which the review was logged
  • Documentation of books containing photography
  • Selected books were considered for critical evaluation

Robert Capa’s ‘Slightly out of focus’

I was also interested in books that have emerged as being significant in the newly documented history of the photobook and also the ALA’s acquisition of contemporary photobooks. I found in the library’s general collection many key seminal photobooks like Robert Capa’s 1947 Slightly out of focus: [the story of a war photographer], Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 The decisive moment, and Richard Avedon’s 1976 Portraits. While some of these books are difficult to find, expensive to buy, and have been re-released in modern printings the original book is an important touchstone for those interested in photographic history. The ALA collection also revealed surprises with my discovery of a Japanese ‘Provoke era’ book from the 1960s and Broomberg and Chanarin’s ‘The Holy Bible’ from 2013 – both books representative of key approaches to the photobook and the use of photographs in creative book publishing.


Doug Spowart in the SLQ Repository

Doug Spowart in the SLQ Repository

I attended the library usually 4-5 days per week. After an initial settling-in and establishment of my methodology for work I began near-daily research in the Repository. I usually worked on a 3-hour time limit per session during which I viewed and reviewed as many books as possible. My methodology involved direct contact with the book and an engagement with the physical and the metaphysical. I held each book, I turned each page, I read each word (where text existed), I made my assessment and logged the results of the appraisal on my spreadsheet and photographically documented the book. It was a slow and intense process that has resulted in a significant resource which has the possibility to reveal interesting facts about the photo in the artists’ book.

An integral aspect of the review process was the haptic experience of encountering the book, opening its enclosure, clamshell or paper wrap, and sensing the book’s activation by this act. I found that these books were entities to themselves, a containers for sharing the artists’ vision, idea or narrative. Some perhaps were being read for the first time in a while. And in the quietness of the Repository the books revealed themselves to me… At the end of each 3-hour session I was quite exhausted. Although the ALA staff were always interested to hear my report of the favourite ‘book of the day’.

What intrigued me was the diversity of the media and the message that artists place in the creative vessel of the artists’ book. I found myself seduced as much by books of abstract, textural or other non-photo print forms as I was with books with photographs in them.

Working through the library’s catalogue I often found myself looking up obscure books, different editions of books, photographers, topics and references allied to my research interests. I would request these items and they would be delivered to me. I would stack and categorise these books relating to different research interests. Subsequently, as my desk grew with more and more books, I requested a printout of my personal loans. The librarian assisting me looked surprised as the printer spat out around 50 items. One of my life follys is collecting books and there came a time when this personal library-in-the-library would need to be returned, as I was to exceed my loan limit.

Doug Spowart reading a book at the SLQ

Doug Spowart reading a book at the SLQ

During my Fellowship I was able to develop and complete a significant paper outlining a way of categorising the presence of the photograph in the creative book production genres of artists’ books and photobooks. Entitled, A Photo Spectrum: Book genres and photography, it encompasses the limited edition livre d’artiste through artists’ books, zines, self-published photobooks, designer photobooks and limited edition deluxe photobooks. This paper is presently being held by an American publisher to be included in a book on the contemporary photobook. I intend to discuss this outcome in the seminar. Another paper about contemporary photobooks written during the Fellowship entitled, Everyone a publisher, was published in the recent special issue on artists’ books in the State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe journal. I also coordinated and chaired a forum on The OTHER Photobook – Artists’ books and Zines at the Photobook Melbourne event in February, and in May I spoke on Encountering a photobook at the Talking Culture Symposium of the Auckland Photo Festival. The Siganto Fellowship assisted in providing me with time and a place where my activities could be dedicated in the pursuance of my research.

Doug speaking at the Auckland Festival of Photography

Doug speaking at the Auckland Festival of Photography

As a result of the Fellowship I am working on projects that include the presentation to the SLQ of a strategy for the continuing purchase and collection of contemporary photobooks in the ALA. Still in development is the preparation and design of a book of selected works from the ALA collection that were fundamental to my research thesis on the photo in the book.

At the Siganto Artists’ Book Seminar (Click here for the Blog post) I will present a paper outlining the curious and interesting aspects of my ALA review including amazing books that need to be seen, held, and pages turned so that they can share the maker’s communiqué, and stimulate the reader to encounter … the photo in the book.


