Possibly the highlight of my holiday was my visit to Monica Oppen’s Bibliotheca Librorum apud Artificem, a private collection of artists books. I have Sara from BAO to thank for reminding me that it is possible to make an appointment to see the collection.
Monica is a printmaker and bookbinder, also making artists books herself and in collaboration. She delights in sharing her personal collection of artists books, acquired over 20 years or more. Generous and knowledgeable, I had a wonderful time discussing and sharing with another like-minded book art lover.
Although I spent some hours there, I know I only scratched the surface of the collection. Its not possible for me to give you an accurate idea of the beautiful works I saw, so I thought I would just name some names, with a little descriptive commentary and links to the listing in the online catalogue for the Bibliotheca. I hope this might help you decide whether it is an artist whose work might be of interest to you.
As this is an Australian collection, I really have to start with a luminary of Australian book arts. The collection holds over 30 works by Peter Lyssiotis, a writer, photographer and photomonteur.
Peter creates imagery using old fashioned techniques of photomontage, by which I mean nothing, even his latest works, is computer-assisted! I had seen A Gardener at Midnight and 1316 elsewhere but had not realized the imagery was not digital.
To give you an idea of the sort of books he produces, I’ll share this quote I found on the IMCA website, briefly:
Whenever in doubt, Lyssiotis returns to John Heartfield’s dictum: “Use photography as a weapon”.
Despite being less beautiful than Peter’s recent books, I was also captivated by a couple of his early small press books, particularly Journey of a Wise Electron & other stories.
Searching around online for some images of Peter’s work, I came across this video of a lecture he gave at the Ural University. I’ve only had a chance to watch the first 5 minutes and the sounds not great, but the text does seem to be included in his powerpoint presentation.
I spotted Laura Wait’s name on the spine of a book, which turned out to be The Goddess in the Garden. I was interested to see the covers were wooden, stained green and I had a good look at the binding (wrapped cords) to see whether it would work for ceramic covers too.
In the catalogue , Monica explains that the "book has a handwritten manuscript comprising an alphabet of symbols related to gardening and plants, along with early goddess and fefmale symbols."
The book pages are painted and relief printed on a variety of papers, some translucent. (Another of my loves, as you all know). I think my introduction to Laura Wait was as an artist working in encaustics, and some of her recent books use this medium. You can see more of her work on her website. For those interested in calligraphy, this is another feature of her work.