John Dilnot celebrates 32 years of artists’ book practice this year with the touring exhibition, ‘Out of Print – John Dilnot’, which features his books and related material. The first leg of the tour has just opened in Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

The Brighton-based artist made his first book while studying printmaking at art college in 1985 and was instantly hooked on the idea of producing affordable editions of the book as art.

Since then he has hand produced over 65 book works, mostly screenprinted, based on his interests in natural history, urban nature, and human interventions in nature.

Dilnot’s books are avidly collected by the public and institutions including: the V&A, Tate, MoMA New York and the Yale Center for British Art. Winchester School of Art Library holds an extensive catalogue of his works – well worth a visit if you are nearby.

Dilnot’s love of nature comes from childhood explorations in his grandparents’ garden, observing and helping them tend vegetable crops, and collecting illustrated bookplates.

Curious about the types of plants gardeners classify as weeds, he has always been drawn to defending nature’s underdogs.

Dilnot brings to light many species of flora and fauna that are overlooked or even despised (see his Book of Flies for an example that featured in my top 10 books of 2016).

His artwork has a particularly British take on nature and our relationship with it. Dilnot uses the book format to present his collections and ideas visually, from how to identify birds, good or bad apples, or varieties of potatoes.

Part informational guides and part plea to us to appreciate nature from a different point of view, his books always contain a smattering of humour that gently challenges our preconceptions.

One of my favourites is Fifteen English Homes (1995), a charming little concertina book of thatched cottages, farmhouses and countryside dwellings, but here’s the rub – all of these idyllic homes were invented to promote consumer goods and have been appropriated from food packaging labels.

The Out of Print exhibition is touring until 2018. If you visit, you will certainly learn how to study nature from a kinder perspective.

Out of Print – John Dilnot, until 28 April 2017, R-Space Gallery, The Linen Rooms, 32 Castle Street, Lisburn, Northern Ireland, BT27 4XE.

1. A selection of works from John Dilnot’s little book series. Each book is handmade in an edition of 500
2. John Dilnot, Weeds and Pests, 2010, edition of 300, screenprinted concertina book
3. John Dilnot, With the Worms, 2012, second edition of 300, screenprinted concertina book, the pages are 7 printings making 16 colours
4. John Dilnot, Ten English Homes, 1991, screenprinted edition of cards for an installation at Cornerhouse, Manchester, 1991
5. John Dilnot, Potato Prints, 2004, the original edition of 3, hand printed with potatoes and rubber stamps

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