Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Art Book Art, 26.11.-06.12.2015


The exhibition took place at the Gallery of the Faculty of Fine Arts, from November 26th till December 6th, 2015.

In addition to other forms of artistic expressions, fine artists also create artists’ books.  These unique books are published by the artists themselves and they are often released in limited editions. The simplest explanation of an artist’s book is art in the shape of a book, however, this is not a very precise definition.

The link between fine art and the written word dates all the way back to the illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages (as illustrations). Nevertheless, William Blake (1757-1827) is considered the most influential figure in the emergence of the artist’s book.  In the 20th century, this form of artistic expression gains in popularity (among the Surrealists, Constructivists, Futurists and Dadaists), whereas in the 1960s and 1970s, the artist’s book becomes an experimental challenge.  In the last fifteen years of the 21st century, there is a significant rise in the number of artists creating artists’ books and their works of art are exhibited by renowned artists at reputable exhibitions. 

The exhibition ‘Art-Book-Art’ is the result of a project entitled ‘Artist’s Book’ which included nineteen student participants from the 3rd and 4th year within the Department of Printmaking, Faculty of Fine Arts at ‘Ss Cyril and Methodius University’ in Skopje.  For the duration of almost a year, the project moved through various phases, each exposing the participants to different challenges. At the beginning, the participants worked on their ‘Sketchbooks’, without any limitations regarding the content and the medium of expression.  The ‘Sketchbooks’ represent moving testimonies of their ideas and drawings, a platform for contemplations and solutions to their concerns; other times the sketches are simply visual diaries of their daily lives.

In the next phase, the participants worked in the joint work, i.e. the artist’s book – box ART BOOK ART, realised in three copies.  One of the principle characteristics of the artist’s book as a form of expression is its mobility. Therefore, the artists’ books are often packed in specially crafted boxes or suitcases, which store, protect and offer convenient transportation.  Hence, the current artist’s book is packed in a suitable box. The box represents an integral part of the artistic work, namely, its first perceivable layer.  The box contains nineteen graphic prints illustrated by nineteen appropriately selected texts - quotes. The print is primary, while the text is used only to support it. The prints are made in different printmaking techniques (linocut, relief print, dry point, etching, aquatint and digital print).

The fourth year students were asked to create a collaborative work of art: a self-portrait themed artist’s book.  The work includes artistic visual tasks created during the previous year (drawings, symbols and collage).  This large format ‘book’ is the effort of eleven students.

Following the introductory lectures, numerous tutorials, two formal and many informal workshops, the participants in the project were faced with the task of creating their individual work – the artist’s book. They were given freedom in the choice of topic and technique, with the obligation to abide only to one rule: each individual work should contain at least one aspect of the ordinary book.

The result of the project is a collection of around fifty individual and collaborative works, all exhibited in the Gallery of the Faculty of Fine Arts.  The themes covered by the young artists are diverse: from the most intimate to global.  The techniques used range from the traditional to the experimental, some are riskier, others are more modest, some are more direct, other are more figurative, but such are also their sensibilities and their affinities.  What matters the most is the fact that all the students participated in the entire process of the project, discussing ideas and creating fine art.  They were inspired and guided towards new ways of seeing, learning and understanding.

The artist’s book is perhaps one of the most suitable forms of visual exploration and expression of thought, while at the same time also one of the most ‘democratic’ and most economical.  It is a simple method for sharing ideas, yet diverse from the mass production of ordinary books because the artists’ books in limited editions are created by fine artists.  They represent a wonderful fusion of books and visual art.

Associate professor, Slavica Janeslieva-Bacvarska, MFA

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