at La CALA de Chodes.

at La CALA de Chodes.

My first encounter with La CALA occurred in autumn of 2015, when I participated in a collective exhibition about storytelling objects along with 3 other female artists: Elena Odriozola, Alejandra Fernández and Juliana Salcedo. Each of us had been working on creating different storytelling objects to narrate a classical or invented tale, a project initiated by Gustavo Puerta in his Escuela Peritatética.

A paper sketch of my piece. Photo by Rubén Vicente

 

Portrait with my piece. Photo by Rubén Vicente

I arrived at Chodes the night before the private-view, sleep-ridden after having spent almost 10 consecutive days and nights painting my piece in the kitchen. Little did I know then that this was to be "the beginning of a beautiful friendship" (from the film Casablanca, of course), and the first of many creative encounters.

The 24 hours that followed were full of surprises: discovering the other artist's work, sumptuous meals prepared by Grassa Toro, director of La CALA, a countryside walk, migrating birds, surprising encounters.

Grassa Toro at the opening talk of the private view, November 1st, 2015.

 

The birds timed their migration perfectly,

 

and the air was festive with celebration.

 

The most surprising was that, during the private view, guests we invited in to the gallery  in groups of 7 or 8 at a time, and though neither of the artists had prepared for it, we began telling our stories like ancient troubadours.

 

Beginning to tell the story of my Kavaad: Rudyard Kipling's The Elephant Child. Photo by Ruben Vincente

 

Having been so enchanted with the space, I began thinking about the possibility of doing an artist residence there to develop the originals for Las visitas de Nani, a children's book about my grandmother that I had been working on for several years with the publishing house Ediciones Ekaré. I had advanced very well on the research and construction of the story, having spent lots of time interviewing family members and collecting information. The storyboard was written, sketched out and even approved by the publishers months before. I just had to begin the final illustrations. And yet, I seemed to be stuck. When I visited La CALA, I felt that perhaps spending some days entirely dedicated to the creative process would give me the boost I needed to really enter the story. I was far from wrong. I arrived in Chodes in early February 2016, with suitcases full of paper, drawing tools, materials, research, family photos, notes and sketchbooks. I began working the afternoon of my arrival, drawing at a good pace. And then, I hit an unexpected brick wall. I couldn't draw the character inspired by my grandmother, I felt that I somehow needed to give my permission to tell my version of our family history.

 

A sketch I made during residence.

In a fit of frustration, I began putting up sketches and photos on the walls of the gallery space next door to the library- both of which I was told I could use throughout my stay. I ended up making a gigantic mind-map/constellation of the entire story, singling out keywords that guided me through every chapter.  I have already written briefly about my residence in a previous post titled about what's keeping me up at night.

 

Working on my mural constellation map during residence. Photos by Ruben Vincente

 

I honestly don't believe I could have continued the book had I not done the artist residence. And herein lies the magic of La CALA. It is a space dedicated to artistic creation. A space, in the countryside with open skies. It is a space that includes a house with a delightful chimney, an inviting kitchen and a comfortable yellow sofa; a garden with trees, flowers and a little black and white dog named Vaca (cow); a spacious garage that houses props for theatre production, a car, a huge freezer, sculptures and other surprising objects; a library full of all kinds of books and curiosities, a long wooden table where many writers, thinkers and artists have worked, a collection of artist books and limited editions, comfortable leather sofas and a big fluffy rug for having a rest, windows with view of the garden; a gallery that houses many individual and collective exhibitions.

Residences at La CALA are organised over a period of 9 days. During this time, the artist is given a room in the house as accommodation, and access to the entire library as work space. In my case, as there were no exhibitions at the time of my arrival, I was also given access to the gallery area. Over the 9 days the artist is accompanied by Grassa Toro, who provides all the conditions necessary to enable the creative process. This includes caring for basic needs such as food and drink, to suggesting books and material, critical analysis of the project, artistic direction, the list is endless. Basically, during the duration of the residence, the artist is accommodated in every sense so that they can concentrate entirely on the project. For this reason, the 9 days feel like a much longer period of time, during which one can immerse themselves into their work and live it intensely.

