Tag Archives: artist’s book

Reading Spaces: artists’ books, poetry and poetics


Detail from ‘Working Papers’, Caren Florance & Angela Gardner, 2015-17.

Reading Spaces is my final PhD exhibition. It features collaborative artists’ books and other print-performed poetry, predominantly produced using handset letterpress. Poets involved include Angela Gardner, Melinda Smith, Owen Bullock, Sarah Rice, and many more.

5–12 April 2017
East Space, Commonwealth Place, Lake Burley Griffin foreshore, Parkes. 
Open every day 12-5pm
Opening: 6pm, 5 April

Associated one-day symposium at the University of Canberra:
Poetry and the Artist’s Book
7 April, 10:30am-3:30pm 
Speakers TBA
After the symposium there will be a guided visit to the Reading Spaces exhibition.
For more details see here

ALSO PARTICIPATING IN THE 2017 YOU ARE HERE FESTIVAL with an exciting translation performance by Rueben Ingall. Stay tuned! 

Watch this space, this space and that space for more details.

Material Poetics (2016)

Material Poetics
Australian National Capital Artists (ANCA) Gallery, 24 August – 11 September 2016.
Caren Florance, Nicci Haynes, UK Frederick & Katie Hayne, Sarah Rice, Jen Webb, Jordan Williams.

Catalogue available to read here.

This work is the first of my created ‘reading spaces’. Gallery visitors are encouraged to sit and handle the books with clean hands.


touching/reading/touch is a small series of publications that demand physical engagement rather than the receptive separation usually required in a gallery. Each piece explores its own production and invites the reader to be curious and interactive.

The physical distance of making is one of time and place, yet here we are, you and I, sharing the experience of touch.


1 Touch to Activate (2015).
Letterpress & offset ink on paper.

2 Mark (2009).
Letterpress on paper, sewn.

3 Swipe (2015).
Photocopy on paper, hand-sewn.

4  Touch 00100000 (2016). Typewritten paper, coil binding, jar, tweezers.

Catalogue statement:  

Material poetics is, as usual, a matter of translation and context.

Poet Charles Bernstein says ‘Poetics is the continuation of poetry by other means’ (1992: 160); so too, material poetics is the con­tinuation of materiality towards other meanings.

Every discipline has its own perspective on what materiality means to its work. Writers think about the various applications of material words to form metaphors. They also riff upon the material processes of writing: pencils, pens, keyboards, screens, fingertips.

Visual arts and craft disciplines – when they are resisting pure optical­ity – work with ‘direct engagement with specific material properties’ (Adam­son 2007: 39), which means foregrounding the qualities that belong to that particular material: e.g., the heavy softness of lead; the fluidity of paint; the bite of acid; the clarity of glass. These elements can be explored/resisted/expanded on a purely physical level, but when you add an exploration of what associative meanings can be embedded in a  material, then we are moving closer to the way writers think, and closer to material poetics.

Not only is lead heavy and soft: it lines caskets; prevents x-ray vision; forms printable letters; draws a line. It has connotations and associations, different for everyone according to their experience and understanding.

These contextual associations can become building blocks, allowing the material/s to carry/project/represent the artists’ desires in a way that (hopefully) offers further possibilities for the viewer/reader/audience to find their own message.

Messages change over time, and the ‘familiar’ can never be taken for granted. Material poetics is two-pronged: it is performing Heidegger’s ‘thingness of the thing’, and it is embuing the thingness with one’s own knowledge of its context and history to tease out new connections. It is performance, spectacle, dialogue, negotia­tion and degustation all rolled into one.

Review of Material Poetics by Jacqui Malins

Owen Bullock/me/Louise Curham: Tracer/YAH (2015-16)

Last year I made a simple yet (I think) interesting chapbook for/with NZ poet Owen Bullock, who is a fellow HDR student at the University of Canberra. We called it Tracer. It has a distinctive shape: tall and narrow, c. 280 x 100mm, using cartridge paper and a grey Optix card cover, laserprinted. To give it a personal touch, I hand-sew each copy with a pamphlet stitch in black thread.