Dr Doug Spowart

2014 Siganto Artists’ Book Research Fellow


DOUG is 2014 Siganto Foundation Artists’ Book Research Fellow

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Doug Spowart @ the State Library of Queensland

Doug Spowart @ the State Library of Queensland


About the 2014 Siganto Foundation Artists’ Book Research Fellowship from the application details:

The Siganto Foundation Artists’ Books Research Fellowship, proudly supported by the Siganto Foundation, is to be used by an individual to undertake original research on one aspect of artists’ book practice, theory or history, making use of the resources contained within the collections of the State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art. Subject to this general consideration, State Library allows the Fellow to determine expenditure of the funds and may require the Fellow to account for the funds awarded.


About the research that I intend to undertake:

Today photographic expression is evolving to pervade all kinds of books by artists, artists–photographers, photographers and photographer-artists. Collections such as the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland become repositories for selected or exemplar works. In the Research Fellowship I intend to review the field of creative book production that utilises the photograph and consider what has been created to date and in the SLQ collection, as well as identify emergent trends.

As a significant repository of artists’ books, the State Library of Queensland’s Australian Library of Art is a pre-eminent location to carry out the proposed research. Additionally access to books contained in the State Library of Queensland’s general library collection and Zine collections will considerably add to the research.

Importantly the collection contains artists’ books created over a great number of years by a range of practitioners representing a broad range of practice. These books may encompass the full gamut of photograph usage in the book including approaches to the narrative carried by the book, the physical form of the book and the integration of the photograph into design, typographic and textural components.

This proposed research will define a process by which the uses of photography in the creative productions of artists’ books and photobooks can be defined and compared. In my recently completed PhD research on the topic of the artists’ book and the photobook, I identified the need for scholarly research on this evolving phenomenon.

My aims in this research are to create an approach to the development of a flexible and dynamic nomenclature for the photo and the book. This preliminary strategy will provide a way in which books from a variety of makers, media, structures and motivations can be compared. Ultimately this research will produce outcomes that approach a broader and topical view of artists’ books and photobooks to stimulate dialogue and debate.

The Fellowship will include blog posts on the SLQ site and an illustrated presentation at the 2015 Siganto Artists’ Books Seminar.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to research my favourite topic – books!


The Siganto Foundation Artists’ Books Creative Fellowship has been awarded to Jan Davis. Her project One thing becoming another: labour-infused artist’s books which investigate lives of toil in nineteenth and early twentieth century rural Queensland.

For more details see   http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2014/07/18/2014-siganto-foundation-fellowships/


The State Library of Queensland

The State Library of Queensland Photo: ©2011 Doug Spowart




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The wide view


The trouble with artists’ books  

State Library of Queensland – May 4, 2013


The quote “artists’ books … as popular as tatoos” was an opening remark by gallerist Noreen Grahame


All great seminars, forums, conferences and meetings stir discussion and commentary; The trouble with artists’ books seminar was no exception. We approached a number of artists book people to contribute to this blog post responding to the stimulus created by the event – I have included their responses after my introductory comments.


In Volume 7 of the Bonefolder e-journal  I reported on the dual artists book events of the 2010 Artspace Mackay Focus on Artists Book V, event and the 3rd Libris Awards. In this report I commented on the speaker’s presentations and reviewed the artists book award. I then concluded that these events were integral to the development and maintenance of a community of practice for those who make artists books in this country.  Three years on the energy and enthusiasm for artists’ books remains however the Mackay Focus event has been abandoned and some awards events have slipped from their usual place in the yearly/bi-yearly calendar.

We are indeed indebted to the Siganto Foundation and the SLQ who in 2012 made possible the Keith Smith and Scott McCarney workshop and seminar, and this year the The trouble with artists’ books seminar. It seems to me that artists book community in this country has a great appetite for information, connecting with the heroes and heroines of the discipline, learning about methods and techniques as well as participating in camaraderie with their peers.  My concluding words in the Bonefolder report recognised the importance of events such as Artspace’s Focus on Artists Books and the Libris Awards as they invigorate the discipline and the art of artists books … The significant response to this seminar indicates that the pace and frequency of artists book events should not slacken – we want more!

The Bonefolder report concluding comments were:

Awareness of the origins of the discipline of artists’ books and the Australian context as well as issues of contemporary and emergent practice is a unique outcome for FOAB. Where else in Australia this year would one be able to experience, or participate in a program where issues as diverse as Avatars making books in their second life, the death of the book/author, wild books and zoo viewing of books, propositions for new perceptive literature, mail art and the products of psychometry being resolved as artists’ books? Perhaps attendees should be warned of the ride that they would encounter.