Following the residence, I have participated in various projects at La Cala. These include: the collective exhibition Reino Animal,  illustrating the images for Este cuerpo es humano, the solo exhibition of the original artwork for Este cuerpo es humano,  and the two day workshop Libro de artista.

 

At the summer party and closing of the exhibition Este cuerpo es humano. Photos by Ruben Vincente

 

And now, almost two and a half years later, the book Las visitas de Nani has finally been published!!! I will write about this in the following post. For now I will conclude in a tone of gratitude for La Cala, for becoming one of my many homes over the years, and for all of it's magic and creativity.

 

 

Song of the day

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh6b4nvFhx0


the exhibition opened

the exhibition opened

 

The exhibition Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human opened at La Cala on the 8th of April and will close on the 14th of August, coinciding with a garden party to celebrate Biblioteca La Cala.

The original artwork of any book is a work of its own. Though the book will have reproductions of the originals, these will keep on being an entirely separate collection of work. At least for me.

I love having exhibitions. It's a very different feeling to publishing a book. It's an invitation to look into the more intimate creative process behind the images. As I wrote in my previous post, the exhibition for Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human included two series of works: the original images made to accompany the text in their Japanese accordion book format, and a new series of images made from the negative silhouettes salvaged from each organ or organic system. This second series was begun simultaneously and finished after the publication of the book.

To display the first series of images, a beautiful glass case (of the museum and specimen kind) was especially made. The second series, which I wanted to have an x-ray effect, were framed and individually lit-up with leds.

The exhibition opened in early April, following a two day course on artist books that I gave at La Cala.

 

Preview of the exhibition with the participants of the course El libro de Artista, the day before the official opening

While planning for the show, I was fascinated by other exhibitions revolving around the body. Through my research I discovered the work of Romy Yedidia. Through her work she explores the representation of the female human body, the problems of indoctrination within propaganda and gender conflicts. I was especially moved by her performative piece 'Preserve x' 186 which she describes as the following: "The way contemporary media represents body image and its meaning quite often insinuates only overly sexualised portrayal of femininity. To deprive femininity from any contextual substance, and assign it only to a basic function of being a visual commodity for the other, is to reinsure perpetuation of one-sided, unequal, distorted constructs that do not offer any space nor potential for further growth. These circumstances situate women in malignant comparative position between what is imposed as a normalised image of feminine, and what they truly are. 'Preserve x 186' is my response to this perpetual brainwash. This performative sculpture series was executed by long casting sessions of my body parts. I was casted repeatedly in plaster in front of my every-day public surroundings. By materialising the pain of remaining still in an unnatural position, I protested the constant objectification of women and the expectation of them to remain silent."

 

Collections of cast body parts from ?Preserve x 186' by Romy Yedidia

 

Romy Yedudua performing 'Preserve  x 186'

I also looked to my constant sources of inspiration, such as Kiki Smith, whose work constantly questions the body in it's sexual, animal and mythological senses.

 

3 exhibitions by Kiki Smith exploring the body in mythology

 

Puppet and Siren sculptures by Kiki Smith

My exhibition, thanks to the meticulous curatorship by Grassa Toro and Ana Mareca, achieved a dramatic effect I could only have dreamed of, only part of which has been captured by the photographs below.

 

 

If you wish to see it in person, do join us at the celebration on the 14th of August at La Cala.

Song of the day

Max Richter - On Reflection...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8vVkAu7DRo


Months ago,

Months ago,

Months ago, I began a second series of images for Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human. A series of images that would not be included in the book, but would rather, serve as a playful appendix, to be viewed during exhibitions.

I love this idea of creating images for a book whose intention is to remain unpublished. This isn't to say that the images were an afterthought, on the contrary, they were conceived simultaneously to the actual images of the book. Let me explain. While making the images for the book, I cut out the silhouettes of each organ or organic system from a page of an old anthology about Latin literature. I cut each silhouette meticulously, in one each, and delicately preserved the ¨negative¨silhouettes of each, pasting them on a sheet of tracing paper.

 

Series of "negatice drawings" in process

 

Among the definitions for negative, are the following two which seem aligned with my concept.

