Last month we welcomed Victoria Browne founder of KALEID Editions to East London Printmakers.
Victoria came to discuss the makings of a good book and offer guidance for the open submission to KALEID 2015.
Victoria is a visual artist working in London. Her practice focusses on printmaking primarily, but it extends to installations and of course artists’ books. Victoria is also the Head of Printmaking at Art Academy in London Bridge and is Associate Professor in Printmaking and Drawing in Kunsthogskolen i Oslo.
With making work comes the need to show it, and unlike other forms of art, artists’ books come with a challenge of where and how to exhibit them.
With this in mind and the fact she couldn’t use her name as a brand, Victoria set out to establish an organisation that worked with artists to showcase their books.
KALEID Editions was established in 2009 to represent European based ‘artists that do books’. Its focus is quality and works in a symbiotic way. Victoria takes the time to get to know the artists and their work. She takes the time to understand their practice and realises books are part of a larger body of work. Research into the institutions and collections is also key, recognising what they look for and will expect to see.
Vic stressed how important it was for people to see the work face to face and so travels all over with a suitcase full of neatly wrapped books to present to various collections. Her aim is to sell a fraction of the pieces to the right people. She takes the best work to the head of a particular collection, presenting what she believes they will be most interested in and gives a thorough introduction to the work. Her dedication pays off as the list of collectors is extremely impressive. They include MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, TATE, V&A National Art Library and the British Library as well as introducing collections such as the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts to artists’ books. Up until now, Vic has toured throughout the US but she would like to tour Europe soon.
Victoria talked us through some ideas about what makes a good book as well as interesting ways different artists have approached projects.
She brought with her a fantastic collection of books for everyone to see first hand and discuss.
There are elements of a book that certain collections are interested in be it text, colour, content, country of origin etc. As much as it’s vital for Victoria to consider the collection she’s visiting, just like other art forms, personal attachment comes into it.
For example Legend, an A-Z of the Lea Valley by Hilary Powell was very popular in America. So much so that every collection she visited wanted it.
Hilary’s book is an A-Z pop-up book charting the imaginative history of East London’s changing area of the Lea Valley. It was made and assembled locally on a public production line where making became a performance. Hilary was awarded the Birgit Skiøld Memorial Trust Prize for Excellence in 2014.
Humour within a piece draws people to a work. A great example is ‘Topless Celebrities’ by Peter Rapp.
‘Topless Celebrities’ is a collection of appropriated imagery Peter found in magazines from the local news agents and the internet, showing the likes of Justin Bieber with his head chopped off. Drawing on popular culture makes collections connect to the work as well.
The discussion moved onto production of a book and formats that are successful and engaging. Ultimately the concept and content shape the book and each has to complement the decisions made regarding the form of the book.
It’s important to consider cost when thinking about production and binding will double the cost of producing a book.
Vic drew our attention to a beautiful photo book ‘Touch’ by Peter Dekens. Stijn, a 23 year old man, was born blind. The book follows him in his apartment and shows the relationship with him and his environment, the one place he feels he can move freely. Being a concertina book there is no clear break in the imagery and the protagonist is featured again and again throughout the book. The subdued sepia colour of the book and the lack of binding compliment the imagery to make a beautiful and balanced piece.
In KALEIDs collection a few artists have taken a different approach to the idea of a book and have approached them almost as sculptures.
Bubble High by Katherine Jones (shown below) and Amnesiac Patina by Liane Lang are a good example of this.
Liane Lang was awarded the Birgit Skiøld at the London Art Book Fair with Amnesiac Patina. Commissioned by KALEID editions. Funding through Arts Council England meant KALEID could reach out to artists who do books. This piece was Lang’s first artists’ book. The book is an original sculptural photo book, incorporating patinated bronze resin casting and photographic works by Lang. The work examines Communist monuments that celebrate now fallen ideologies.
Works that are made by hand mean the edition is small and a lot more expensive. Other methods of printing have made book arts more accessible such as HP Indigo press, as opposed to offset lithography, and risograph printing. Victoria recommended Hato Press as a local and high quality facility to print books. Risograph is a medium that expanded the idea of artists books and supports a lot of artists self publishing work. It cuts down production costs making the work much more accessible.
Artists such as Esther van Waalwijk and Mo Swillens found a way to make their piece accessible to the public as well as to collections.
Tête -à-tête is a series of photographic diptychs. Each diptych contains two portraits of the same person. One taken by Esther van Waalwijk using a wooden, technical field camera from 1890. Mo Swillens photographed the same models with a modern digital camera and colour. She processed her photographic images into hand printed etchings. They produced a limited edition of the hand printed book for £400 and then digitally printed a more affordable version of the book costing just £40.
Overall, KALEIDs collection contains a variety of work from artists from a diverse range of practices. Prices of books range from £2 to £850 making the collection accessible on all levels and encourages new audiences to engage with artists’ books. Kaleid tries to be open and uses social media to drive the importance of openness. Throughout the year KALEID appears at various events such as The London Art Book Fair at Whitechapel Gallery, Arts Libris, Barcelona and for the first time last year representing artists who do photo books at Polycopies, Paris.
KALEID 2015 London will showcase the best of artists; books to an international audience. It is an open submission event that is judged by a fantastic jury, David Senior from MoMA Library, Elizabeth James from V&A Museum and Sofie Dederen from Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium. There is a small submission fee per book but it’s affordable.
The event is a unique opportunity for creatives and collectors to view and discuss the work.
Here are a few of Victoria’s tips for submitting work:
Consider what a book do that a painting, drawing, sculpture, print etc can’t do.
It’s important to think about how someone is going to view the work when you submit your piece. Don’t crop it and don’t photograph the front cover flat! It’s essential that the jury understand the scale of the work and what the work is. Focus on each individual piece, books take time so don’t rush. Lastly, if you’re considering entering work please remember the work actually has to exist!
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Victoria for coming to ELP. It was a insightful and inspiring talk and many of the artists that attended are drumming up ideas for books as we speak. We look forward to seeing the results of KALEID 2015 later on this year.
Deadline for submissions to KALEID 2015 is 3rd May, 2015.
For more information and to submit work please visit kaleideditions.com
Photographs courtesy of Helen Ashton.