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One thing becomes another!

By Christene Drewe | 9 June 2015

The  final post by Jan Davis, documenting her  journey  as the Siganto Foundation Creative Fellow indicates that the Australian Library of Art collection of artists' books will soon be enriched by another impressive book. Jan brings her project to an end with this blog and a presentation at the Siganto Foundation Artists' Book Seminar 20th June 2015.

One thing becomes another, my three-stage project to examine diaries and farm records from the John Oxley Library and transfigure them as artist’s books is in its concluding stage.  As I sit to write this final post, the stack of folded pages that has grown steadily as I have laboured over the past months is no longer in my studio, but on the workbench of master bookbinder Fred Pohlmann. There he will complete the transformation of my research undertaken in the library into the material form of the book. So indeed my digging about in the cultural compost of others has become something else- an artist’s book entitled Drawing on the ground.

This final post summarises how my decisions about the production of my book: its format, size, image-making, text and binding; have been determined by my reading, reflection and studio work.

Drawing on the ground has page dimensions of 22 x 31 cm. The ‘landscape’ format was a logical choice for a book that explores relationships with the land. The work has a sense of an horizon, that characters can move across the implied country. There is also a sense of passing time. The book is part diary, part history concluding in 1915. Drawing on the ground is just slightly larger than A4. It mimics the proportion of the Labour Book, (OMBF Glengallan Station Records) which recorded the daily labouring of a large team of station employees.

Glengallan Station Labour Book

Glengallan Station Labour Book

With the obvious exception of photographs, almost all my research material was text-based, much of it handwritten, except for The Hollow Log Book and Shamrock Vale Diary, 1871 (2967, Rawson Family Archive), where the day-to-day activities of the Rawson Brothers were recorded in annotated pen and ink drawings. I found these diaries most evocative so Drawing on the ground contains nearly 90 line drawings. I made the originals of these drawings in two ‘dummy’ journals. The images in Drawing on the ground are carbon copies. I had planned to redraw all the images but something was missing - I wanted more of a transformative process, more of the surprise that comes from printmaking. Peeling back the carbon paper brought this element of unpredictability back to the works. The carbon paper also referenced the Letterbooks where correspondence was kept in a carbon copy book. The drawings have a delicate blue line - sometimes fuzzy, sometimes sharp depending on my drawing tool.

In addition to the drawings I wanted to include text in my book. Again, the decision was obvious -  the text would be hand written in ink. I hand-copied long passages of text from explorer and settler journals and I have used selected portions to accompany my drawings.

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Page 7, 'Drawing on the ground'.

Page 7, 'Drawing on the ground'.

Drawing on the ground is being bound in a traditional manner reminiscent of the Labour Book, half bound in kangaroo skin, the title embossed in gold on the front cover.

This production stage has been the material transformation of my initial research (in the form of reading and drawing) into a book which is both diary and history; my reflection on gardening in the broadest sense - the drawing of sustenance from the ground, the act of sustaining oneself through an engagement with the land.

Page 65, 'Drawing on the ground'.

Page 65, 'Drawing on the ground'.

I look forward to presenting Drawing on the ground on June 20 at the Siganto Foundation  Artists’ Book Seminar at the State Library of Queensland.

Jan Davis.


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