Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

The artist makes works that move out into the world. When the work is relinquished, it should speak for itself. As its audience, you are on your own.
Rosalie Gascoigne

Rosalie Gascoigne would have to be one of my all time favourites... not only did she make beautiful work that responded evocatively and sublimely to her environment; she is an inspiration to all those who come to making and creating art later in life.

She was also a lover of words, and the titles of her works were always quirky, poignant and perfectly pitched. I liked that she spent time making sure the piece went out into the world with the right name.
In doing so I think she actually helped the viewer more than this quote would suggest.  Her titles give clues to her thinking or inspiration (or at least I always read them as clues).

Nonetheless, I think she is right about how a piece has to make it on its own; without the creator there explaining every concept, thought, or inspiration behind it; the work has to tell a story and the viewer has to make sense of it all - through the filters of their own experience and appreciations. A title can allude to the sense of a piece or offer a way in... but the rest is up to the viewer.

Sweet Sorrow by Rosalie Gascoigne, 1990, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Letter a Week 38

Here's the final letter for A Letter a Week this month. Hand stitching my own 'heartbeat' script is making a nice little exemplar book that I can use to teach with - a nice addition to the familiar black on white A4 page exemplar.

The letter "L" with just a few more outlines in the background, letting the paper and its marks guide me with what to highlight.

A couple of shots of the concertina book underway... such a good idea to make it as I go this time!

Monday, September 27, 2010


I mentioned recently that I had been accepted to take part in this ongoing project BookArtObject. In 2009 printmaker/ book artist and blogger, Sara Bowen, invited her blog readers to participate in an experimental group project: to produce a book edition using a project-specific blog on which to share information, ideas, progress, and results

Her call found seven artists who were willing to join in and develop small bookworks in response to noted Australian poet, Rosemary Dobson’s ‘Learning Absences’. If you spend time on the BAO blog you will see the fabulous results as well as the journey.

Following completion of this edition, the invitation went out to other interested parties and I stuck my hand up and said 'yes please if you'll have me'.  With 15 or so members now, the project has set up two groups to respond to two different works.

I will be working with New Zealand writer and artist Claire Beynon's poem "Paper Wrestling" and will need to produce an edition of around 15 books.  This allows each member of the sub group to receive a copy; the author to receive a copy and the chance to have several other copies available for inclusion in exhibitions and shows.  

The blog has been wonderful to watch and observe and to see how problems and dilemmas are resolved, techniques shared and the joy of receiving the final pieces expressed across the globe. As I often say when commenting on the blog I am "scared but excited".

I'll fill you in as I go with how I am exploring the work and how the books are shaping up. Here is a sample of the beautiful books from Edition 1. Sigh.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More journals...

As I mentioned on Friday - its nice to have a stash of journals just ready to stitch.

In keeping with my intention to use different stitches here are the next two.  They are both medium-sized journals.

The first uses paste paper covers and a simple 3-link-down stitch. The second uses some itajime paper covers and a made up celtic-weave stitch.  It is really just a variation of the 3-link-down stitch with crossovers on the outside and up rather than on the inside and straight across.  Does that make sense to anyone?!?!?

More close ups because stitched books are just beautiful things. I have also been very happy with how well the waxed linen thread has matched the papers too!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Journals emerging...

It has been great to have a stash of journals sitting ready to stitch downstairs.  In between bits and pieces I have really enjoyed picking them up and making them.

I have also tried to use a variety of stitches to add interest and to encourage people to explore them.  I made the covers using the itajime papers I made in Calgary and the paste papers I made at home.

With journals, and often other books, I nearly always get asked "did you make the paper?" Sadly, this comment frustrates me a bit as if all the other elements (the words, the hand calligraphy, the paper for the covers, the binding, the design etc) are somehow considered lesser.  It also makes me a bit sad, because people don't always understand how difficult it can sometimes be to actually draw or write on handmade paper - it can tear, pull and the surface can bleed the ink - and that in fact high quality watercolour paper like these is often actually preferable.

