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Posts Tagged ‘State Library of Queensland

SLQ Siganto Seminar: The trouble with artists’ books

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We are happy to receive comments and dialogue arising from the seminar and will post selected feedback. Please leave a comment on this blog for consideration by us for posting.

The podcast is available at  http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/audio-video/webcasts/recent-webcasts/siganto-seminar

Cheers  Doug+Victoria

SQL-Trouble website

From the SLQ website – Promo for the evnt


The State Librarian Jeanette Wright opens procedings

The State Librarian Jeanette Wright opens proceedings


Helen Cole presents

Helen Cole presents the Librarian’s view


Jan Davis presents

Jan Davis presents the Artist’s view


Noreen Grahame presents

Noreen Grahame presents the Gallerist’s view


The Question and Answer session

Helen Cole chairing the Question and Answer session


Noreen Grahame answers

Noreen Grahame answers a question


State Library of Queensland Event: The trouble with artists' boo

Jan Davis answers a question


The Auditorium crowd

The Auditorium crowd


The 'Hearsay' team members discuss the project

The Hearsay team members discuss the project


Attendees viewing the 'Hearsay' book

Attendees viewing the Hearsay book


Judy Barrass ‘Critical mass Blog’         http://www.criticalmassblog.net/2012/?p=2568


All  photographs  © Doug Spowart 2013.

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COOPER SCROLLS @ Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery

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Victoria in the 'Off The Wall' installation

Victoria Cooper in the Off The Wall installation of three scrolls from the series of five



Victoria Cooper’s digital montage Stories from the Gorge scrolls, made over ten years ago were included in Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery show. The exhibition was entitled Off the wall and was on show in Gallery 2 and Amos Gallery in May 2013.

The information about the exhibition that follows comes from the exhibition room sheet prepared at the time by Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Exhibitions Officer, Ashleigh Bunter:

The works in the exhibition have been selected from the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery’s City Collection. They have been placed simply together due to their three-dimensional nature and to highlight their derivation from the traditional two-dimensional picture plane.

This exhibition demonstrates the way that artists manipulate physical depth within their works which can often create a greater engagement between the object and the viewer. Interestingly, many of the works in this exhibition focus upon environment, whether it is the natural, public or the domestic environment. Materiality is also a common consideration. Throughout this exhibition one can see the influence of ‘the collector’, artists who gather images or common materials, reusing and reinterpreting them to create their art.

Victoria Cooper’s Stories from the Gorge: Order, chaos and the story of the hillside is a Chinese-landscape-scroll inspired series that represents “the last bastion of a natural chaos and order, an anti-culture, occurring on the fringes of agriculture.”[i] Human effects on the natural environment are central to Cooper’s practice and her prints and artists’ books in various formations lead the view from a flat two dimensional plane into the landscapes she investigates. These printed scrolls rise up from handmade acrylic boxes like the tall gum trees on their surfaces.

Other artists in the Off The Wall show include; Michael Schlitz, Marieke Dench, Tiffany Shafran, Judith Kentish, and Brigid Cole-Adams and the exhibition will be on the wall until May 26, 2013.



2001 The Gorge was purchased by Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland

2001 – Photographer and gallery director Sandy Edwards awarded The Gorge, First Prize in the Muswellbrook Photography Award

2001 – MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor awarded The Cliff, First Prize for Works on Paper, Martin Hanson Memorial Art Awards, Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum

2002 – Five Stories from the Gorge was a Finalist in the 2002 Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts Photography Award at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery was selected by Isobel Crombie Curator at the National Gallery of Victoria

2002 –The triptych was acquired during its showing in the Toowoomba Biennial Acquisitive Award selected by Julie Ewington, then Curator at the Queensland Art Gallery..


