Between the Sheets: Artists’ Books 2015: curatorial statement by David Forrest and opening speech by Helen Cole
7 March to 2 April 2015, Central Gallery, Aberdeen Street, Perth. Curated by David Forrest, Gallery East.
Curatorial statement by David Forrest:
Between the Sheets, Artists’ Books 2015, forms the second in a planned series of exhibitions of artists’ books organised by Gallery East in Western Australia: the first, held in collaboration with the City of Swan in 2012, was the first comprehensive commercial exhibition of its type held in Western Australia.
Artists’ books, as critical cultural objects to be displayed and treated as artworks, have been described as the 20th Century visual art form, and yet Western Australian audiences have had very few opportunities to experience the advent of the book as a contemporary art form; to question what books are and can be. Between the Sheets: Artists’ Books Exhibition 2015 provides such an opportunity.
Artists’ books challenge the notions of the traditional book. Books as art objects become more than containers of information, but works of art in themselves. While many artists are concerned with content, whether it be images, ideas or inventions, others use a huge variety of media, shapes and structures to create books the like of which are unique. Now seen as a distinct art form, artists’ books have a growing appeal to artists, collectors, curators and the viewing public.
The artist’s book is above all a physical object with which everyone can interact. Indeed, possibly alone in contemporary art practice, artists’ books have a universal appeal: an engagement with everyone who has held a book in his or her hand.
We are delighted not only by the representation of leading international and Australian artists working in this field, but also the keen interest shown by graduating artists from Edith Cowan University, here in Western Australia.
Opening address by Helen Cole, Senior Librarian, Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland
I would like to thank David and Janis for inviting me to be here tonight to open this exhibition and to see your beautiful city, I’m embarrassed to say, for the first time.
Like the 2012 Between the sheets exhibition, this show has brought together contemporary artists’ books from creators around the world. This is a rarity for Australia. For example, the Between the Sheets exhibitions have been the only venues in Australia for African artists’ books. It’s fascinating to see how a culture so different from our own creates books using the materials that are to hand. They may not be the slick products that we see from Western cultures with access to high-end print technologies, but still they make strong statements about books as receptacles of knowledge, and the topics that artists are passionate about. I purchased several of the books from Zimbabwe that were in the last show for the State Library of Queensland collection.
Artists’ books are one of the few art forms you must touch to see. With some exceptions this exhibition gives you that chance.
The intimacy of touching, along with the sequential nature of the book means that artists’ books demand more of the reader than other art forms. To fully understand a book work requires a complete engagement with it.
Quite often in the Library I see people flick through a couple of pages of an artists’ book and then move on to the next because nothing jumped instantly out of the book and grabbed them by the throat. In this way many readers miss the profound messages that artists’ books can deliver, and so pass by books that with a little more time they will find to be wonderfully contemplative, bitingly incisive, or maybe, just really funny.
I recently wrote an article on public collections of artists’ books in Australia. Researching for that, I surveyed the curators of all the major collections around the country, most of which are in libraries, not art galleries. It became evident that as a result of both economic conditions and increasing spending on digital publications, artists’ books are receiving less public funding than at any point in the past 25 years. Private funding has never been great, with only two significant private collections in Australia.
I fear that artists’ books are going to receive less support as an artform and that through this, their relevance will also suffer as fewer are made available through either public collections or commercial exhibitions.
So this is my call to arms. I urge you to take this rare opportunity to investigate closely the works assembled here from around the world. This exhibition includes a marvelous selection of works from long established book artists such as Petr Herel, award winners like Clyde McGill to emerging artists like the Edith Cowan University students represented here. Spend some time with these books and when you find one that really speaks to you, as I’m sure you will, buy it!
Take it home,
read it again,
show it to your family and friends.
Prove to the world that not all books have turned into digital images on a glass screen.
That there are still hold-in-your-hand, three dimensional ones that can tell a good yarn…