The year before, I’d printed one of Owen’s poems as a page-fold format, initially as a contribution to the deluxe folio of Parenthesis: , Autumn 2014. He’d written this poem during the 2014 Codex Australia symposium; it is a mash-up of quotes, overheard conversations and his own observational haiku. I wanted to send something to the journal that used poetry differently, but because I had to print about 170 pieces, it had to be light (to send to the US) and not too tricky to print, because I was busy with many projects. (I forgot to tell myself that it should be not too tricky to hand-set.) With Owen’s permission, I edited the poem down and took out all the quotes from named theorists and anything that really anchored it to that time and place, leaving it more airy and universal, but retained his first and last haiku, which spoke of his arrival and departure from Melbourne. I used Whitetrace, an architectural tracing paper, to allow translucency and show-through, to allow the words to interact.

I wanted to really utilize the page-fold, to make something that was dimensional. When I’d finished, and sent it off, and had time to really look at it, I saw that this simple folded piece of paper was a complete artist’s book, because it was able to be read in multiple directions.


So. The chapbook, Tracer, contains the original Redex poem, and a subsequent version, called Redux, written by Owen while reading my print. That is, he looked AT the print, turning it over in his hands, and composed a new version from what he saw. He also wrote another piece called ‘On the first arrangement of ‘Redex’, which ends:

What I wrote before
was different

Then, following those, is another poem called ‘On the final arrangement of ‘Redex’. This time, he’s riffing on the experience of the entire process, and random notes that didn’t make it into the original version. I set this poem spacially across both pages of that long thin page spread. Other poems in the chapbook read normatively, straight down each page, but there are at least two poems that read across, and the trick is to indicate that for the reader in the layout so that they don’t get lost. One method I used (for the Redex poem) was to run the title across both pages. The other method was to run a line of arrows across the page spread next to the title, with one returning arrow at the end, so: >>>>>>>>>><
I think it works.

I have other plans for Owen, and one of them involved projection, but I hadn’t resolved how: a large sheet of white paper mounted from above, with his words projecting as a moving animation? Print the words first, then project more over the top? Perhaps have Owen standing between the paper and the projection, and photograph/record him reciting through the movement? He’s a very open, transparent person, and the thought of continuing to use transparency with his words is very appealing.

Early this year, I was approached by another HDR student, Louise Curham, who does a lot of collaborative work around archives and technology. Her technological equipment of choice is film, specifically Super-8 film and projection cameras. She works with film the way I work with letterpress: as a way of exploring what it can do as a material process, rather than as a nostalgic/iconic method of production. You can see her work here and here.

Louise regularly contributes to the Canberra You Are Here festival, and this year she was interested in collaborating with Owen and I in a performance. When she talked about her projection work, I was reminded of my ideas about projecting on to Owen. A project was born.

Tracer became the working name of our collaboration; we threw it in to our proposal, and by the time we wanted to change it, the festival program was out and it seemed to be as good as anything else. It was a fantastic experience, discussing our respective approaches to our creative practice, working out how to use them in a complementary way, and to foreground their material elements without overshadowing each other.

You can see our process in photos at our tumblr.

Essentially, I letterpress-printed words on large sheets of paper (cut off the roll), we hung these and Owen performed to them while Louise projected her films on the paper. That’s the short story.

The words were initially brainstormed by the group, led by Owen who is the wordsmith. They were words that could be pulled apart and pushed together; words of place and time.

The paper was tested by us all: we ended up with both glossy and matte papers because of the different effects they caused. The sheets were so large that I set up all the text sideways on my proof press and hand-rolled them with ink, laying the paper over the type across the bed of the press and printing by using the palm of my hand to press the paper to the type. By rolling roughly and randomly and pressing without really looking, the words formed their own clusters, and bits of the press were inked up and became part of the visuals. The bearer rails made a lovely series of stuttering lines that visually echoed the stutter of the projectors, and I kept printing them as a motif through the text, along with the onomatopoeic letters TATATATATA. My first sheet was too busy, so I set that aside (it’s turning into a book at the moment) and started to leave more space, to allow room for Owen and the films.


