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artists’ books

Sometime in May, Judy Willoughby invited me to post an artwork a day for a week on Facebook, without title or any other explanation. It took me a while to get into this, as I had decided not to accept any challenges of this nature, but one evening I decided to bite the bullet and pulled a random book out of my bookcase, which happened to be of the art of Franco Vecchiet. I know Franco from Venice, as he taught relief print for many years at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, where I ran some etching weekends, and also took part in a residency. You might be forgiven for imagining this installation was in Venice, but in fact it was in Spalato, in 1987.

artwork a day 1 Franco Vecchiet

Awake, Installation by Franco Vecchiet, Spalato 1987

For the second artwork I did much the same thing: a random book selection, this time ‘The Art of Dove Bradshaw’. I was given this book by Gareth Mills, of Glastonbury bookshops fame: he explained that I was probably the exact person who should have it. My near namesake, Dove Bradshaw, is an American artist who works with ‘nature, change and indeterminacy’. She combines unstable materials with traditional ones, setting off a metamorphic process.  Here the materials are copper and acetic acid on paper. She also, incidentally, was friends with, and worked with, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Someone after my own heart. I want to be her sister.

Artwork a day 2 Dove Bradshaw

Without Title, 1994, Dove Bradshaw, Copper, acetic acid on paper, 13 3/4 x 3 inches

So far, the work has been by artists who are not well known in the UK. For the third artwork, I resorted to a better known artist, Marino Marini.  He is mostly known for his sculpture, but I really love his 2D work. I saw this and other paintings and prints at an exhibition in Chartres, France, in 1993, and they’ve never left the back of my mind.

Artwork a day 3 Marino Marini

Transparence, 1959, Marino Marini, Oil on canvas 1.51 x 1.20m

Artwork number 4. This is from a book in my bookcase that I have haven’t seen there before….honest. It’s a kind of catalogue of book works, and starts with a memorable quotation from Jorge Luis Borges: ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’ So many images I could have chosen, but this one truly did sum up my feelings the day I posted it;  it is the world I would like to inhabit. It’s from a book by Juergen Teller, ‘bringing together images from the Spring Summer 2008 Vivienne Westwood campaign. In his usual style, Juergen Teller photographed the collection by creating a highly theatrical mis-en-scene which involved the collaboration of not only the models but also the designer herself. ‘

Artwork a day 4 Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood Spring Summer 2008, Juergen Teller, photograph

Day 5. By now I had a sense that the number of images left was limited. I always intended to include this painting by Leonora Carrington, entitled ‘The Artist Travelling Incognito”. I love her humour (and wisdom). I saw it in an exhibition of her work in Tate Liverpool some years ago, and bought the postcard.

Artwork a day 5 Leonora Carrington

The Artist Travelling Incognito, 1949, Leonora Carrington, oil on canvas 45.5 x 35.5cm

When I first saw this image, I thought that the artist, Yinka Shonibare, had wrapped all the books in African fabrics. But they were bound, not wrapped. An astonishing installation acquired by the Tate for its permanent collection, the books ‘celebrate cultural icons and diversity. Three walls of the gallery are taken up with shelves of 6,328 books. On 2,700 of the books are the names, printed in gold leaf, of first- and second-generation immigrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the country’s culture and history.’ An artwork for our times.

Artwork a day 6 Yinka Shonibare

The British Library, 2014, Yinka Shonibare

And so to the last artwork. So many candidates for this! But I decided to go back to my – and everyone’s – artistic roots, and posted this owl from the Chauvet Cave in France. A humble little sgraffito which nevertheless demonstrates the extraordinary skill of the people who decorated the caves. Just a few lines say it all. One of my all time favourite quotations is from ‘On Drawing’ by John Berger, who visited these caves and afterwards wrote: ‘Art, it would seem, is born like a foal who can walk straightaway. Or to put it less vividly… the talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together.’

I couldn’t end this project on a better note.

Artwork a day 7 Chauvet Cave Owl

Owl, Anon, Chauvet Cave, Le Pont d’Arc, France

 

Bride's cross

A topic we are currently tossing around on our ABCD book group page is ‘Magical Thinking’, which originated in a post made by Judith Staines, of Taleos: talismans that ward off danger, in particular plague and illness.

Taleo from Laos

Taleo in a Lao village

So I started looking around for home grown talismans (-men?), and came across the St Bridget’s cross. “Making a St Bridget’s Cross is a custom in Ireland. The St Bridget’s Cross is made out of plants called rushes for hanging above the entrances to dwellings to invoke the saint’s help in warding off disease.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 11 Apr 13.47.24

I’ve been aware of St Bridget, or Brigid, or Bridie, or Brighde, for a long time, as she is closely associated with Glastonbury, my home town. On the outskirts of the town is a green hill (not the Tor, much flatter!) known as Bride’s Mound. For several years now it has been owned by a trust of local people who have so far successfully warded off encroachment onto the site by the neighbouring industrial estate, the former Morlands site. Excavations were undertaken in the 19th and 20th centuries, and I believe also recently. These have revealed the foundations of an old chapel, or maybe two, possibly corroborating the legend that St Bridget came here from Ireland and that this place was the entry point for Irish monks visiting Glastonbury, one of whom is said to have been St Patrick himself.