ˈnɛɡətɪv/
adjective: negative
1.
consisting in or characterized by the absence rather than the presence of distinguishing features.
2.
a negative photographic image made on film or specially prepared glass, from which positive prints may be made.
"photographs and negatives should be supplied for enlargement purposes"

Months into the process, I decided to make these images the negatives or the x-ray drawings, in black and white. While the original drawings respect the formal attributes of the organs of the human body, this series of drawings plays which what is suggested by the negative form. The digestive system is filled in by the shape of a flamingo ingesting a shrimp, the uterus is the head of an elephant, the penis is a squid, the vagina an ancient celtic symbol of a goddess, and so on and so forth.

 

From left to right: the respiratory system, the endocrine system, the nervous system

 

From left to right, top row: vagina, uterus, penis frontal, penis profile

 

During my research process, I looked back at medieval iconography, rich in symbolism and magical beasts.

 

Inspirational images for the negative image of the vagina. From left to right: Psalter and Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg. Arme Christi / Side wound of Christ, or "The entrance to Christ's heart",  and two versions of A Man Enthroned within a Mandorla in a Tree, the first ca 1270, and the second, date unknown.

I found interest in the repetition and patterns of Tantric art.

 

Inspirational images for the negative image of the uterus. On the left: Pushpa Kumari "Mithila Painting", Untitled, 2004, Ink/paper, 30 x 22 in (76.2 x 55.9 cm) Courtoisy Cavin-Morris gallery. On the to right: Munan Tantra image.

 

I was fascinated by anatomical illustrations in both encyclopedic plate form as well as in illuminated manuscripts.

Inspirational images for the negative image of the penis. On the left: A cuttlefish: British Library Burney MS 97, f. 41v. On the to right: Mollusca. Octopus, squid, nautilus, and cuttlefish. The Animal Kingdom.

 

Birds, of course found themselves flying in and out of the series of drawings.

 

From left to right: the muscular system, the circulatory system

 

On the left: Illustrations for 'the bloody chamber' by Angela Carter by Katt Frank. On the right: bird-girl drawings, found on Pinterest, artist unkown.
From left to right: An onocentaur (half man, half ass) with a bow looks at a siren. These two are often illustrated together. J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. Ludwig XV 3, Folio 78r, Tamed monsters series by Lena Revenko, Manfishchicken from French medieval illuminated manuscript.
Left to right: Illuminated manuscript depicting Garuda. Prayer sheet to Lord Garuda.  Japanese mythological birdman.

 

Making this series of images was very different to the creative process that I engaged for the originals that were printed in the book. Both processes were games, though this one involved a more ludic type of play, one that made me laugh out loud at times.

Song of the day

Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMTEtDBHGY4

 


many stories,

many stories,

Many stories inhabit us. We carry them faithfully, sometimes silently. There are some we can't wait to share, or that spurt right out of us uncontrollably. Some are more difficult to tell. We let these grow inside of us until we are ready. Some of them we take to our graves.

Many stories have become universal. Folk tales, fairytales, nursery rhymes, epic poems are carried across cultures, told or sung from one generation to the next. As Angela Carter writes: “For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written — heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world.” Adapted and readapted continuously.

 

"Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps one of the best known fairy tales. Like most European fairy tales, its origins lie within a sprawling folk tradition of oral storytelling. It was first published in the late 17th century by Charles Perrault – a French author who is considered to be the father of the fairy tale genre due to his work collecting these tales together for the first time in print. This later version, contained within a small, hand-coloured chapbook, dates from 1810 and was published in Moorfields, London. It is told in the form of a verse poem with alternating unrhymed and rhymed couplets. The clear text and simple language, coupled with the large colourful illustrations, suggests that this chapbook was aimed at young readers." Source: British Library

Many stories transform and transcend through the years, preserving their meaning while taking upon new forms and formats.

 

Little Red Riding Hood by artist Warja Lavater, whose series of classic fairytales consists of accordion books that tell the stories through the use of symbols rather than words, with a small legend to guide the reader on the first pages. Published by: Maeght Editions
Details from Little Red Riding Hood by artist Warja Lavater

Many stories live in books, in works of art, on walls, in the theatre. These also inhabit us as we inhabit them. In the words of John Berger from Keeping a Rendezvous: “When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.” In A Way of Being Free, Ben Okri continues upon this train of thought: “Reading, therefore, is a co-production between writer and reader. The simplicity of this tool is astounding. So little, yet out of it whole worlds, eras, characters, continents, people never encountered before, people you wouldn’t care to sit next to in a train, people that don’t exist, places you’ve never visited, enigmatic fates, all come to life in the mind, painted into existence by the reader’s creative powers. In this way the creativity of the writer calls up the creativity of the reader. Reading is never passive.” By appropriating stories, one not only makes them their own, but enters the story more completely. This is demonstrated time and again, when working with children with classic tales.

