1. Angie Waller: Local Guy, Tank Top, Good Looking
Angie Waller’s Love Unknown series uses personal ads from the Internet as source material, catalogues them through a computer programme and reconfigures them into romance-based, freeform narratives. Available as Kindle or printed editions – 13 made to date, all with fabulous titles – each book plays out in a different American city (this one is Honolulu, Hawaii), using text from regional adverts. The text is presented as ongoing chapters full of romantic yearning, so in some ways it can be seen as a continuous possibility. As each book is particular to the city that the texts have been taken from, you can imagine the people in local bars, car parks, supermarkets, always hopeful: “Hi to the handsome man in the canned tomato aisle.” Lovely books, in a rainbow of colourways, beautifully presented in slim, letterpress printed covers.
For more information or to order a copy visit loveunknown.org
2. Miriam Elia (with Ezra Elia): We go to the gallery
One of the best birthday presents I have ever received and a hilarious (and now notorious – thanks to Penguin Books) take on the Peter and Jane Ladybird books I loved as a kid. A visit to the gallery with mummy completely destroys a small boy and girl’s worldview and leaves them both traumatised, unhappy, confused and ‘educated’. I particularly love the new words to learn on each page, for example: Crucifixes Dead Babies. This is such a well thought out book, nostalgic and anarchic; Miriam Elia has a wonderful way with words. It made me laugh out loud, and passing it round the office it was similarly received. Originally created as an artist’s edition, this year saw the publication of a commercially available version priced £8.99. I have bought extra copies for Christmas presents and if you loved the original Peter and Jane series – and have a warped sense of humour – then I urge you to do the same. More Dung Beetle reading scheme publications, please.
For more information or to order a copy visit miriamelia.co.uk
3. Guy Bigland: All the Paintings in the Museum
I’m a huge fan of Guy Bigland’s use of systems to create text-based books of clever language play; highlights for me include Offs, Holiday Reading and Lineman (which he performed for the first time at Bristol Artists Book Event earlier this year with artist Tom Sowden). This new book is a study of naming, presenting the reader with oddities, clichés and mundane words used to title paintings. Bigland took these one-line descriptors from the entire online archive of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection of paintings (all 1620), arranging them alphabetically, including original spelling and punctuation. The result is hypnotic as your mind tries to create visuals from L’s repetitive mantra of LANDSCAPE WITH FIGURES to the simply bonkers flow from N to O on one page: NUDE ON A BED, NYMPHS ET SATYRES, O IF I WERE GRANDMA…
For more information or to order a copy visit guybigland.com
4. Sarah Nicholls: Milky Seas
The latest publication from Sarah Nicholls Brain Washing from Phone Towers series is Milky Seas. It is such a beautiful book, based on Darwin’s recording of a phenomenon at sea, where bioluminescent bacteria living on sea creatures (dead or alive) can give a milky illumination to the water at night. It reminds me of Dorothy Cross’s wonderful Ghost Ship print published by Stoney Road Press, only with a very different (and potentially scary) message. I followed the instructions for Milky Seas: reading it in daylight, then shone a torch on it, then read it again… and watched it come alive. Nicholls refers to the books in this series as ‘informational pamphlets’, but they are so much more. They are so affordable for the quality of work, so why not treat yourself to a subscription and enjoy the whole set? Who wouldn’t want a glow in the dark, scientific artist’s book for Christmas?
For more information or to order a copy visit www.sarahnicholls.com
5. Semple Press: For an Agreement of the People
I bought this book earlier in the year and it seems even more applicable now – a letterpress printed ‘contemporary reimagining of 17th century political pamphlets, calling for a people-led written constitution for the UK’. It’s a very classy version of a political paper, presented as a handmade pamphlet book with a poem and explanatory text by Angus Reid, and designed and printed by Rachel Marsh aka Semple Press. Marsh is an accomplished designer and letterpress printer, so the book features delicious type layouts, printed in wood and metal type. It’s a pertinent example of the artist’s book as a democratic multiple, and if you enjoy this, do also check out Marsh’s Œ Adventures, which must be the only example of a letterpress printed artist’s book that includes a reference to Game of Thrones.
For more information or to order a copy visit semplepress.co.uk
6. Sophie Loss: Death and life. You look but I know. Dead birds do not leave traces. The cherries and redcurrants live forever – they stain, transfer and mark this present. You are holding the closed book, go on open it, and take in what you have caused but not yet witnessed
This book was made for the artist group AMBruno’s Red project that launched during the International Contemporary Artists Book Fair at the Tetley, Leeds in March 2015. Fifteen new artists’ books on the theme of ‘red’ were published and this one by Sophie Loss is perfect. It’s based on Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s 1712 still-life painting, Dead Birds with Cherries (although to be as precise as Loss is, those are cherries and redcurrants), from the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Agen, France. It captures the essence of the experience of looking at the tableau, of the historical nature/message of still-life painting; it shows us death yet brings us instantly into the present through linking the illusory to the real. It’s about the opening and closing of a book’s pages, and one of the most elegant and sublime artists’ books I have seen in a long time.