As my friend Kim so rightly reminds me - it is our job to educate folk as well as allow them to enjoy our work!

Here are two of the journals so far. The first is a small one, itajime paper and blanket stitch binding.  The blanket stitch makes for quite a loose and free-feeling little book; it moves in your hand a bit.

The second is a large journal with itajime paper covers again, using tapes which go thru the cover and into the board a bit. It's nice and sturdy. I also showed some close ups because I always think stitching looks lovely (if wobbly here and there) this close up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else
Pablo Picasso

How often does this simple statement ring true in the development of a piece of art?  Whilst I often start with a clear idea in my head of where I am going and what I will be producing, there are so many opportunities to branch out, follow another line of thought, explore something, respond to a moment of accidental magic, or go beyond what I thought it would be. So often the process of doing, making, creating produces a result brighter and better than I imagined it.

At other times of course, the realisation of what was in my mind a rather wonderful and exciting thing in fact turns out to be a somewhat dull, bland, forgettable notion once executed.

Either way, it is rare for me to finish exactly where I planned to finish when I began. The joy of exploration and sense of being led by the ideas and not your consciousness make the art journey such an enjoyable adventure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beautiful inkiness

Just dabbling a little, experimenting a bit, playing here and there...and here are some photos of the results.  I was just free-wandering in my mind and in the studio and started dropping ink into water. I was mesmerised and intrigued by the results - the weather was coolish and the ink moved slowly and was suspended for quite some time.

I love the trace-marks that tell the story of its movement and its gentle dissipation. There is a calligraphic sense to some of the lines and a freedom.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Letter a Week 36 & 37

Catch up day again today!  It has not been my best week. Just way too much stuff to do, random bouts of out-of-controlledness and no time to get down to the studio and play.

After working all morning on work-work I got down there this afternoon and finished my last two weeks' letters.

J is a long letter and I simply outlined some of the longish coloured elements on the rusted braille paper.

K is a simple outlined letter. I like the line running up the right hand side so just outlined it again.  Sometimes this paper offers so much interest it would be a crime to overdecorate it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
Desiderius Erasmus

This is one of my favourite quotes ever.  It took me by surprise the first time I read it and made me laugh out loud.  I love a man with an attitude like this!

I must admit that access to books is very high on my list of 'things I would want to keep in my life'.  The list isn't fancy - mostly I think I could do very well if I had internet access; books; wine; paper; and things to play with; and good coffee. Books sustain me, they excite me, they interest me. They are great companions - I never feel alone if I have a good book; and they nearly always add the most weight to my bag whenever we travel.  The thought of being stuck somewhere without a book sets up the most travel anxiety I ever have!

We were in Brussels in 2008 and actually got to visit Erasmus House. It was a great joy and amazing to wander the corridors, climb the stairs, touch his desk and think about all that he wrote from there.

This photo is from within a sculpture that is in the garden there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finding my Place...again

Just for Velma, here are a few more photos of the book.  You can see the stitching in one, the 'spread' of a couple of openings and another close up of one of the pages. Double-clicking on the photo makes it a bit bigger and easier to see.

This paper is rusted, but isn't braille paper like I am using for my letters...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finding my place...

As I continue to explore the idea of journeys, the idea of home and the sense of my place in the world in relation to others I have made another book.  I have had these pages and covers set and sitting in my studio for over 6 months, waiting for the right thing.

I wrote the words and because the two parts have a separate sense or tell a slightly different story, I chose to make a dos-a-dos structure.  For those who are unfamiliar with this binding, it creates two books which share a common back cover. I like the structure as it keeps things together yet apart.

Finding my place
Elegant algorithms,
geographic markers,
mathematical equations,
the movement of the constellations,
degrees of latitude or longitude,
can all locate bodies within time and space.