Shadow puppet theatre of Little Red Riding Hood for one of my L'École de Papier workshops. Photos by Daniela Martagón
Acting out the story during the workshop at L'Institut Français Madrid . Photos by Éric Mangin

Bringing stories "to life" through enacting is one way of appropriating them. Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling which uses flat articulated shadow puppets which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. This idea of the shadow reflecting truth is  reflected in Plato's Allegory of the Cave: “On the walls of the cave, only the shadows are the truth”. Though shadow play originated from Central Asia in the 1st century BCE, it has been constantly revived and reinvented. Lotte Reiniger, a German artist from the 1950s translated this tradition onto the silver screen, making the first animation films of fairytales using elaborate silhouette figures cut out from black paper.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXQPZqOqe58

This documentary by the British Film Institute explains Lotte Reiniger's creative process, demonstrating how the flat figure is transformed to a motion picture.

 

The above images include original frames and puppets by Lotte Reiniger, as well as her tools. Source: Tübingen Universitätsstadt

Many stories follow traditional storytelling narratives and formats, or adapt them to create new forms.

This short documentary explores some of the storytelling traditions in India, retold by the authors of the Jaipur literature festival in 2011.

 

The above images explain the Bunraku tradition. Source: Fact & Details.

 

Modern adaptations of puppet play provide us with new forms of story telling, that mix ancient traditions with contemporary narratives. In The Table, the British production company Blind Summit, uses Bunraku puppetry to invent new styles of theatre.

 

Extract from a performance of The Table, by Blind Summit Theatre.

 

Many stories inhabit the spaces in which we move, from people or things who have lived in them before us. Walter Benjamin describes this idea in Berlin Childhood around 1900: “Not to find one's way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one's way in a city, as one loses one's way in a forest, requires some schooling. Street names must speak to the urban wanderer like the snapping of dry twigs, and little streets in the heart of the city must reflect the times of day, for him, as clearly as a mountain valley. This art I acquired rather late in life; it fulfilled a dream, of which the first traces were labyrinths on the blotting papers in my school notebooks.” Galia Levy-Grad pays homage to the city of Warsaw and tells her story as she describes: "which takes place in the Jewish diaspora" but doesn't have "a strong diaspora feeling". Indeed, her mix of the pop-up book, traditional music and shadow play creates a celebratory interpretation of a repeatedly heart-breaking story.

 

 

Many stories, in fact, recount the loss of homelands and the encounter of new ones. In the documentary The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh remembers his childhood in Cambodia when the country had been taken over by the Khmer Rouge. He recreates unbearably painful scenes using clay figures. A review on Film Comment describes that: "Rithy Panh, who is at the forefront of efforts to reckon with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, employs an unusual mix of clay figurines with pensive voiceover and worn-out vintage propaganda footage to revisit his country’s traumatic past. Rather than adopting the accusatory tone of an investigation, The Missing Picture is marked by a certain stillness and emotional containment, like a hushed visit to a memorial.

Stills from The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSU3AN4QMko

A brief extract of the documentary The Missing Picture.

In Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Walter Benjamin develops this idea of stillness and containment: “Every morning brings us news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event comes to us without being already shot through with explanation. In other words, by now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling; almost everything benefits information. Actually, it is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it. . . . The most extraordinary things, marvelous things, are related with the greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the event is not forced on the reader. It is left up to him to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks.”

This stillness can be found in many great stories. In his his self-reflective work, La grande boule de beige, Juan Carlos Bracho ponders upon the creative process, the act of telling a story slowly, a revindication of fast accesible information, and a personal inner-journey.

