Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Brought to Book

This was the title of the talk I gave at the Lewes Live Literature festival in Pelham House in Lewes on sunday 29th October.

What is 'Book Art', who does it and why? Carolyn Trant is a Lewes based artist, originally a painter/printmaker, who turned to making Artists Books about 12 years ago. Here she takes us on a personal journey into the world of book art, illustrated with examples of her own and other contemporary bookworks from England Europe and the USA.

She will talk about how and why she got into the artform and where it all currently seems to be leading, with particular reference to her current exhibition - the Falcon Bride - which extends the book form into a room-sized installation.

I went to several of the other talks and features and it was interesting to note some common preoccupations. The opening night cabaret was great with Peter Blegvad, Jean Binta Breeze, John Agard's wicked poetry and Pam Hewitt's raunchy cabaret numbers, and I liked Jane Bom-Bane 'Queen of the Funky Harmonium' with her musical hats and multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn.
I particularly responded to Peter Blegvad's Surreal lecture the next day, a guided tour of his Milk Museum...
The human mind is often stirred by what might be called the encyclopedic urge, the thirst to know everything. there are two approaches one can take to quench this thirst:
The horizontal - learning a little about a lot of things
The vertical - learning a lot about one thing

For almost thirty years I have taken the latter course, immersing myself in milk, amassing a macaronic museum of quotes and a morgue of pictures pertaining to the stuff in the belief that a sufficiently obsessive study of one thing will eventually result in a complete education about everything........

It seemed a similar idea to my immersion in the world of Bride Falcon and Bee.

Howard Barker and the Wrestling School were fantastic performing a first draft of 'Actress with an Unloved Child'.

Germaine Dulac's The Seashell and the Clergyman 1928 40 mins... 'arguably the first example of Surrealist cinema...' ( I would say it was more Expressionist ) was also fantastic, as were the live band accompanying it - Minima ; it made me want immediately to get back to my ongoing first hesitant attempts at filming what I am doing......

I also loved my friend and fellow artist Peter Messer's illustated talk about his paintings from his last 3 exhibitions - The Luck to be Astonished in the Right Place; Two Dozen Odd Small Paintings; and On the Way to Work.

From Friday November 2nd I will be exhibiting at Oxford Brookes - The Fine Press Book Fair for 3 days, and giving a talk entitled 'Peggy Angus and the Psychopathology of Artists Books' - based on that given at the Cheltnenham Literature Festival last year about my book 'Art For Life', which many printer/publishers missed because they were at Oak Knoll. I'll be trying to pick up on the particular aspects of Artists Books and Fine Press publications that would have appealed to her and why.

Russian Book Artist Dmitry Sayenko will be coming coming back with us to experience Lewes Bonfire Night and see more English countryside, in return for the amazing travelling experiences he gave us in Russia two years ago - and to see what I did with all the photographs of Brides that I took in St Petersburg, now in my show Falcon Bride at West Dean.

Then it will be only two weeks until LAB 07 at the ICA where I will be showing a reduced version of the installation which will be back from West Dean.
check the site....

On Tuesday 4th of December at 6.30pm I will be giving an open talk about my work as part of the Designer Bookbinders series of lectures - see their site for details:
look under Teaching - DB Lecture series
The talk is called Books and Stuff: the Quiddity of Artists Books
at 6 Queens Square WC !n 3AR ( near Holborn or Russel Sq tube )

Monday, 29 October 2007

10es Rencontres internationales de l'edition de creation

Ateliers Vis-a-Vis & Collectif d'editeurs de la Mediterranee
- my stand at Parc Chanot 'Lire en Fete'.
There were actually 9 countries represented - France, Germany, Hungary, Italy,Japan, Switzerland, Russia and USA with GB as the specially featured country this year, curated by Moya and David Barton.
This is the link for Atelier Vis-a-Vis

Parvenu and Altazimuth Press in Marseilles

We are just back from a wonderful trip to Marseilles for the annual Book fair organised by Atelier Vis-a-Vis. We had a great time exploring the city for two days before the fair ( fortunately therefore arriving just before the Eurostar and SNCF strike kicked in ). The journey from Lewes to the South of France by train was good - the views out of the train window - fantastic, the only real way to travel.

Marseilles is a great city - cosmopolitan, busy, vital, with a great attitude to supporting the arts. They support Atelier Vis-a-Vis with panache and imagination ( of course they do - they are French ) - when a printing works closed down - the presses and premises were given to them to make use of; in return the artists do a lot work with school children making books which are then published/presented in an exciting way. This leads to educational funding. They will also soon be able to make use of the working presses to set up an international centre for printing skills from which the city will benefit. Everyone is happy ( the artists, particularly Danielle and Manuel, work incredibly hard!)

The citizens are not a particularly arty lot by our standards but they responded to all the work with great enthusiasm and empathy, and my appalling French was not a barrier to real communication.

On the first evening we were all taken out for a meal in a ca'baret cafe ( where France's most important Story teller was giving a reading in the theatre.) 'All' means about fifty international book artists, including two Russians living in Berlin, Swiss, German, a couple from US, and about six from England - 'The English desk' was a particular feature of the fair this year - sitting at 3 long tables with a librarian from paris and other Bibliophiles.