Owen and Louise, in the meantime, worked out a running programme of the Super-8 films and a script of haiku to go with them. For the first few times we got together to eat/talk/play, he let the backdrops and the films suggest poems (his head is FULL of them) and then things started to solidify into a set performance.

We didn’t rehearse it intricately; one agreement was that the performance was a chunk of the research. Another agreement was that the difficulties and affects of our process were part of the performance, and not to be treated as obstacles. The sound of the projectors; film getting stuck and melting (alarmingly!); the weather conditions on the night (windy!); whether I could remember my cue to stop being a stagehand and start printing onto a backdrop and Owen by hand (I didn’t, I was early, but we were ok with that). My ‘live’ printing was partly to be present in the action, but also to contribute extra sensory moments on top of the projector sound: the smell of the ink, the hiss of a roller, the added semiotics of placing an X on the projected bus stop at the place where Owen was describing his waiting for the bus, and then printing the X again, directly on him.


We performed on the 13th of April, after dark, in the courtyard of the Canberra Museum and Gallery, to a crowd that fit into the venue: enough to feel seen, not enough to crowd us. It was windy, the papers were restless, and I had to put weights on their bases (letterpress leading and bulldog clips) and then stand behind and ‘calm’ them during the performance so that they didn’t fly up.

perform1Owen performed engagingly, reciting his haiku in the traditional manner: not in boring poetry voice, but repeating them after a pause, so that you heard them, and then heard them.


Louise wrangled the four projectors with a savage concentration that was almost scary. When I commented upon this later, she laughed and said that she’d been thinking like a projector. This shone a light into my own head. I so often think like a press: each press I use needs to become familiar, because they each have their own quirks, but once those quirks are known, I can think like them, know how they will react, and adjust my behaviour accordingly. It’s not mastery, it’s empathy.

We had originally thought of repeating this performance in another venue, perhaps for a conference. It may still happen, but suddenly the year has become dense and sticky, with little room to move sideways. We are writing about our experience, because that’s all it needs to be: an experience.


100% Books: the exhibition


100% Books by Canberra Artists was an exhibition of artists’ books at the Watson Arts Centre in Canberra, ACT, from 11–28 April, 2013. It was opened by arts writer Peter Haynes. It was curated by Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck) and was independently produced by Maryann Mussared and Caren Florance.

The show featured twenty Canberra artists who have made books as part of their broader artistic practice. Each artist has been asked to show an ‘early’ work and a ‘recent’ work. This gap may be only a few years in the case of the emerging artists, but may also be decades, and in some cases the change in visual approach is startling.


Associated events
There were artist’s talks at 1:30pm on each Saturday of the show: 13 and 20 April. Each Saturday afternoon the curator hosted a white-gloves show-through of the books. On 13 April there was a zine workshop led by artist Bernie Slater with the theme of ‘So you’ve decided to vote for Tony Abbott’. The resulting zine was sold at the zine fair and is now available through the artist. On 20 April there was a small zine fair with some books artists joining in with their works.

More information
The short blurb goes:
Canberra has a long and prolific history of artistic book production, encouraged and inspired by our rich array of cultural and creative institutions. There is a vibrant community of artists who use the book form to explore and extend their broader practice, whether it be printmaking, sculpture or any other medium. This exhibition, featuring a range of work from fine press to street press, is both snapshot and survey of a selection of current practitioners. It promises to be a very special glimpse at Canberra’s other book scene.

The longer blurb (the media release) is here to download.

An article by Caren Florance on curating the show has been published in The Blue Notebook, Volume 8, no. 1, October 2013.

Please see the exhibition album for gallery views and works from each artist.

100% Artist Gallery

Click on the images (not the names) to see more.

100% Books exhibition shots

Gallery views of the 100% Books from Canberra Artists exhibition, at the Watson Arts Centre, Canberra.

20 Photos

Antonia Aitken

Antonia Aitken’s book works allow her to push her printmaking practice in experimental ways. She uses them to explore ideas of space, time and movement. While Walking River Tracks follows her preoccupation with the Australian landscape, her most recent book was produced during a New York residency and includes a soundscape CD.