 

Many stories are constructed through the act of creating them. South African artist William Kentridge talks about the need for looking for meaning through his work. He talks about the process of "reverse engineering" where the desire and act of making something is the very construction of the story, that the story is born from the intention of making and not the other way around.  The "physical activities of cutting, tearing and collaging generate ideas and infuse his work with meaning. Rather than starting with an idea that is then executed, Kentridge relies on these freeform processes and the resulting juxtapositions to find connections and raise questions." Source: art21

 

Original work from the Kentridge retrospective at Museo Reina Sofía.

Many stories are told through poetry. Paul Éluard 's Liberté is a an ode to freedom written during the German occupation of France. He initially wrote it for the women he loved and realised that the only word really had in mind was liberty."Je pensais révéler pour conclure le nom de la femme que j’aimais, à qui ce poème était destiné. Mais je me suis vite aperçu que le seul mot que j’avais en tête était le mot Liberté. Ainsi, la femme que j’aimais incarnait un désir plus grand qu’elle. Je la confondais avec mon aspiration la plus sublime, et ce mot Liberté n’était lui-même dans tout mon poème que pour éterniser une très simple volonté, très quotidienne, très appliquée, celle de se libérer de l’Occupant."  The poem ends with these final verses:

"Sur l'absence sans désir
Sur la solitude nue
Sur les marches de la mort
J'écris ton nom

Sur la santé revenue
Sur le risque disparu
Sur l'espoir sans souvenir
J'écris ton nom

Et par le pouvoir d'un mot
Je recommence ma vie
Je suis né pour te connaître
Pour te nommer

Liberté"

 

An edition of the poem illustrated by Anouck Boisrobet & Louis Rigaud, published by Flammarion.

Kate Tempest uses poetry and performs it in spoken work. Her work draws upon the themes of storytelling, mythology and ancestry. In her poem Brand New Ancients she writes:

"We are still mythical;
we are still
permanently trapped
somewhere between the heroic and the pitiful"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdE0BkP95Ng

Kate Tempest's reading of Brand New Ancients at Letters Live.

In my theatre-book To Night and Back · Mece la noche, I drew upon the mythology that was transmitted to me as a child to tell the story of our community's exile from Sind during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. I found great reconciliation in being able to tell this story that was so hard for "my elders" to share with me.

Photo of  To Night and Back · Mece la noche theatre book.

The project began as a small sketchbook, grew into a crowd funding campaign, which resulted in a small self-published edition of the book, paper-toy rewards and artist boxes. I was surprised to see it's evolution, and  will write more about it in my next post.

 

https://vimeo.com/143784163

 

https://vimeo.com/144474415

 

https://vimeo.com/147348500

Three animations made inspired by the theatre-book To Night and Back. The animations were designed by myself, Raquel Martinez Uña and Pluviam.
Song of the day

Nitin Sawhney - Homelands

 

texto


to tell stories,

to tell stories,

To tell stories we delve into our memories, our past experiences, into other stories, from other times. We turn to our imaginations, we learn from the imaginations of others. We remember the stories we were told as children, that our perhaps were told to our elders when they were children, and to their elders when they were children.

In The Mystery Feast: Thoughts on Storytelling, Ben Okri writes: 

No civilization ever became great on knowledge alone. Indeed it is the imaginative dimension of civilizations which gives them distinction. What would ancient Greece be without its tragedians, its Parthenon, its Homeric epics? What would ancient Egypt be without its pyramids, its temples? Imagination dreams what that which knowledge makes real. It could be said that imagination is the porto-reality. A people can only create what they can imagine. If in some mysterious way we fall short of the ancients, it may be because we have long ceased to cultivate, to the highest degree, the fruits of the imagination, of the spirit. That despairing cry from the Bible should always haunt us. “For lack of vision my people perish.” . . .  How do we awaken imagination? How do we awaken vision? One of the ways, passed down to us with cunning simplicity by our ancestors, is storytelling.” 

To tell stories, we speak, we write poetry and prose, we make images, films and animations, we compose songs and lullabies. 

Cover image from Lire le monde, Michèle Petit. Ed. Belin

Emphasizing this very need for storytelling in Lire le monde, Michèle Petit  writes in the first person as if speaking directly to a child: 

"I give you songs and  stories so that you can repeat them to yourself through the night, so that you will not be too afraid of the dark and the shadows. So that slowly you will not need me, will think of yourself as your own distinct little subject, will elaborate the multiple separations you will need to face. I give you snippets of knowledge and fictions so that you can equally symbolize absence and affront - as best you can-  the big human questions, the mysteries of life and death, the difference between the sexes, the fear of abandonment, the unknown, love, rivalry. So that you can write your own stories between the lines you have read."

