“The Book Arts: Artist’s Books Exhibition”, held at Art on Paper at 44 Stanley in November 2014, provided a perfect opportunity for displaying my most recent work, read peep reap (Figs. 1-13). Consisting of three separate components, read peep reap could be understood as an artist’s book installation that includes a drawing of an iris, a sculptural book and a ‘visual label’.
Its first component, a drawing, is an interpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s Iris Troiana (1508), which is rendered in blue, red and pink ballpoint pen ink and depicts a bruised flower. The iris also makes reference to the 1970s feminism movement as it features in Judy Chicago’s work and is associated with her endeavours to elevate “craft” to the status of “art”. My ballpoint drawing is set behind glass in a customized frame to accommodate an operational set of blinds, and fades with exposure to direct light: drawing the blinds and exposing the ballpoint rendering thus causes it to fade away, an act suggestive of the death of the handmade and crafts in a digital age. The viewer has the choice to peep though the blinds at the drawing or operate the mechanism to expose the entire work.
The second object, the “Visual Label”, consists of a series of digital prints on acid free paper, folded concertina style as a sequential explication. It includes mind maps and reference material, including photocopies of the watercolour and ink drawing by Dürer. Towards its end is printed a series of elaborate complex digitally enhanced floral patterns exploring reflection symmetry which Graphic Design staff member, Christa Van Zyl, produced from the drawing.
The final component takes the form and shape of a sculptural book set between two transparent extruded plastic bookends. The spine is handcrafted and bound in dark brown leather. The title “read peep reap” (a Dewey decimal classification number) and my name as the artist/author are embossed and gilded in gold leaf. The individual pages are dye-cut into shapes of hundreds of blinds which are strung together with thin cotton ropes, simulating the mechanism of a set of blinds while also emulating the thread used to stich the individual pages together in the craft of bookbinding. The digitally printed and dye-cut pages allude to the codex of a book, a title page, preliminaries, a colophon, frontispiece, dedication and epigraph.
In her introduction to Navigating the BookScape: Artists’ books and the Digital Interface, Robyn Sassen (2006) asks: “is the Artist’s book about reading, about looking, about thinking, or about all three?” The title of the installation, read peep reap, prompts the viewer to consider the death of crafts and the handmade in a digital age. Celebrating the art of drawing and fine craftsmanship in bookbinding, it pays homage to the ultimate ‘artisan’, Dürer, who was not only a painter, printmaker and engraver but also a mathematician and theorist. And, to use the words of Sassen (2006) in regard to artists’ books, it is about my “sense of wonder and exploration in creating an interactive thing that brings the audience as a collaborative participant in the experience of the work”.
Sassen, Robyn. 2006. Introduction. In Navigating the Bookscape: Artists’ Books and the Digital Interface, edited by David Paton. Online publication.http://www.theartistsbook.org.za/view.asp?pg=exhibitions&ex=ex2_001