In 2019, Brisbane’s Onespace Gallery premiered a group exhibition called PIVOT. The show focused on artists’ books, encouraging artists to ‘pivot’ their practice from 2D wall works to books or vice versa. In the process, they effectively expanded their practices and manifested art as an object.
Now back for its second iteration, under the curation of Alicia Hollier, PIVOT II features works by 16 artists who are making the artists’ book format their own. “We’re encouraging artists to not be intimidated by traditional practices, and to challenge and deconstruct it within the framework of their practice,” says Hollier. “A lot of the works don’t necessarily look like what you think an artists’ book is going to look like.”
Each work has both a wall and book element – sometimes connected, sometimes contrasting. “Some are completely different and you want to know which wall work matches the book, and I like that disparity sometimes,” Hollier says.
Hollier chose artists who mostly focus on paper or drawing. Some of the works take unusual forms, such as a timber base with etched acrylic sheets by artist Daniel Sherington. Other artists, such as Ana Paula Estrada, pivoted the other way around, from artists’ books to the wall.
Jenna Lee, a mixed-race Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri artist, is exhibiting her work Playing for Keeps. The work is a loose-leaf artist’s book consisting of 52 playing cards, made using paper from multiple copies of a 1970s children’s book called The Lost Boomerang. Each sheet has a different word for ‘lost’ on it, and the cards are housed in a found box for souvenir Aboriginal playing cards. “I was really interested in the idea of losing and finding cultural objects,” Lee says.
Lee has made multiple artist’s books, and always comes back to the loose-leaf, found box format. “I know how to bind books, but I’ve always been more interested in the artist’s book being a bit of an object. You can really play with that,” she says.
Allowing the public to touch the work brings an important element to Playing for Keeps. “I work with paper as a medium and I do love its tactility, but once I make an object in a gallery setting, it’s absolutely never touched by the public,” Lee says. “The paper that I work with is always so beautiful to touch, so it’s really nice to have a format that allows it.”
Hollier agrees that the appeal of artists’ books lies in the closer connection they foster between artist and audience. “This space demands that the works take a little bit more of an intimate interaction from the audience, rather than just putting them on the wall,” she says.
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The exhibition catalogue can be viewed online in full here.