Stories From the Gorge triptych as presented @TRAG

Three images of the Stories from the Gorge triptych as presented @TRAG



Cooper’s scrolls were presented for the TRAG exhibition as a triptych, however in the original exhibition, entitled Searching for the Sublime, there were five scrolls. Searching for the Sublime was a collaborative project with sculptor Jim Roberts, fellow artist Doug Spowart and curator Deborah Godfrey. The inspiration for the project was a wilderness area in the Helidon Hills a mere 20 kilometres north-east of Toowoomba. Supported by an RADF Grant, the show featured Roberts’ sculptures, Spowart’s abstract water photographs, and Cooper’s scrolls and was shown at 62 Robertson Gallery in Brisbane in August 2001.

Searching for the Sublime @ Gallery 62 Robinson

Searching for the Sublime @ Gallery 62 Robinson   PHOTO: Courtesy of 62 Robertson


Five Stories Fom the Gorge installation at SQIT Gallery

Five Stories from the Gorge installation at SQIT Gallery


The images were assembled as a photomontage in the tiny, by current sizes, Blueberry iMac computer. At times Victoria juggled 200 layers in one Adobe Photoshop document to create the fiction panoramas. Seeing the whole image was a problem as most of the time Cooper’s view was no bigger than the iMac screen requiring her to ‘scroll’ the image up and down–just as you will do in looking at the images in this post. Saving the files took 20-30 minutes and the system often crashed. The images were printed in pigment inks on an Ilford Novajet printer onto Hahnemühle Japan ‘rice paper’ by IMT on the Gold Coast. Victoria worked with artist Wim de Vos to design the bespoke handmade acrylic boxes. The design featured the ability for the box to not only serve as a container, but also act as a device to display the scrolls.

The complete set of scrolls, Five Stories from the Gorge, was shown in many venues and awards (see prize list at the end of this post), including Photospace at National Art School, Australian National University, Canberra. Canberra Times arts reviewer Myra McIntyre commented that Cooper’s works are:

Most elegant and fascinating photographic objects are Landscape stories, a series of five Asian-inspired scrolls. Cooper crawls, wanders and flies through the Australian landscape gathering hundreds of objects, patterns, and perspectives that she digitally intertwines, creating a continuum of almost imperceptibly diverse perspectives and a physical sense of vertigo in the viewer.

Review, Canberra Times, May 10, 2002

In 2002 the triptych was acquired during its showing in the Toowoomba Biennial Acquisitive Award selected by Julie Ewington, then Curator at the Queensland Art Gallery. Interestingly the rules of the competition at the time restricted entries to work that had not previously won an art award–as such only the three scrolls The Story of the Hillside, Chaos and Order were entered. When purchased the two other scrolls were orphaned from the set.

So here in this blog, we reunite the Five Stories from the Gorge presented in a form for you to scroll/stroll through …  Enjoy.


By Doug Spowart


Story of the Cliff

Story of the Cliff


Story of the Gorge

Story of the Gorge


Story of the Hillside

Story of the Hillside



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


LIFE’S JOURNEY: Artists’ Book Exhibition, Redland Art Gallery

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Life’s Journeys exhibition catalogue cover Redland Art Gallery

Judging a book by its cover a page

The artists’ book is usually sequestered away in library stacks and drawers in their neat little custom made archival cardboard boxes and plastic bags. In specialised library and private collections these are treasured objects; their owners become the custodian of the physical object of the book and the story is revealed in the site-specific act of reading within these spaces. But … sometimes they escape. On occasion artists’ books escape en-mass from their natural home of the library or private collection, and this is exactly the case with the exhibition Life’s Journey recently presented at the Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland.

Co-curated by Emma Bain Director of Redland Art Gallery and Anna Thurgood Acting Director of Artspace Mackay, the exhibition assembles books drawn from the significant, perhaps one could say—international quality, collections found in Queensland; Artspace Mackay (AM), grahame gallies + editions (gg+e), the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) and Studio West End (SWE). The exhibition’s themes, as highlighted in the catalogue essay by Louise Martin-Chew claim that they are intended to seek ‘out universal truths in individual journeys’, ‘the personal and individual’, …and ‘artist narratives with memoir-like threads’.