For more information or to order a copy visit ambruno.co.uk
7. Stephen Fowler: Cosmic Forces
A new edition in tribute to 1930-1940s American B movies’ use of spiritualism, séances and mediums to explore paranormal activity; Stephen Fowler made this one-off book for an exhibition in 2012, and I have been longing for a copy ever since. Fowler’s practice explores religious iconography, folklore, collections, superstition and ritual. He works with low-fi printmaking techniques, and specialises in intricately-cut rubber stamp prints and artists’ books. Fowler evokes a sense of otherness through careful arrangements and overlay of seemingly disparate figures/objects into narrative imagery. Now handmade in an edition of 20, Cosmic Forces using antique red ink for the blood-red pages and is printed with bleach to create the white auras behind the rubber-stamped figures. The apparitions hover on the pages in white, spectral wisps, looking outside the page as if observing something beyond you. It’s a unique tribute to the tricks of paranormal movies from a unique artist.
For more information or to order a copy visit stephenfowler72.blogspot.com
8. John Bently: Liver & Lights No 53, Railton Road, Herne Hill End 2015
John Bently’s Liver & Lights Scriptorium celebrated 54 volumes in 32 years recently with an exhibition and gig, The Many Things of Liver & Lights, at the Horse Hospital in London. Bently’s practice is built an intimate awareness of his surroundings, in the local community and the people who occupy it. He has created artists’ books about communities in Deptford, Dundee, Fife and Glasgow, about everyday heroes, bus journeys to Penge and Brixton, about the lives of people he encounters. His work is acutely observed social documentary, presented in a way that is both affectionate and contemplative. He produces and binds all of his books by hand – whether rubber stamping, carving text blocks or painting – printing on his old Print Gocco or a photocopier, often adding found materials from the local area. But the most amazing thing is how these books come to life through Bones and the Aft, the performance wing of The Liver and Lights Scriptorium, in which Bently and his band play out the texts as songs as he enacts these characters while dressed in wonderful costumes. While this box of 10 pamphlet books, each about a character or occurrence in Railton Road, may sound specific, at its heart it is an ode to all our streets and the communities that live in in them: ‘Here is the Railton Road I see every day. It is my road, your road, mythical, real, ordinary, strange, full of life and love and loss and comings and leavings.’
For more information or to order a copy visit liverandlights.co.uk
9. Angie Butler: This Place 4
One of a collection of eight artists’ books printed over two summer residencies at Helen Douglas’s weproductions studio at Deuchar Mill in Yarrow, Scotland. Each of the books incorporates hand-set metal type, printed on vintage paper stock on the Vandercook No.4 press at the mill. Some contain physical evidence of the summer residency such as pressed flowers, but this one is a response to clearing the pond. This pond is a place that Douglas has studied closely within her own books. In 2011, Douglas’s 14-metre scroll book, The Pond at Deuchar, surveyed the site through the seasons’ wildlife, insects and flora. This was later published by Tate (2013) as an e-book to be scrolled through on a tablet, with a text by Clive Phillpot identifying the inhabitants of the pond. In summer 2015, Butler was helping to clear the pond, and in doing so recalled Phillpot’s list on the e-scroll. This Place is as elegantly printed as the delicate insects that skim the pond’s surface and, if you open the pages out fully, the transparent papers reveal the flight pattern of a damselfly across their surface.
For more information or to order a copy visit twitter.com/angelacbutler
10. Barrie Tullett: Knock Knock
What’s this – a book of concrete poetry-based ‘Knock Knock’ jokes? Barrie Tullett is well known for his excellent typographical design works for artists’ books, posters and prints, as well as for his love of typewriters – he is the author of Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology published by Laurence King. But, as publisher’s The Caseroom Press themselves declare, “We can’t help but feel that as a fan of esoteric, niche markets, Barrie has outdone himself.” It’s great fun, with Knock Knocks in tribute to experimental artists, musicians and writers including Ian Hamilton Finlay, ee cummings, Dieter Roth and Philip Glass. One example: “hand door bang” “Who’s there?” “Dom Sylvester Houédard”. There are two versions; a saddle-stitched book with 12 jokes and a perfect bound extended cut with 16 jokes. The covers are Risograph printed in a random mixture of red, black and green on different coloured stock.
For more information or to order a copy visit www.the-case.co.uk/knock-knock.html
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