This was translated to english by me, to the best of my capacities. I am quite certain it doesn't do justice to the beauty of the original text, which I have included here below for those of you who do read in French: 

"Je te donne des chansons et des récits pour que tu te les redises pour traverser la nuit, pour que tu n’aies pas trop peur du noir et des ombres. Pour que tu puisses peu à peu te passer de moi, te penser comme un petit sujet distinct, puis élaborer les multiples séparations qu’il te faudra affronter. Je te livre des bribes de savoir et des fictions pour que tu sois à même de symboliser l’absence et d’affronter, autant que faire se peut, les grandes questions humaines, les mystères de la vie et de la mort, de la différence des sexe ; la peur de l’abandon, de l’inconnu, l’amour, la rivalité. Pour que tu écrives ta propre histoire entre les lignes lues."

To tell stories, we make things with our hands.

We paint, we draw, we stitch and embroider, we sculpt, we create objets, we make books. We make artist books.

An ‘artist book’ refers to a publication that is created as artwork in its own right. It can said that the very first books in human history were artist books, though the content may have been created by one artist, the text manuscripted by another and the images illuminated by a third. This the case for ancient illuminated manuscripts, scrolls (also called phads in India), concertinas, books of hours, religious scriptures, among other formats.

 

This illuminated manuscript, "The opening of the Sixth Seal," is from the Morgan Beatus, 10th Century.  Maintained by the Morgan Library and Museum, New York. Source: Awesome Stories.
Ancient Indian scroll or phad titled Sky Battle of Kurukshetra

 

A Gujarati religious text on palm leaves between acacia wood covers; probably from the 1700's. Source: Columbia University

 

The book is a medium that allows an artist's work to be more accessible. The reproduction of the work - whether in limited edition prints, etchings, printmaking or even through photocopying - gives it a potential to reach a larger and more varied audience. In this way, the artist book can be an incredibly powerful storytelling object.

While artists’ books can take many forms, there are a few elements that they share in common. They reflect on the properties of the book form itself. The book is not merely valued for it’s content, if not for its form as well. The artists’ book invites us to hold it and turn through its pages. Whether the contents are visual or linguistic (or both), physically moving through an artwork implicates notions of sequence, repetition, juxtaposition, and duration. The dialogue created between the text and images, the printing process and the design of the book, allows for many exciting possibilities within narrative, media, and meaning that are specific to the artists’ book alone.

In preparation for a workshop dedicated to the artist book that I will be giving in April, I have amplified my collection of research on the subject.

In this post, I would like to share some of the book artists that have caught my attention, some all time favorites, and some new discoveries.

Katsumi Komagata is a Japanese graphic designer, turned book-maker and publisher. In several lectures I have heard him talk about how his initial fascination for making books began when his first child was born. He says that he tried to imagine his child’s curiosity for how the world works, and wanted to create simple objects that she could interact and play with. This resulted in a collection of beautiful, geometric object-books (livres-objets), some of which can be enjoyed below.

Little Tree, a book that shows the life cycle of a tree, through the seasons. Source: One Stroke

 

Details from Little Tree, by Katsumi Komagata

 

Yellow to Red. Tokyo : One Stroke ; 1997 ; 2003 ; 2005 / Du jaune au rouge. Édition bilingue français-japonais. Tokyo : One Stroke ; Paris : Les Trois Ourses, 2014

 

Details from Mountains (left image) and Blue (right image), by Katsumi Komagata.

 

 

I recently came across the work of book artist Mar Goman. The images below come from her website, which I recomend visiting. I have not included captions because no additional information about the pieces can be found on the site. I am including a small selection of the images that most intrigued me.

 

Selected works by Mar Gorman

 

 

Tara Books, an independent publisher from Chennai, India describes its mission as "pushing the boundaries of the book form in an age that is busy writing its obituary". As well as featuring traditional artists and artisans whose narrative traditions are in danger of extinction, they make a series of handmade books using block printing, exquisite hand-made khaki (cotton fibre) papers, and even cloth.