Life’s Journey exhibition @ Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland Photo: Doug Spowart

The viewer entering the gallery to see the Life’s Journeys books may not have read the catalogue, or have an understanding of the artists’ book discipline, but what they are to encounter in the white cube of the gallery space will be unusual. The Redland Gallery’s main room a literal forest of fourteen or more acrylic topped display cases. Inside each case resides the book, open to a page and resting on a stand or pillow. Some books don’t seem like books at all, they look more like 3D sculpture, or jewellery forms, or even things just fastened or bound together by threads. Other ‘books’ are in frames or on panels on the wall—one is even a projected image. It’s here where the viewer becomes acquainted with the ‘non-standard’ nature of the artists’ book—but there is more… The viewer can look at the narrative segment presented by the open page, or the expanded story presented in the wall-mounted works, or books that are of the concertina form. While being visually entertained by the titillating ‘sample’ view, the visitor may probably enjoy the encounter and will leave feeling a sense of discovering something interesting and unusual. But I would suggest that this is only part of the experience that the artists who made the books expected or wanted for those who see their books.

I know that this sounds like the continuing debate about the gallery exhibition of books where the sequential narrative that artists’ books require is neutered by single page views. But there is an issue, and for me a redeeming feature for shows like this, and that is that the display of artists’ books will encourage and excite people to hunt down these books in their usual library-sited storage spaces.

What I have written about before,* and what I will restate is, that these exhibitions are ‘tasters’ only. The exhibition strategy needs to include ways by which viewers can identify books of interest, understand how to access them, and then go-see, handle, read and fully encounter the artist’s communiqué. What is needed for the gallery viewer is a catalogue of the books and their source collections, how to access these collections, online references (maybe even flip-books of the works), perhaps even initiated within the exhibition space by QR codes or augmented reality clips. Using this concept the exhibition becomes an invitation for those who wish to take up the offer to handle and read the books in their site-specific habitat.

Now that’s off my chest, I have to say what an amazing collection of artists’ books the curators have pulled together. Seeing this cherry-picked selection in this context is far more interesting for me than looking through an online catalogue—here there is a sense of discovery. It’s a bit like going to a second-hand bookshop and just wandering through the stacks picking up whatever takes your fancy. Wandering through Life’s Journey was indeed an encounter with an eclectic bunch of artists’ books. Some of my favourites were there.

Adele Outteridge’s God Bless America   Photo courtesy of Adele Outteridge

This included Adele Outteridge’s Teabag Book (2005) from SWE – just how many cups of tea were consumed to make this book? And another of Adele’s books, God Bless America (2003?) also from SWE, makes a political statement that can be read in different ways depending on the reader’s point of view of American society or foreign policy.

Books from the Codex Event 4 of which Naru is one (for reference only)   Image courtesy of Tim Mosely

Another book Naru (2007), from the SLQ, was constructed from paper to form a 3D vessel—the book as a metaphor for a boat. The work was the result of a collaborative project entitled Codex Event 4 coordinated by Tim Mosely at Southern Cross University. Naru and the other books that were created by the team have an overtly political statement contained within their shape and the titling. These works comment on idea of the freedom that many people seek as they cross borders as refugees and how this conflicts with the Australian Government’s immigration policies.

Sheree Kinlyside’s ‘The reluctant nun” (2009) @ 2010 Libris Artist Book Awards. Photo Doug Spowart

A fine press/printmakers book is represented by Sheree Kinlyside’s The reluctant nun (2009) from AM. The book was the winner of the Regional Artists Book Award at the  2010 Libris Artist Book Awards.

A book of a different shape, five sides(!) by American book artist Philip Zimmerman High Tension (1993), from gg+e, deals with a humorous look at contemporary society. The book is intentionally over-designed, montaging graphic elements and text with image narrative to make it an immensely interesting book—you want to pick it up and read through.

