Artspace Mackay Libris Awards

Last week I was honoured to judge the Artspace Mackay Libris Awards, the premier national artists’ book prize. There are three prizes: $10,000 National Artists’ Book Award, $2,500 Mackay Regional Artists’ Book Award and $2,000 Young Artists’ Book Award. Ninety works of a very high standard including everything from codexes, scrolls, altered books, and boxes to woven and sculptural pieces were shortlisted for the awards, making judging a very difficult task. Installed in the Artspace Gallery they make an interesting exhibition.

The winners announced on Saturday night were:

Michele Skelton Wave form
Kelvyn Cunnington The byte: Historio-pictographic disc fragments
Nicola Laidlow Cup of tea?

 Wave form by Michele Skelton appears sculptural but is actually a traditional codex. The cover represents the calm of the sea and the shore when the book is closed. When it is opened the pages sewn into the spine spill out as waves which can be arranged and twisted to represent a raging sea. The paper has been carefully chosen to allow this and is just one of many indicators that nothing in this book has been left to chance. I really loved the Japanese aesthetic which is evident in the choice of woodblock to print the waves, the colour and the subject which all recall Hokusai’s classic print The great wave.

Kelvyn Cunnington’s The byte: Historio-pictographic disc fragments  investigates the reformatting of the world’s knowledge and history. Images from books and magazines from various periods have been cut into mini-CD- sized circles. They represent the hardware of CDs as well as the digital bytes of information from which a pictorial history can be reconstructed. When not installed they sit in a collaged Kodak photographic paper box.

Nicola Laidlow’s Cup of tea? is a small Coptic bound book of monoprints and transfer prints relating to the taking of tea. Using only black and white it weaves together transfer prints of tea cups and the Mad Hatter’s tea party with textural monoprints and leaf prints evoking tea in a garden.

Many other terrific books were submitted for the award. Some of my other favourites:

Unique state plays with the notion of the editioned work. Multiple copies of a double page spread published in Art Monthly are laid out together. So all of those copies of the same thing create an edition of one. Or do they?

Helen Malone’s work consists of five concertinas sewn together at the peaks and valleys to construct a sinuous form that represents the Brisbane River during the January 2011 floods. Three photomontages of the flooded suburbs, the mud and piles of rubbish track the stages of the disaster while between them brown pages emphasize the overwhelming colour of the time.

Particle physics investigates the idea that everything is made up of particles of matter that continually recycle. A page of dots becomes a Van Gogh landscape, becomes a Japanese woodcut, recycles back to the beginning in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling eventually returning to the swirls of the Starry night and dots again.

The book of well lived interiors is made from old book covers covered with collages of used wallpapers prompting memories of comfortable well-loved houses and everything and everyone within.

Peter Annand’s work was part of the Al-Mutannabi street artists’ book project that was a protest about the bombing of the book-sellers’ street in Baghdad. Twenty- eight cards are printed with images of the banalities of  everyday life grouped together by colours either originally in the images or added to them.

Jan Ward’s book is simple and simply beautiful - a landscape printed across a concertina. The blocks used to print the basic images are used as the physical base of the book, so an unembellished version of the image is visible on the back of the work. The narrow black cord used to join the blocks together echoes the marks in the landscape, tying the book together both physically and visually.

We are grateful to Artspace Mackay for the opportunity to exhibit a selection of artists’ books from the ALA’s Siganto Collection of International Artists’ Books that will be on display at Artspace Mackay for the duration of the Libris Artists’ Books Exhibition.






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