Last weekend (4-6 December 2015) I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Livres d’Artistes: The artists book in theory and practice conference in Cardiff. The conference’s origins grew out of the donation of artists’ books from Ron King of Circle Press that the university’s special collections received in 2014. As such, there was an exhibition of Circle Press items in SCOLAR, and an additional room displaying material by Ron King and the Circle Press adjacent to where the talks were held. The first night of the conference featured Bernard Moxham in converstion with Ron King and John Christie; and on the Sunday Ron King gave the afternoon plenary. The man himself was around the whole conference, and proved to be quite a character; in addition several artists praised him for his generosity and talent.
The conference was interdisciplinary, with artist, academics and librarians taking part, and proved to be very interesting and inspiring. Artists had been encouraged to bring examples of their work to display, and I found this really beneficial. To be able to see and handle the artist’s pieces, and then hear all about what went into these pieces, the inspirations, the stories, the experiences, and the paring down, really brought them alive. The talks covered aspects of Artist’s books, small/private presses, personal experiences, academic theory, and practical ideas.
The only downside to the conference was the fact there were parallel sessions, so it wasn’t possible to hear all the talks! As far as I could tell all the presentations were great, and it was frustrating to miss some of them!
Some of the highlights for me:
1) Hearing Ron King talk about his life, work and the Circle Press. Having seen so many examples of his work in the exhibition spaces, hearing about them and his life proved fascinating.
2) Sam Winston – an artist who creates works out of text. He showcased several pieces, and talked about the processes behind them. This included: ‘Drawing breath‘ a piece created over a 15 hour day when he drew a pencil line for every exhalation; and ‘Memory Palace‘ a piece commissioned by the V&A, based on a chapter of a specifically written text by the author Hari Kunzru – a number of artists were commissioned to illustrate part of this work. Sam’s piece involved the chemical breakdown of three every day objects, and the use of their symbols in the periodic table to new create sacred images. (This description does not do it justice, watch the videos on his website!). Also, a piece called ‘Orphan‘ which was about 10 years in the making!
I found Sam and his work very inspirational.
3) Imi Maufe – an artist who translates her journeys into her book art. She was one of the artists whose work I saw first on display, and then got to hear her talk about it, and I could then go back and re-look at what I now had context for.
4) Anne Welsh – a lecturer in library and information studies at UCL. Her paper mentioned cataloguing and bibliographies, in the context of Tom Phillips’ A Humument. As a cataloguing librarian this therefore pleased me! At the end of her talk she was also challenged to catalogue one of Ron King’s Log books, on the spot!
5)Shirley Jones of the Red Hen Press – I’ve been a fan of Shirley Jones’ work for awhile, and enjoyed the exhibition at the National Library Wales in 2013, and was gutted not to be able to get a catalogue as they had sold out. So it was lovely to hear her speak at this conference and see lots of examples of her beautiful prints.
6) Jeremy Dixon of Hazard Press – purely because he demonstrated how much you can do on a small, even micro, scale.
I gained so much from all the presentations, and can’t really mention them all here; I think the conference may run again next year (I do hope so!), so would thoroughly recommend it if it does.
Partly as a consequence of this conference I bought a small printing press on e-bay. Yet to be collected, and will probably remain at my father-in-law’s for awhile, but in the future, who knows where it will take me…