When you enter the exhibition the first work you encounter is Anselm Kiefer’s book which was commissioned for the exhibition. Unfortunately I can’t remember its title, although I know it was something about “nature”. It is taller than me and a codex form, with a speckled grey surface which I thought evoked galaxies. It’s the first time I’ve seen a book of human scale and it was intriguing to stand beside it. As a book, it was massive, as are the galaxies, but really I longed for some human-scale content on the pages with which I could interact.
Blood on Paper includes books by some of the big names of contemporary art – Picasso, Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Anish Kapoor to name just a few. It is interesting to see what artists of this calibre do with a medium that is not their primary form of expression. In some cases, the works represent earliest examples of artists books as a modern genre and I did enjoy seeing some of these iconic works. An example is Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations, a photographic essay in concertina form, which is an early example that is often cited.
The most surprising work was a digital one, which turned the two walls of the gallery into the open pages of a book. I never did quite work out who the artist was, but if anyone reading knows, I’d love to hear from you. There were white and red words projected high onto the walls, and they slowly moved around the “page”. I sat for a while and observed their movement, and realized that they were in fact layered, and therefore perhaps represented multiple pages. Occasionally the words would form sensible two or three word phrases, other times they would bounce off each other like a toy car rebounding from an obstacle. Mostly, it was not possible to make any sense from the words and I thought the work operated as a very effective metaphor for the virtual online world, which contains so much information, but arguably contributes relatively little that is understandable.
I also enjoyed 'Danger Book' by Cai Guo-Qiang. His work often includes fireworks and I’m familiar with it from the Asia Pacific Triennials in
I love an exhibition which introduces me to a new artist that I end up loving, and this one did that. The artist was Eduardo Chillida and maybe I should know him, but I didn’t. His books were examples of beautiful bindings and I was really pleased to see this type of book included in the exhibition. From my google search I see Chillida is a sculptor, and I guess I should have realized I would love books made by a sculptor.
In the final space in the gallery, music by Brian Eno was playing, creating a quiet, meditative space well-suited to the books here. There were works by Anish Kapoor, Caro and another one by Kiefer. This one was three large open books laid flat. The pages were created with paint and medium, but the effect was highly textural and initially I thought they may be clay. I could have stood and soaked up these pages for ages.