Bride's Mound for blog

‘Bride’s Mound’, an etching, part of my ‘Holy Islands’ series

Brides Mound from the Brue

Bride’s mound during the floods of 2013

My etching was made in 2013 as part of a solo show at Glastonbury Abbey. But my interest stems from earlier than that: in around 1988 I took part in an annual ritual of making a ‘Brighde Doll’, in the Bridget Chapel that leans against the north wall of Glastonbury Abbey. A group of women friends had got together on Brigid’s Day, February 1st, to make a doll out of anything that they had/was lying around. Our Brighde that year is the one in the middle of my etching, with a cork for a nose (lavish wine drinking traditionally accompanied the ritual, or so we imagined). The 3 Brighdes, that one and the two from previous years, took up temporary residence at the Dove in Diana Griffith’s caravan, and there I drew them and made this etching:

The 3 Brighdes

The etching had the distinction of being considered for removal from an exhibition at the Black Swan Gallery, Frome, later that year, following several complaints from the public that it was ‘black magic’ and too ‘witchy’. Plus ça change….Luckily, it was saved by the then curator, who didn’t bow to public pressure.

So….later, in the ’90’s, I made many etchings from imagination, eyes closed at first, and then worked with what emerged. This one became ‘Old Biddy’ and shows Brigid with her cows.

Old Biddy

Brigid, incidentally, can be seen with her cows in a carving on the side of the Tor.

Brigid on the Tor

Brigid milking her cow, bas relief on the outside wall of Glastonbury Tor

Here’s a lovely description of Brigid from the Glastonbury Abbey website: “Most of the miracles attributed to her were concerned with the relief of poverty or illness. She is reputed to have personally ministered to lepers and to have cured many. Legend draws for us vivid pictures of the kind of woman she was: her lavish generosity, tireless energy and irresistible charm, equally at home in the fields tending sheep or bringing in the harvest. She is found milking cows, making butter and cheese, and tubs of home-brewed ale.”

I love her more already.

So, today I set about making a Brigid Cross from reeds I found in the Whitefield. They were a bit brittle – the time for making these is reputedly February 1st, her day; also Celtic Imbolc and New Year, which would, of course, also have been the totally appropriate time to start guarding ourselves again the plague. But I managed, and here it is, the Brigid Cross, adorning the wall by my ‘magical thinking table’ by the door.

Brigid Cross in the Kitchen

Speaking Tree 5

The Speaking Tree bookshop is hosting a display of ABCD books from our recent exhibition at ACEarts in Somerton. Gareth Mills, the owner of the Speaking Tree, is a great believer in the value of handmade, artists’ books, and wants to help promote them, and also work out how to make it easier to produce them, thus cutting costs and reaching more people. This display is a start – some, though not all, of the books are for sale.

Speaking Tree 4

Speaking Tree 1

Speaking Tree 3

Catch it if you can: it’s on for a couple of weeks from today.

 

PV2

Lovely preview this evening – the show looked stunning and friends and supporters came and stayed – and actually looked at the work!  I was chatting to visitors and totally unprepared for an off the cuff vote of thanks that Diana Milstein delivered to me, impromptu, generously; and when she said, at the end of it – do you want to make a speech? in my embarrassment I said No, firmly, to general laughter. Afterwards I wished I’d said yes, but the moment was gone.

I should have said yes because I would have expressed the following: – yes, it’s true I started the Dove Book group 17 years ago, and that this current exhibition stems from that initiative and the 17 years of teaching and facilitating since then. But in another, more important way, this exhibition is the fruit of the persistence and ever increasing expertise of the 13 members of the Artists’ Book Club (Dove), and of our group activities that foster creativity, ideas, laughter, and wonderful lunches. That’s what it’s about for me – the group, and what we can achieve when we work together. So thank you to fellow ABCDers; to everyone who came tonight, and to Nina and her staff and volunteers who were brilliant. I hope you read this.PV4

And please note: the show is on for 6 days only: Saturday 29th, and then Tuesday 1st August – Saturday 5th August. 10 – 5 each day. Two members of the group will be present each day to answer questions about the books, and maybe demonstrate a thing or two.

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Originally posted on barleybooks:
We gathered at the Dove last Saturday in warm sunshine. Some of us had visited BABE – the biennial Bristol Artists Book Event. My finds included a large and jolly picture book with a blackly humorous message (from OttoGraphic),  a lovely little hand-painted floppy zigzag from Andrew Law, and some simply…

ABCD (Artists’ Book Club Dove) meeting at the Dove today, to share work done on the topic of ‘Winged’. Ama Bolton usually records the work in her blog, but she is in Poland at the moment, so I’ll do it, using photos Jane Paterson took.

CD Tree Spring Book

Tree Spring Book, Clare Diprose

This is called a Spring book as it starts off folded in half like a book, and then quite literally springs into shape when you let go of it.  Look carefully and you see the birds. I’m collecting poems about trees at the moment, and this tree reminds me of lines from a lovely poem by Andrew Marvell, called ‘The Garden’ – “Casting the body’s vest aside/My soul into the boughs does glide;/There like a bird it sits and sings,/Then whets and combs its silver wings.” Lots of poets in this tree.

CD from above

Tree Spring book from above

CM Winged Altered Book

Winged Words, Caroline Mornement

Caroline found the right book by chance, fortuitously called ‘Winged Words’ and altered it to make this explosion of birds and words. I couldn’t remember the title of the book (see Jane Paterson’s book below about memory – or lack of it) so Caroline emailed me this:

Winged Words

KY Winged Book

Winged, Karen Young

A many winged book; an ingenious piece of paper engineering, with details and inserts that you don’t see here.

JW Insect Book

Insects, Judy Warbey

Judy painstakingly drew 100 insects or so onto handmade Korean paper, and constructed this delicate spiralling book.

JB from above

Winged, Janine Barchard

Upside down, but the best way to see all the pop ups in this book, and the nice details on the spine.

 

JP Not Winged

Memory, Jane Paterson

Last not least: having set us the topic of Winged, Jane had so many ideas she couldn’t settle on one, so made this book about memory and how it comes and goes as we get older. Ebb and Flow (more Flow and Ebb though).

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