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Between The Sheets: The Rebirth of the Traditional Book

– by Stephanie Lyon

Artists books are a 20th century art form currently gaining momentum on the world scale. The concept of books being displayed as art works and challenging the traditional book is intriguing; sparking interest from different facets of my identity the book lover, writer, and hobby artist.

‘Between the Sheets’ at Gallery Central brings together fifty three artists from eight countries; all using their own respective mediums to present their artist books. It was the vast array of mediums on show, and the way they gelled together that impressed me most. From Deborah Klein’s lino cut prints in ‘Homo-Insecta’, Stewart Scrambler’s ceramic book ‘In Lapidum Statuere’, to Kestutis Vasiliunas’ ‘Tea Book No. 4’ which as the name suggests is constructed from tea bags.

It’s impossible to name all of the highlights as the whole exhibition was full of pieces that captivated me. I loved the beauty in the words of Petr Herel’s ‘Gerald Murname, Inland’:

‘I saw ghosts of images of clouds
drifting through the ghost of an image of sky
behind ghosts of covers and spines of
ghosts of books. I saw ghosts
of images of pages’

Eve Arnold’s ‘Flying High’ is a stand out installation with two books each placed on a steel diptych set at alternate heights with paper trimmed and stitched together in a crisscross pattern cascading to resemble wings. It brings reminiscence to the idea that books allow our imaginations to soar to new places. Pam Langdon’s two artworks ‘Britannica Metamorphosis’ and ‘Bibliotheca IV’ reconstruct hardcover books, the pages fanned out and arranged in intricate designs to resemble flowers, the patterns and swirls taking us back to a popular art form in the 18th century: quilling.

Sandra Dunbar’s ‘Time and Repetition’ a photographic screen print on several pieces of linen cleverly uses repetition as the print is made up of phrases which incorporate the word ‘time’ most of which are now relatively cliché and over used in our modern language. Once upon a time, There’s no time like the present, time and time again, time heals all wounds. Laura Mitchell’s ‘HOROLOGOS: Improvisations on a Clock face’ is an immersive book set up like a clock face which requires the viewer to move around it’s podium to view the work, and read a poem designated to each hour on the twelve hour clock. Nicci Haynes’ ‘Wakewords’ is another interesting piece it is shredded paper which resemble the lines of a book attached to a hard cover. It reminds me of a pile of seaweed washed up in the gallery, but makes me reflect on the possible death of the traditional book in the digital age.

Unfortunately ‘Between the Sheets’ has now wrapped up for the year, however many of the works have been purchased by the Queensland State Library Collection and should be on show again soon. Look out for ‘Between the Sheets’ again next year, and in the meantime I’m going to keep my eyes open in search for more artist books. If this new art form is breathing life back into the traditional book I’m all for it; and if ‘Between the Sheets’ is anything to go by it’s an art form which offers plenty of scope and artistic freedom.

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