4 Photos

GW Bot

Printmaker G W Bot has developed a personal iconography that flows seamlessly through her work, from prints to sculptures to books. In the earlier book she responds to a poem written about Australia by a Russian revolutionary visiting the country in the early twentieth century. The more recent work is a reflexive piece in collaboration with art curator Anne Kirker: Kirker’s text responds to Bot’s broader work, and then Bot’s images respond to Anne’s text.

2 Photos


Most of byrd’s practice involves the re-dressing of existing spaces. His works on ‘reclaimed grounds’ such as the syke poster book and look book form part of an ongoing research project, a testing ground for mark making, composition, colour theory that feeds back into his street art. These works are expansions from his hunter/gatherer notebooks (pocket and digital). Always at hand, these notebooks collect fragments of the world: ‘cultural pointers and cul de sacs’.

3 Photos

Kirsten Farrell

Kirsten Farrell is interested in the role that colour plays in the construction of meaning. Her Oracle books were made to accompany a series of paintings, where each letter of the alphabet is assigned a commercial paint colour, from paint shop spectrometer scans of hardcover books. The books can be used to decode the subject of the paintings, or aspects of the reader’s personality. The more recent works are meditations on time, colour, and chance. Each colour is simply the next colour Farrell takes from her pencil case. Over time, through this process, colour becomes space and movement.

10 Photos

Dianne Fogwell

Dianne Fogwell worked intimately with artist’s books for many years at the Canberra (now ANU) School of Art, first as a teacher in the Graphic Investigations Workshop and later running the Edition + Artist Book Studio (E+ABS). There are two ‘layers’ of books in her practice: formal works with high production values, such as Voyelles/24 Years, and less formal, more playful and experimental pieces made in response to personal themes (like Banquet) or political issues, like Ex Libris and Vote/Post, which were made for Noreen Grahame’s Lessons in History exhibitions.

8 Photos

UK Frederick

UK Frederick has spent the last few years closely investigating the aesthetics of car culture and all it entails, including road marks, car decoration, driving music, crashes. As a trained archaeologist, she approaches her subject matter methodically, teasing out the small details and presenting them to you in a formats that reinforce the authority of her approach: here, as books.

4 Photos

Shellaine Godbold

Shellaine Godbold is an emerging artist based mostly in Canberra. Her primary practice focuses on drawing as a means of understanding and recording her experiences. The works that she creates explore the very human need to make marks and to connect through touch. Her books want you to hold them to experience her work for yourself.

2 Photos

Ingeborg Hansen

Ingeborg Hansen is in the grip of long and enduring love affair with the Book. Her early work is wonderfully quirky and uses her very lateral and original text. Lately her manifestations have been two-dimensional, but this hasn’t diminished her passion for the book form.

3 Photos

Nicci Haynes

Haynes is a printmaker who works with, around and through books as part of her practice. She is fascinated by the weirdness of language. "Sometimes the things I want to express are more easily captured by body language than by writing."

3 Photos

Jan Hogan

Jan Hogan’s visual outcomes seem to have a profound visual shift over time, but there are as many similarities as differences with these two books. Little Red Riding Hood was made as part of Les Petersen’s 1992 Raft Press Book Project. The letters on the blocks can spell out the title of the story, but the free movement of the drawn and lithographed images on the blocks allow for many variations on a theme. So too, the drawn and lithographed shapes of Rhizome Mapping allow the viewer choices of movement and interpretation as Hogan explores her connection with the land she inhabits.

3 Photos

Hanna Hoyne

Johanna (Hanna) Hoyne is a sculptor whose work incorporates elements of performance such as costume and movement. She uses the intimacy of handmade processes to expose human frailty and notions of self-protection. Her early works here are a selection from a series of thirty books that connected to an installation of life-size paper ‘protection suits, that were intended to protect the psyche from the extreme hazards of living. They were exhibited in installation, floating in space’. Her more recent books are a playful return to the theme, utilizing materials at hand and spring-boarding from ambient conversation.

6 Photos

Murray Kirkland

Murray Kirkland has always worked sensitively with the themes of time and mortality. His early work, Two Pages, is sculptural, and yet demonstrates what is commonly expected of an artist’s book: temporal movement and engagement with the image. His more recent work is more traditional, extending his drawing across time and space within the container of a book.

