When I first discovered that I’d misprinted an entire section of my fine press book, Poems to Hold or Let Go (by Rosemary Dobson), I was really cranky at myself. It was a lot of paper to waste, and it was/is very lovely Magnani Vergata book paper, an Italian mould-made fine rag paper. Luckily I’d only printed one side of the sheet (I’d transposed the poems, so that they were on the wrong pages), so I could do something useful with the other side.I worked out a design for the book’s prospectus (a promotional flyer for the book that includes an example of the book’s paper and printing process) that utilised one of the poems on the page, but after I’d torn down and guillotined and folded them and sent them off to (hopefully) interested parties, I was still left with a large pile of one particular poem: Grieving.
The words to Grieving go:
Friends die, one after another;
Each time a dark disorder
A ceaseless banging of shutters
Upstairs there, in the mind;
Bearing of wings, loud weather
Days, nights together.
To force on the mind order:
Journeys taken on maps,
Attentive delving into
The roots of the language.
A search for the true invention
Of form by line in drawing.
Also, renewal of linen—
Keeping the old customs
Putting sides to middles.
Thus, mind and hand stilled
And with a gentler grief
To draw down the blind
The white holland blind
Like a banner of love
Against that wild confusion.
(© the poet, published in Rosemary Dobson, Poems to Hold or Let Go, Canberra: Ampersand Duck, 2009)
There are so many great ideas in there that translate to paper: language, drawing, form, line, linen (or in this case, rag), folding, ritual, the mindfulness of repetitive movement and simple motions.
I decided to make something out of this forlorn and seductive pile of paper, and once I started working with it, I couldn’t stop. My solo exhibition at Megalo Print Access in September 2009, Pressings: Recycled Bookwork, had four pieces made from this one pile of poem, grouped into two pairs:
This is all four pieces (or both pairs) in situ at Megalo, although the one on the far left (in the foreground, not on the wall on the left, which is a completely different work altogether) is cut off. The first two are plinth works, made of small geometric folded elements that can be reconfigured in various ways depending upon mood, inclination and plinth size.
Grieving 1: Folding the Sheets and Sides to Middles
This is Grieving: Folding the Sheets. All of the pieces shift incrementally in size, and the largest, single centrepiece has an inky black centre made from overlaid black inked fingerprints.
Here’s a closer, vertical view. You can see the text of the poem, again and again, alternating in direction, forming a rhythm.
This is the piece that was hiding in the room view above: Grieving: Sides to Middles. These folded elements of paper are not hand-inked, but run through the press rollers at the end of printing, which gave them a very light, even, almost gauze-like black texture.
Folding sides to middles is an old laundry ritual, where worn sheets would be cut in half and resewing them with the less worn edges now in the centre, where they would get more wear. It is also a very evocative line for me when working with paper, either folding sheets (of paper) for bookbinding or when using origami methods.
Grieving 2: Hold and Let Go
The second pair is quite different, and is site specific, although it could probably be installed again at any other gallery that has white walls
This is Grieving: Hold, and it is a unique piece constructed from a vintage book spine, antique thread (bought still on its Victorian-era factory bobbin) and pieces of the poem. It is mounted on a metal rod that inserts into the wall, and you can view it from both sides.
This is the obverse side. It’s very hard to photograph. Here’s a detail of that page panel, handsewn:
I love the shadow of the text on the other side.
Grieving: Let Go, it’s companion piece, is much freer. It is another work that can change shape at will. This time it was a tree of kites taking off from a book spine, but maybe in the future it can be something else:
Another one that is hard to photograph.
It was very meditative and calming to make these works. A few months later, I made a final Grieving work, and now I think I’ve redeemed that printing mistake, well and truly.
These works are all for sale or available for exhibition. If you are interested, please get in contact.