 

 

The Cloth of the Mother Goddess by Jagdish Chitara

 

The Cloth of the Mother Goddess follows the tradition of painting a cloth as an offering to the goddess Durga. The book is block-printed on fabric and designed as a foldable shrine, which a similar format to the Kaavad, a portable story-telling temple from Rajasthan. Though it can be argued whether a kaavad qualifies as an artist book, because it is made of wood and resembles a piece of furniture more than a book, it's principle purpose is to be manipulated by the kavaad-bad (storyteller) to turn the doors (which serve as pages) and unveil the story.

 

 

A kavaad I made inspired by the text The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling. More information here

There, of course, is more. A lot more. So much, that this post will be continued in several posts over the next weeks. These weeks, in which I will be reading, writing about and celebrating telling stories and making books to tell them in.

Song of the day

Tracy Chapman - Telling Stories

 


With these hands

With these hands

Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human, written by Grassa Toro and translated to English by Claudio Cambon, concludes with a chapter about hands:

“This book ends here, at the very moment when we remember that the hands that wrote it, drew it, printed it, transported it, gave it, held it up as they read, turned from one page to the next, and closed it after just a few seconds look like, very much like, the hands of the animal who, for the first time in the history of evolution, put a fish in a pot of boiling water and ate it. That’s when this whole mess got started.

Hands dislike having nothing to do. The End.”

While thinking about the kind of image I wanted to make to accompany the text, I realised I wanted it to be an ode to hands, celebrating “the sixteen bones and several dozen muscles and tendons that hang down from our arms” which make us human.

 

 

I wanted to spend a moment making an image that reflected the capacity our hands permit us to make things, to create, to be artisans, whether is be cutting an onion or embroidering an image of the human hand. I have always been fascinated by everything hand-made, I marvel at how with practice one can acquire new hand made skills. I am saddened by the fact that while digital and industrial tools have evolved impressively, so many hand-made traditions are slowly dying out.

 

On the left a photograph of artist Louise Bourgeois. On the right her drawing of tools.

Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsman writes very eloquently about this in Labours of Love, an article he wrote for The Guardian:

“All craftsmanship is founded on skill developed to a high degree. By one commonly used measure, about 10,000 hours of experience are required to produce a master carpenter or musician. As skill progresses, it becomes more problem-attuned, such as the lab technician worrying about procedure - whereas people with primitive levels of skill struggle just to get things to work. At its higher reaches, technique is no longer a mechanical activity; people can feel fully and think deeply about what they are doing, once they do it well.

Two centuries ago, Immanuel Kant casually remarked: "The hand is the window on to the mind." Modern science has sought to make good on this observation. Of all our limbs, the hands make the most varied movements, movements that can be controlled at will. Science has sought to show how these motions, plus the hand's different ways of gripping and the sense of touch, affect the ways we think.”

 

Hand drawings and hand-stitched panels by Louise Bourgeois

 

Hand-embroidered panels by Louise Bourgeois

As the book ends with a chapter about hands, this will also be the last in this series of posts about my creative process for the images of this book. I will write more about hand-made techniques in future posts. For now, I wanted to write about my website, which was made public just a few days ago. It may seem contradictory to write about digital formats in a post dedicated to all things artisanal. On the contrary though, the site includes an online portfolio which displays a range of my hand-made work. As well as announcing the launch on social media, here in this blog-post, and via email, I made a series of limited-edition hand-cut and hand-written cards which were sent off in the post on Friday. I love the idea of keeping up the tradition of sending cards and letters in the post, of writing them by hand and posting them off physically.

 

http://decoupe-laser-papier.com/images/cestauprogramme.mp4

In this small documentary, MH-Edtions (laser-cutting printers) with whom I collaborate frequently, talk about the tradition of sending new years greetings. My laser-cut Christmas garlands can be seen in the background of their studio.

 

 

 

If you do receive one of these hand-made wishes, know that they are the negative silhouettes of hands, hearts, craniums and brains, all of which were cut to be glued into copies of the book as personalised dedications. Myself and Grassa Toro will be signing the book at the upcoming presentation of Biblioteca La CALA at Panta Rhei, Madrid on Thursday the 25th of February. Hope to see you there!

 

Song of the day

Sus Maos - Caetano Veloso