5 Photos

Maryann Mussared

Maryann Mussared arrived at the book through her textiles practice; not unusual with the common elements of (paper) fibre, thread and surface. She works in series, and these two installation works, part of her READ series, explore the tangible qualities of the book and the impact of the inexorable march of technology on our lives. Are we the beneficiaries of the golden age of technology or victims of the seemingly unstoppable daily advances in technology?

2 Photos

Tanya Myshkin

Tanya Myshkin is inspired by texts from classical literature and has a deep respect for the traditional art d’livre (fine art book). Her books are produced using labour-intensive processes such as wood engraving and letterpress. The earlier work features an excerpt from a French absurdist play by Eugène Ionesco: In the case of the Double Act, a woman whom we had seen at her toilet preparations for a date returns home from the same, all dolled up apropos the event. She then proceeds to undress. The undressing doesn't stop at the earrings but continues through a gentle process of removing the dentures and the hair wig and then the eyeballs so that it would seem as we slowly read on that she is perhaps a bit older than we were first led to believe. The later book is entitled Silentium after the poem of the same name by the nineteenth century Russian poet Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev (1803-1873). It was commissioned by Sasha Grishin in 2009.

4 Photos

Patsy Payne

Patsy Payne, currently Head of the Printmedia and Drawing Workshop at the ANU School of Art, explores the way ‘experience in the world becomes part of who we are on both a psychological level and more literally by affecting our body’. With Murmur, originally shown amongst a suite of large woodcuts, Payne wanted to create a hand-held object reminiscent of a medieval missal. Those Who Travel is a collaborative book initiated by Payne in response to the poems of Sarah Rice, who was ‘using words as an escape from physical illness, as a means to move beyond the restrictions of her body’.

7 Photos

Bernie Slater

Bernie Slater teaches Art and Design at the CIT. His drawing and print-based practice is highly political with a focus on what he calls Creative Mischief. 'Other' is questioning our cultural homogenisation and our nation's growing distrust of difference; 'Freedom' was produced for Noreen Grahame’s group exhibition, ‘Lessons in History 2: Democracy’. By locking the book’s imagery behind QR codes that can only be read with a smartphone, its irony becomes immediately apparent. "There is a dissonance between the format of the hard bound book as the traditional holder of knowledge, and its contents, the QR links to the internet. Although the internet is a powerful tool for information, knowledge, and freedom of speech, we opt to use it for distraction, trivia and titillation."

4 Photos

Franki Sparke

Franki Sparke’s work hovers in the space between zine and artist’s book. She is a firm believer in print as a democratic medium, and explores the development of images and stories using simple print techniques. Her book works can shift in the space between book and sculpture, but the way they include strong narrative images always seems to pull them back to Book.

3 Photos

Nick Stranks

Nick Stranks is a sculptor who works with bronze casting. His cast books are akin to Hansen’s screenprinted book: powerful symbols of the iconic place books (still) hold in our lives. He’s also playing with the authority of the book; gone is all the information, and we are left with the blankness of the form.

3 Photos

Genevieve Swifte

Genevieve Swifte is an artist who utilises the beauty and fragility of traditional book materials – paper, thread, ink – to comment upon those same qualities in nature.

2 Photos

Iona Walsh

Iona Walsh is a graphic artist and graphic designer with a visual art past; her relationship with the artist’s book started as a student in the Graphic Investigations Workshop (as did Hansen, Hoyne and Kirkland) and has continued alongside her design practice to design and produce works for Petr Herel and his Uncollected Works Press. Lately she’s joined Megalo Arts Access to broaden her longstanding drawing practice.

2 Photos

Artist Book Gallery

Book Art Object 3. Quagmire: IT and Lies (2011)

Book Art Object is an ongoing project bringing together book artists around the world (but mostly Australia during this leg of the journey) to respond to a set text in the form of an editioned artist’s book. Each participant gets a copy of everyone’s work.

The suggestion of an extract from Jeanette Winterson’s Art and Lies novel was, I confess, mine. From the moment I’d read the book, years and years ago, I’d been enthralled by her vision of the Library of Alexandria: Continue reading