Central to need for the FOAB, as an event, is its ability to pull together artists’ book interested people and provide a forum for them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Artists’ bookmakers are individual artists, sometimes collaborators, librarians, academics, gallerists and collectors are isolated as islands of interest in their usual place of activity. But at FOAB they meet, greet, mingle, chat, discuss, argue and get down to the flensing-out of ideas, polemics and concerns about practice and the book as a work of art. This blend of interested parties forms the nucleus, the hub, of the discipline within this country – without it, there would only be individual soliloquies in the wilderness



Julie Barratt

Julie Barratt   –  Artist

I guess really briefly what I got from ‘the trouble with artist book ‘ talk if I was going to quote is ” it seems the trouble with artist books is that there are too many to love!!!” On a more serious note I guess for me it always comes down to how we talk about/define an artist book, as an ongoing discussion.

Almost on a daily basis when I had the gallery (I always had at lead a few artist books on display) people would ask what these books are! How to define them without quoting Johanna Drucker?  Should there be categories i.e. Sculptural, digital etc etc. How do we expect the audience to understand them if we as practitioners have difficulty talking about them? But how do we agree on a definition?

That’s what I imagined the forum to be about because ‘isn’t that the trouble with artist books’? Having said that I thoroughly enjoyed the forum and think there need to be many many more of them when in fact there seem to be less (Mackay forum? ) so that the discussion can continue….

Its always a pleasure to catch up with the artist book community, feels like a reunion every time!



Maureen Trainor portrait

Maureen Trainor

Maureen Trainor  –  Photographer and QCA Masters student

I found these presentations to be very informative and inspiring.

The content and sequence of the presentations were dynamic.

By breaking down the delivery into the three different viewpoints the three Keynote speakers were engaging and thought provoking.

Starting with Helen Cole presenting ‘the Librarian’s view’, Noreen Grahame presenting ‘the Gallerist’s view’, Jan Davis presenting ‘the Artist’s view’ and ending with an interactive audience time for ‘questions and answers’ was right on target with information.

The Hearsay team discussing their project was fantastic. Combined with humour and wit they certainly kept the attention of a diverse audience.

I truly enjoyed the afternoon and felt I could of stayed into the night with more speakers and presentations.




Monica Oppen

Monica Oppen  –  Artist and collector

The Trouble with Artists’ Books (and the Libris Awards)

Coming away from the SLQ seminar where the attendance was so strong and having attended the opening and announcement of the Libris Award at Artspace Mackay the conviction that has risen strongly in my mind is that there is a real need for events such as the SLQ Siganto Seminar. The strong attendance not only indicates a real interest in the topic but a desire of artists to reconnect with others working in the field. As Helen writes in her post about the Libris Awards, and I can vouch for it, there were very, very few artists there but also no other significant persons from the institutions who have an ongoing interest and involvement in artists’ books were there. The tyranny of distance and the associated costs of travel and accommodation will only be overcome by creating an event that is worth travelling for.

The topic The Trouble with Artists Books is pertinent and complex and was way too big to handle in one afternoon; a multi-day conference could have been structure around this topic. Time restrictions meant that Jan Davis and Noreen Grahame could only touch on, hint at and introduce the work/books from which a broader discussion could have expanded. The sense that there is a need for these seminars (judging from the attendance numbers) also hopefully indicates a need for more rigorous, mature critical discourse around the genre, a breadth of conversation and argument. Does the constant discussion of definition and the non-committal responses from ‘those who should know’ arise from this lack of discourse? I don’t consider the definition ‘if the artist calls it a book, it is a book’ to be an adequate, exciting nor empowering definition unless some force is allowed to work in opposition to it, that demands a justification, demands some critical analysis. The lines will always be blurry but this could be an energizing force and contribute a dynamism to the genre. By not taking a stand are we in fact leaving definitions to the gallery? Surely the gallery as a medium is the antithesis of the (artists’) book. The gallery is exposed and extraverted; the book is enclosed and introverted. Always it comes up, the problem with exhibiting artists books— this is because books are not meant to be exhibited, they are meant to be read. What are the implications for the genre if books are only viewed in the gallery, and more seriously if the gallery maintains a ‘no touch’ policy? Ironically, making a (artist’s) book was originally about abandoning the gallery; about the subversion of the commercialism of the art object. The book was meant to be a free-floating object in wider society. Where is that rebel spirit?

