Lapwing & Fox is the latest publication in a project between critic and writer John Berger and artist John Christie. As a maker of artists’ books since 1975, Christie has produced many limited editions with Circle Press and his own imprint Objectif Press, with this latest edition timed to mark John Berger’s 90th birthday in November.
Lapwing & Fox follows the format of their previous publication on colour, I Send You This Cadmium Red (2000). Similarly, this new correspondence of letters and small books – sent between the two friends from 2011 to 2014 – is reproduced in near facsimile, creating ‘artists’ books within a book’ as their exchanges interweave questions and reflections on their experiences of nature, life and art.
The book introduces us initially to artworks in the Sainsbury Centre, where an exhibition of the original correspondence and artworks for this project is currently on show. Christie sends a hand-made booklet to Berger in France, illustrated with gallery photographs and postcards, taking us on a walk through the collection.
He ponders the various gazes of portraits’ subjects looking back at the viewer and questions why Giacometti didn’t use an eraser to fully rub out the left eye in a self-portrait of 1935. This sparks Berger’s answer that portraits are ‘nomadic’ and that Giacometti’s use of the eraser, besides correcting an error, is ‘intimately connected with time. Time that rubs us out’.
The correspondence expands into a much longer walk, with text and images reflecting upon their own personal histories while opening up wider, parallel conversations about art, nature and place.
Lapwing & Fox is an absorbing and enchanting experience in that the pair’s thoughts on the passing of time and its associated losses and joys are offered philosophically in relation to a much wider world. Their warm, open correspondence offers us a wider lens with which to reflect for ourselves on place, nature and art. The work allows us to be truly in, and opens a window for us to gaze out.
Lapwing and Fox is available at www.objectifpress.co.uk
Looking Beyond: Conversations Between John Berger and John Christie, curated by UEA postgraduate Museum Studies students, is on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich until 27 November 2016.
As part of the celebrations for John Berger’s 90th birthday, a one-day symposium will be held at Birkbeck Cinema, London on 12 November 2016. Panelists include John Christie, Mike Dibb, Yasmin Guranatnam, Colin MacCabe, Lynda Nead and Griselda Pollock
1-5: Lapwing & Fox, John Berger & John Christie, Objectif Press, 2016