Friday, 2 March 2018

Three weeks to go to Oxford Fine Press Book Fair....



Only 3 weeks to go and I should be promoting the Fine Press Book Association fair at the Kassam Stadium Oxford, 24/25th March, but I can never stop printing long enough in my basement to enter the upstairs world of my computer…
I just had to check my catalogue entry – and it sounds rather scatty but it was just the tip of the iceberg of my thoughts when I wrote it in haste facing a large pile of woodcut blocks and texts before starting printing over two months ago.
I will elaborate here....with some roughs of a few of the images.....

These books I am printing are trying to combine being painted and printed; I always print like a painter anyway – the blocks are just another way of getting colour and image onto the paper – and each book, of a very small edition ( 7? 9? ) will be slightly different.
I want it to be quite rough and immediate, not pretty at all – I am not sure my skills stretch to tragedy so rough and raw will have to do….

James’ poem has reverted back to its original title – The Untenanted Room, after a brief sojourn as The Ruin – lucky for him I hadn’t cut the title page until very recently…








The text flickers between current events and concerns, structured around the medieval story of Perceval, The Holy Fool, and yes – The Ruin. I am trying to mirror the metaphors of the writing with the way I print – shreds of allusions and references in the imagery, cut shapes. Fragmented printing styles. The covers, if I ever get them dry in time, are trying to gather up and meld some of the whirling detritus of the world, both natural and man made – and compact it into a surface; I did this once for a unique volume, The Artists Book, done for a Millennium exhibition in 2000, which is now in the USA and I never took a photo of the cover, so it is an idea revisited from memory nearly two decades on.

‘Current events and concerns’ are the perennial ones – man’s inhumanity to man and the continual degradation of the planet. The first image is of an unspecified bombed building, in the Middle East maybe; later bodies hang like meat from the trees, the woodcuts try to flicker like TV screens, dead birds are strung up, trees look blasted. But art ultimately makes things look aesthetic, cosy: I try to be raw but pages inevitably become cooked – our conscience and consciousness makes things acceptable so that we can carry on. I hope this is an angry book all the same..

Alongside will be our smaller, quieter book – Some Light Remains.

See you there hopefully.......









Friday, 12 January 2018

The Oxford Fine Press Book Association Fair

Old Year, New Year - a catch up on news. the FPBA fair, postponed after the newly refurbished Oxford Brookes university hall where we normally have our stands proved too small now to accommodate us all; we are now moving to the Kassam Stadium, ten minutes from the city centre and home of Oxford's football club! it provides space and easy parking with a Holiday Inn on site, so hopefully some practical considerations will make up for the at first glance rather bleak surroundings - once inside you will be surrounded by a wonderful world of hand-made books.

The fair is 24th and 25th March 2018.

 This year I will be bringing Some Light Remains, another poetry volume with James Simpson , same size and a sister volume to The Rhyme of the Reddleman’s Daughter which I showed in 2015, poems printed from Metallic Elephant metal plate and 7 colour woodcuts plus a frontispiece- see images in previous posts.

Also a very large new book, which is almost a sister volume to my very first book Gawain done in 1997, and based on the Perceval story and the medieval poem of The Ruin. This began as the Untenanted Room, a long poem by James Simpson which was published as an Agenda Editions special  edition a few years ago.
It has taken us a long time to re-model and conceive it in this new format, the complete text cut in wood as I did with sections of David Harsent’s poem cycle Gawain.
I am using A3 and A2 woodblocks, which will give you some idea of the size – which fits Khadi papers cotton rag paper with its lovely uneven edges. It needs to be big so you can be completely immersed in the story, and so that the images don’t become ‘pretty’ in any way – and to show the monumentality of the text. If Some Light Remains was a peaceful contemplative book this one is much angrier and reflects our times I fear.







It is currently still a huge pile of cut blocks, some of which are illustrated here, almost ready for printing and the time of reckoning: watch this space for more images as they emerge.




I have been cutting all over Christmas, after another brief sojourn in Bristol, where I finally found my way to Birdcage Walk on a lovely crisp day and thought sadly of Helen Dunmore.
I just managed to catch the last week of the Grayson Perry exhibition at the beautiful Arnolfini – it looked really good in this setting, packed with enthusiastic visitors. I always love his ideas and this time particularly really loved all the artworks too.

I also caught up with my daughter’s project Making Books in Bristol which was exhibited next to the West of England Academy as part of the Centre for Material Texts which she runs as an academic at Bristol University. It was a very inclusive and interesting display to which people contributed from a variety of skills and interests.










It included a photo of Nick Hand of the Letterpress Collective in Bristol with his printing byke. I saw this project as a crowdfunding suggestion by chance a few years ago and couldn’t resist contributing – the idea of cycling to Mainz, in Germany, home of Gutenburg, on a bicycle with an integral printing press, printing and sending postcards along the way was irresistible. He has since given Peter and I a good tour of his workshop.

It is hard to give a good impression of the exhibition with low resolution images but I hope it gives some idea –book artist Angie Butler made a definitive volume pulling all the ideas together, including everyone’s contributions in an often very witty way. I hope you can read some of the lables if you click on the images to enlarge them. or for much clearer pictures and more information google https://booksatbristol.wordpress.com 


The good recent news about the Bodleian book project I was involved with ( see posting below) is that it is now going on to Bristol and will be exhibited at UWE curated by Sarah Bodman and showing all the books involved this time, starting in June I think – watch this space.

There's a few days left to visit the Outside In exhibition at Sotheby's in Bond Street - begun at Pallant House and now an independent institution this project is really worth supporting - find out about it and see some really inspiring artwork until the 19th I think.