A hundred more questions could be asked. I hope the SLQ seminar is not a one-off but gives an impetus to more symposiums throughout the country.

Monica Oppen 14/5/13


Judy Barrass

Judy Barrass

Judy Barrass  –  Artist

THIS COMMENTARY COMES FROM JUDY’s BLOG – ‘Critical Mass’ http://www.criticalmassblog.net/2012/?p=2568

No one can agree on what they are, or even where the apostrophe should be placed, but a seminar on artists’ books at the State Library on Saturday drew a crowd.

It was a  rare get-together of artist book makers and officianados, with attendees travelling from other states and regional Queensland just to attend the two-and-a-half-hour seminar and catch up with old friends.

According to the speakers, librarian Helen Cole, gallerist Noreen Grahame, and artist book maker and academic Jan Davis, artist books are problematic. That’s not just because no one seems to be able to agree on a definition, but also because they are hard to store, hard to display, and are not usually included in mainstream collections or exhibitions. They attract mostly a smallish group of makers and collectors and don’t sell in large numbers. Despite this, artists’ books draw a passionate audience of makers and supporters whenever they are on show (or whenever there’s a seminar).

Queensland has been a leader in the artist book phenomenon. The Queensland State Library is a significant collector, and Grahame Galleries took an early leading role. Artspace Mackay and Noosa Regional Gallery added public gallery support to exhibitions and collecting.

Someone suggested that it’s an inbred audience made up almost entirely of artist book makers, but a show of hands in the crowd on Saturday debunked this myth since at least half the attendees were not makers. Still, as Noreen Grahame remarked, artist books are a sort of ‘underground’ movement outside the mainstream.

I can’t help wondering if this is merely a question of naming. By calling these artworks ‘books’ they are relegated to the collections of libraries rather than art galleries, or they exist in a no man’s land between library and gallery. Nonetheless I have seen many works in public art gallery collections that could (or perhaps should) be called artist books. The boundaries are thin and flexible, and this was evident at the seminar. The mantra seems to be that if the artist calls it a book then it is a book.

One of the more interesting questions on the day was about the growing number of artist books that exist only in digital format. Helen Cole said the library was considering how these books might be collected and preserved, but indicated it was extremely difficult, particularly as technology changes so rapidly and formats and software become obsolete. Noreen Grahame solved the problem by referring to digital books as ‘ephemera’, and Jan Davis thought the number of artists working in the digital realm was small.

Following the discussion, a very chatty audience enjoyed a scrumptious afternoon tea and the  launch of Hearsay, a large format collaborative artists’ book by artist Euan Macleod, printmaker Ron McBurnie, and writer Lloyd Jones. They apparently didn’t worry too much whether or not their work was or was not an artist book, but have sensibly hedged their bets by also producing the pages as a portfolio of unbound prints (in case anyone thought it wasn’t art, or more probably because the portfolio might be more saleable than an artist book ).

The seminar ‘The Trouble with Artist Books’ was sponsored by the Siganto Foundation through the Queensland Library Foundation.

The State Library artist book collection is part of the Australian Library of Art.

(Thank you Judy for allowing this re-posting in this blog)




Wim de Vos

Wim de Vos  –  Artist

‘The Trouble with Artists Books’

The lecture sponsored by the Siganto Foundation was very well attended by a large audience of art practitioners, administrators, and lovers of Artists Books, and was introduced by the new head of the State Library, Janette Wright. The speakers were Helen Cole, Senior Librarian of Special Collections at the Library; Noreen Grahame, Gallerist and long time respected promoter of the Artist Books within Australia and Internationally; and Jan Davis, Academic, and practitioner of Artists Books at Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Technically the lecture was informative, ran smoothly and was very well presented.

It was great to see so many practitioners (well over half the audience) and the general public, as this event facilitated a forum – to share, and some time to catch up with friends and colleagues. This has over the last few years become non-existent with the loss of the Art Space Mackay Artist Book Forum. Also the Noosa Regional Gallery’s ‘demise’ of the Artists Book annual exhibition was a sad occurrence. In addition, both venues offered successful workshops with renowned National and International Practitioners in the Visual Arts to nurture the visual arts and the book.