People, places and events
form the axes of my life
I find myself
and where I am
through the coordinates of those I love
and the things that I have learned.
Fiona Dempster ©2010

I used a single sheet binding, cotton thread, rusted paper, rusted mild steel sheeting and ink jet printing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

It is not what you see that is art, art is the gap.
Marcel Duchamp

I remember sitting in Brunetti, a coffee shop - pastry shop in Melbourne many years ago and reading a range of fabulous quotes about art which were inscribed on windows and walls including this one. The perfect match - coffee, pastries, art.

Whilst I have always enjoyed this one, I find the concept of the real art being in the gap a bit of a challenge to come to grips with. My sense of it is that somewhere between what has been presented, and your response or reaction to it, lies the true art. That art is about the interpretation. My work has never been dadaist or surrealist so I wonder if M. Duchamp had some other thoughts in mind?

It seems to suggest that art is personal and individual, and that's a thought I can definitely agree with.

Artwork by Emily Dempster 2009

Monday, September 6, 2010

Newsy bits and the letter 'i'

It's kind of funny that I am up to the letter 'I' for my 2nd alphabet for A Letter a Week. I have been reading a lot about the practical, business side of promoting your arts practice and of course a simple message keeps appearing.  How will anybody know what you are doing, where to find your work or what you have achieved if you don't tell them?  Good question.

I would have to say that marketing and promotion of my work are not strengths I can own.  I have however, undertaken to mention three things here that are kind of promotional.

1. Some of my works were recently accepted into a soon to be published(by the Australian Society of Calligraphers) book of Contemporary Australian and New Zealand calligraphy. This is quite a 'wow' moment for me as I never would have thought to submit my work before I began blogging. Weird connection but this quietly telling and showing people my work has helped build confidence.

2. I have had interest from two galleries who are interested in showing my work.  I am excited by having work in their 'stockroom' showings; as well as exploring options for major showings. As a result I am quite busy beavering away on ideas of what could go where, would work in their space etc.

3. I have joined a wonderful book-making adventure called Book Art Object. Again this is another step in being out there - committing to produce an edition of around 15 books based on a poem. I'll talk more about it another time; but it's a wonderful, collaborative, exploration across the world.

So following all that 'I' talk; here is the letter for last week - 'i'. Stitched on rusted braille paper with a few pencil curves in the background.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

...the papered memorial of mankind
Arthur Schopenhauer

I was re-reading an article by Geordie Williamson (chief literary critic of Australian Literary Review) today and this phrase caught my eye and my imagination. Despite trawling through quotes from Arthur Schopenhauer, I haven't been able to confirm his exact words, but I feel as if he MUST have been talking about books!

The article no longer exists online (it was published 1 July 2009) so I can't link you to it, but it explored the rise of the e-reader and talked about the value of books across time. I might talk more about that another day; but for now these 5 words, placed together so beautifully and evocatively have me in their spell.

What a magnificent way to describe books and the role they play. The stories told in the totality of books pay tribute to people across the centuries; describe our ways of being and thinking; and record our achievements and advancements. They stand fast in acknowledgement of the good we have done and the bad. They celebrate our differences and our similarities.

The conjured image of 'a papered memorial ' rising to the sky, pages laid upon pages, some edges fluttering in the breeze, others anchoring them...

I have no photo to do justice to this idea...the Long Room in the Trinity College Dublin is its own 'papered memorial to mankind'. Photo courtesy of  The Photographic Centre, Trinity College Dublin

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Letter a Week 33 & 34

I have been running a bit behind again with my letters.  One of life's little mysteries to me.  How can the simple task I set myself of just doing a small piece of creativity a week disappear from sight some weeks?

Life gets full, and distractible and work piles up and the garden calls out to you (I swear it speaks my name some days) and then before you realise it, you haven't actually DONE any art.

I get an art-fill most days by checking other people's blogs and wandering around the internet in my spare moments; but I realise I need to make. So yesterday afternoon I did.

Here are G and H.  Still stitched on rusted braille paper. I left the G alone decoration-wise as there was so much letter to deal with, but chose an interestingly wavy piece of paper.  I burned and charred some incense stick holes along the bottom of H, which was just an outline letter.