A great effort was made to bring interested buyers round the fair in a delightfully semi-formal and civilised fashion with much time and consideration given to discussion and real looking at what was on show.

Atelier Vis-a-Vis collection bought one of our books and I was videoed talking about my work for their archive.

Our only complaint - a mistral the day after our arrival brought the temperature down to a highly unusual 2 degrees ( it felt worse somehow although the sun was bright and a there had to be a quick trip to Monoprix for woolly leggings and socks - so much for our mediterranean hot break).

It wasn't so surprising to be equally cold in Lausanne ( another wonderful train journey through the mountains and along Lake Leman from Geneva). Here we visited our friend Stephane Freitz from 'Art and Fiction' ( see on early blog for link to site ) and had a wonderful quirky tour of Lausanne. Unfortunately the exhibition 'Bestial' with work by Christine Sofolosha was closed on Mondays AND Tuesdays so we missed it, but the Institut de L'Art Brut was all that I had hoped it would be with a fantastic special exhibiton of textiles including work by wonderful Michael Nedjar.

It was great seeing HQ Art and Fiction and what they do - publishing books about other artists as well as their own work; we liked the way both French and Swiss artists seemed to be able to group themselves together for mutual support and the atmosphere of debate and excitement about writing, visual art and ideas.

A wonderful traditional Swiss Fondue in a lively cafe in the evening confirmed the feeling that lively and intelligent cafe society is alive and wonderful. In our conversations however we did finally conclude that the grass is always greener...... it was interesting to hear Stephane's impression of England, which didn't always accord with our own.

Many thanks to Stephane for his wonderful tour, especially the bookshop with the gallery and erotic cabinet of curiosities which we might have otherwise missed.


The Falcon Bride is now safely installed at the Sussex Barn Gallery until sunday 11th of November - open weds - suns 11.30-3.30.

In her text panel and gallery hand-out curator Sharon Michi-Kusunoki wrote the following-

Artist's books are a unique genre and by their nature, difficult to define. they not only challenge the definition itself, but, in actuality, defy categorisation altogether. In the installation, the Falcon Bride, Carolyn Trant examines how critical issues such as memory, text, history and myth can be constructed in a way that expands the confines of a book into something in which active participation is not only recommended, but is a necessity. Here the gallery acts as a vessel binding together the narratives provided by the viewer's own personal and/or collective memories.
In the installation, Trant sets the scene in what appears at first glance to be a Polish cafe with haunting prints on the wall, hand painted books arranged on a table, and an array of fascinating hand-made objects and reconstructed cultural artifacts - some conceptual, some fetishistic. What is important here is not merely what is shown, but what is experienced....in essence, the experience of a book.......

I am very grateful to Sharon for taking on this idea of a 'room-sized book' so enthusiastically and imaginatively. The scale of the barn that is the gallery is twice that of the Star Gallery, but the sence of intimacy is retained by the low and dramatic lighting levels. As you enter the first thing you see is the hand-painted block representing a book cover with a painted title, as on my notebooks - see the image below. The title block conceals the bride.

Alongside the panel, up above on the sides of the mezzanine walls, are 6 of the images from the Boat Book - as also reproduced on the invitation card, reproduced to 2 metres by a metre and a half, in an imposing processional sequence - giving me the feeling, in the gloom, of almost the impression one might get from entering a megalithic tomb with a processional sequence of hieroglyphs.

The boats have been re-made twice the size, with six foot masts reaching from floor to mezzanine ceiling. They have different psychological effect as they are now viewed from the viewers own level rather than raised on a pedestal, but the light effects are similar with wonderful shadows cast on the wall behind.
Together with the photographs they give the boat images a greater prominence in the show, but the three tables - of books, about Krakow, and the 'Egyptian table' - are grouped to the right of the barn, making up the domestic scene of the cafe.

What an amazing landscape in which to exhibit! I have so loved my time setting up the installation here in some of the best autumn days and managing a few long walks on the estate and through the gardens; and staying in the house with Magritte and Leonora Carrington on the walls and amazing cases of stuffed birds to pass on my way to bed.

I really enjoyed working with Sharon and meeting other artists working there - I am looking forward to seeing Mexican artist Antonio's day of the Dead installation at Pallant House when I go over to Chichester next week, ( I can't find my piece of paper with his full name , or any details on Pallant House website - all a bit chaotic here as usual).

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Falcon Bride at West Dean

In case some of you have logged onto the site having received your UWE Artists Books Newsletter and found that the Star Gallery Lewes show is now over....
Here are the details of the next venue:

Sussex Barn Gallery, West Dean College
West Dean, Chichester
West Sussex
PO 18 0QZ


01243 818316

The show runs from Saturday 13 October to Sunday 11 November
Open Wednesday to Sunday 11.30 am - 3.30 pm

I shall be helping put up the show this week and it will look different again; there'll be more photos maybe once it is up.