In the display of another book, Judy Watson’s Under the Act  (2007) from gg+e, each page is framed and the work extends across one complete wall of the gallery. The folio single-sheet form of this book enables its reconfiguration to the wall possible. The work describes a personal narrative, a life’s journey, through the impact of oppressive white bureaucracy applied to Aboriginal peoples living in Queensland not that long ago.

Peter Lyssiotis and Noga Freiburg’s collaborative book Homeland (2003) from AM presents personal narratives of the authors, one a Greek Cypriot—the other an Israeli, about the way lines are drawn across maps to divide communities. The book invokes the story concept by using texts, family photographs and photomontages all bisected by a green line that divides the two communities.

One final book that I’ve always been inspired by is Scott McCarney’s Memory Loss (1988) from AM which deals with a medical condition that afficted his sibling. McCarney was recently in Brisbane with partner Keith Smith presenting an artists’ book workshop at the State Library of Queensland. This two-sided accordion structure book is replete with information from numerous sources including medical literature, personal photographs and correspondence. For me Scott’s book had truly escaped from the cases and was presented, sans protective acrylic lid, atop a plinth where viewing of one side was unobstructed. I think in terms of Scott’s politically subversive work that he would’ve liked that…

Life’s Journeys is a significant showing of what artists’ books can be and it puts the book firmly within the art gallery display environment. But none-the-less, with all the problems of display and the expectations that this commentator may have, the books do need to get out and about. They assert by their presence in the gallery that they exist and can be encountered by a diverse range of the art-interested public. And, perhaps is the case with any gallery exhibition, the viewer experience is something that develops and is enhanced by continued reflection after the viewing. The importance of the exhibition Life’s Journey, the accompanying exhibition Mind Mapping by local artist and bookmaker Jack Oudyn, and the associated workshops is that they will create much needed interest, scholarship and activity in the artists’ book genre. …. And hopefully inspire some viewers to become readers by pursuing the fuller of the artists’ book communiqué by engaging more fully with them when the books return to their respective collection homes.

Doug Spowart   June 9, 2012

Please note: The links that I’ve selected to provide a visual connection with the text have been sourced from Google images and may not be the exact book presented for display in this show. I have found it interesting to discover how so many artists’ books are poorly, if at all, represented in the online domain.

See Bonefolder Vol6#1 Page 44


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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

FLOOD DONATION: ‘Toowoomba Water’ book to SLQ

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Helen Cole + Doug with the book 'Toowoomba Water'

At a time when all Queenslanders were reflecting on the first anniversary of the devastating floods of January 2011 it was fitting that I was able to make a presentation of the book Toowoomba Water to the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland.

The book features a response to flooding in Toowoomba that took place on January 10th. The book was designed to be output using Australia’s premier print-on-demand supplier – AsukaBook using their Book Bound Hard Cover 10″x10″ format.

On the studio step + our 'rainforest' backyard

Water came within 20cm of our studio and a brown torrent flowed into our garden and under the house.  At the bottom of our street a massive flow of water along East Creek took the lives of two people.

East Creek in flood at the bottom of Burns Street

The book makes a commentary on the flood by responding to an aspect of the event that was ‘sampled’ and then brought together to form the book – it is an unusual approach to the documentation of place. Reference for this methodology comes from the work of Marcel Duchamp‘s Paris 1919, Sol LeWitt’s colour grids and Bruce Nauman‘s L.A. Air.

The donation was accepted by Helen Cole, Senior Librarian, Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland.

SEE THE BOOK: http://www.cooperandspowart.com.au/2_PLACES/OtherBooks/Twba_Water_Flip/TwbaWater-Flip.html  (Note: This link is to a Flash Flipbook that may not play on all viewing devices)

26 November: The last student @ the State Library of Qld

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The academic year is nearly over and students don’t need to be at the State Library of Queensland researching and studying – the place is empty, no-one is in the stacks. But then again – look closely …




The dedicated student still at work!!

Written by Cooper+Spowart

November 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm

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