Many aspects of the development of Artists Books were addressed. Helen Cole addressed the ‘Trouble with Artists Books’ from a Librarian’s point of view, in that, because they were ‘Artists Books’ and diverse in so many ways, the logistics of preservation, cataloguing and storage were ‘Troublesome’. Furthermore, it was stated that the ‘Galleries’ had passed the Artists Books onto Libraries to display and make use of them, and by making Libraries the custodians of the ever-growing phenomenon of the Artists Book.

The concept of Artists Books is generally not an easy topic to present. It is in fact generally not understood at all. A friend recently pointed out, ‘I didn’t even know that an artist book existed, but as I have learnt through the language of art over time, I can say, I view this process as Book Works by Artists.’ A major exhibition of books of this nature: DAS BUCH was presented at the Queensland Art Gallery in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and the Goethe Institut in Germany during 1992. This was, I’m sure, a huge influence on art practitioners and the public. At the time, it placed an emphasis on the ‘Book as Object’ in a context never before experienced in the Antipodes. There has been no major exhibition of this type in a public gallery in this State, since.

As I am a practising artist and maker of prints, paintings, and sculpture, and work with a wide variety of materials, the book as object comes naturally as a medium to extend my practice. It has in fact tied together all my processes of making art, including text, giving me the freedom of story telling on many levels.

I observed, as the afternoon progressed, that in the presentation not all aspects of Artists Books practice was being fully covered and explored by the presenters. This became, indeed, troublesome. There is actually content within books, books with text, images and text, objects and materials, and so on. There was very little mentioned on the subject of the Sculptural Book or the Photo Book. A visual list WAS presented with images of the types of books that were in the collection of the Library. But no further elaboration was offered to those in the audience that were not already ‘in the know’. The State Library of Queensland has one of the largest collections of Creative & Historical books in the southern hemisphere.

Let it be said that we can be proud of a comprehensive, diverse, eclectic and public collection of books – particularly in the collection of Contemporary Art practice in Queensland and beyond. It is promoted that it ‘may be visited at any time, by appointment’.

I recognise that there is not time to cover everything fully. This made duplication and repetition even more irritating. Time may have been used more productively.

The lecture continued with the history of the Artists Book and it’s growth within Australia over the last 30 odd years. This painted an impressive picture of collections and practise over that time. Artists were mentioned who were instrumental in its development, but presenters did not go far enough on this issue, and failed to mention key motivators: artists both local and international. There was a ‘flow of words’ promoting a few artists over and over again. When the presentation of ‘Favourite Artists Books’ was introduced the theme of the lecture was totally abandoned. We were presented with a self-indulgent diversion as to what the book may mean only to the ‘literate Artists Book fans’ present.

It would have been more useful to give the audience an indication of how they may wish to learn more about Artist Books through the public and private system. There was enough talent and experience behind the microphone to impart this information. It seemed much of this lecture was preaching to the converted.

Afternoon tea on the terrace was followed by the launch of a collaboration of an Artist Book created by two well-known visual artists:  Ewan McCloud and Ron McBurnie, and the writer Lloyd Jones. This was a very good presentation chaired by Suzi Muddiman: Director of the Murwillumbah Regional Art Gallery in NSW. This gave the opportunity for the layperson to experience the processes of collaboration in art making.

As there are no indications of any follow-up lecture or activities relating to Artist Books, it would be worthwhile to plan something on the promotion and educational aspects of Artists Books. I am sure it would be a great success.

A ‘large bouquet’ to Helen Cole in particular, and the State Library, for organising this generally informative and pleasant afternoon. We look forward to a more expansive event in the future.

Wim de Vos




Peter Lyssiotis

Peter Lyssiotis  –  Artists book-maker and photomonteur


Peter’s letter


A vodcast for the event is available at  http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/audio-video/webcasts/recent-webcasts/siganto-seminar


Cheers  Doug+Victoria



© Of all texts resides with the authors

Photograph of the SLQ Theatre, Julie Barratt, Monica Oppen, Wim de Vos  © Doug Spowart 2013. Self-portrait of Maureen Trainor ©2013. Judy Barrass portrait supplied by Judy.

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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Please note: This post is derived from personal notes made at the event – They may contain some inconsistencies that are a result of my interpretation.

AUDIO NOW AVAILABLE @ http://enc.slq.qld.gov.au/audio/slq/pp/mp3/artdesign/Artistsbooks.mp3

In what looks like the one highlight in the Queensland artists’ book calendar for 2012 Keith Smith and Scott McCarney are visiting the State Library of Queensland to present a lecture about their work and to conduct a five-day workshop. Unable to attend the workshop due to teaching commitments I attended the talk at the SLQ today. I was not alone and the smaller SLQ auditorium was full of interested attendees — including some notables like Sarah Bowen, Adele Outteridge, Madonna Staunton, Wim deVos, Anne Marie Hunter and Lorelei Clark. The visit to SLQ by Scott and Keith is supported by the Siganto Foundation and members of the family were in attendance at the lecture.

‘HELLO’ Scott!

After and introduction by SLQ Artists’ Bookie Helen Cole, Scott began his presentation by talking about the nature of the book in the digital age. He seemed to lament that libraries were beginning to change into Wi-Fi coffee houses — that’s not a problem for him as he believes the book, as a physical thing, will go beyond the electronic age.

He sees a real discussion about the future of the book is all about ‘display’. This remains a contentious issue for the artists’ book as they are difficult to handle and read as in exhibitions they are usually displayed frozen and ‘under glass’. Some of Scott’s work has been about presenting books as sculptural forms (Hanging Index) so the viewer does not really need to turn the pages to engage with the work.

Scott spoke in detail about his Autobiography series. He described how he couldn’t throw anything away and that he makes collections from things like name badges, rejection letters from galleries and grant applications, to-do lists and mud maps. This body of work provides an insight into the trivia and ephemera of life that escapes disposal through its transformation into his art. Connecting with the Internet world Scott’s Google Vanitas begun on Christmas Day last year represents the search results for his own name.

Scott showed many examples of works with where he cut through various pages within books to subvert the content of the book.

In a homage to Ed Ruscha Scott has taken Ruscha’s 1964 book Various small fires and milk and made his own take on the subject  — Scott’s fires are those of riots and the curious inclusion of a glass of milk in Ruscha’s book is shortened to MLK, standing for Martin Luther King whose portrait appears in the book. l

A recent project by Scott was to participate in the al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition’s response to the car bombing of this street in Bagdad which was home to many of the city’s booksellers. Scott’s work Material Meditation on Mending Al Mutanabbi Street comprises fifteen two-sided loose-leaf prints made from collages made from remnants of found books, rubbings from bookbindings and photographs.

Keith Smith speaks

Scott then handed over to Keith who comments that he is now up into the 280s on his ever increasing list of books. He spoke of a number of book projects dealing with subjects like re-contextualisation of paintings of Saint Sebastian into Smith’s own painted backgrounds. Many variations on this theme have been created from an amassed collection of source paintings — he intimated that he was even working on a book as he was preparing to travel to Australia.

He spoke of his connection with the computer and digital book Bobby made as early as 1984 with an early Macintosh computer using MacPaint and MacWrite. In his latest work he has re-formatted the book and re-jigged the content. The new Bobby has been supersized to one of Smith’s biggest ever books.

One of Keith’s trademarks is the digitally created multi-layered photomontage and his rainbow borders and edges. He states that when using Photoshop he may be working with between 12 and 24 layers of colour. Pages for the book Seminal were shown as examples.

Book number 283 is Struggling to see deals with Smith’s continuing fascination with text and image. The book is dedicated to Nathan Lyons whose own books and image sequencing presents Smith with a constant source of challenge. Smith acknowledged Lyon’s mastery of organising images in a book in a way where the message of the book is spoken ‘between the pages’.

Question time yielded perennial questions to do with inkjet printers, papers, the ‘archivalness’ of the technology and editioning.

One questioner spoke of how books can be made by anyone via print on demand technologies …

Another question dealt with the montage …

Keith commented that the book tells him where to go …

A comment made by one participant was that they were coming to understand that with all the standardization of the book through language and form and that that is where the psychology of the artists’ book really kicks-in to say something else that we were not ready for…

A question about the eBook and where it fits in contemporary practice. Scott answered that with eBooks one must learn the tools and understand that they are about text in a multi-media platform and that translating work into digital form you need to recognise that it is married to the content.

Keith’s response was that was something for the younger generation, ‘I’m too old ….’ Perhaps it is, for him, that the eBook is not a tactile medium that you cut, fold, touch and be touched by — although it may be something else?

Doug Spowart  May 28, 2012

NOTE: The SLQ will be posting this lecture online in the near future

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