sculpture and tao

I found (via two book artists that really fascinated me.

First up is Jessica Drenk, who, aside from the guy that creates landscapes and sceneries out of really old, really thick books, is probably the closest to a book sculptor that i’ve come across. In class last Thursday, when we were discussing what constitutes a book, i noticed that a lot of our answers had to do with content, the stuff they convey, which is probably why e-books can still be considered books. Drenk, however, shifts focus to the physical object of the book, and then moves beyond even that, coaxing out the sort of ancestral history that most physical-body books share. All of her book sculptures feel like wood carvings to me…one even looks like a cross-section of a tree. She reduces/returns books, at least ostensibly, to their original form; through some heavy alteration/manufacturing, books are brought back to a state of nature, which feels like a conceptual full-circle or ouroboros or something. And, moreover, her sculptures give off a feeling, at least to me, of a sort of effortlessness, like she could have been walking through the wood and just happened upon these pieces. Which is probably a testament to her attunement and appreciation of nature. I also really love the lack of treating the physical-body book with a kind of holiness or sacredness. I mean, in a sense she destroyed, or at least made unreadable, whatever books she used in her pieces. But, by their overwhelming wood carving feel, i have a sense that Drenk is positing that books really are just amalgamations of different states of wood, maybe highlighting that what actually makes a book a book IS its content. I dunno. I really just love that they look like carved chunks of wood, that under Drenk’s touch books return to their primordial state. I deeply, deeply appreciate the ability to look at something and see into its history/internal life.

The second books artist i got giddy about is Soh Jin Ping, who feels more like an artist that occasionally dabbles in making/designing books than an out and out book artist; of all the art pieces listed on his site, there are only four books. But man, what books! The one that originally caught my eye is Poetics of Harmony, which is a visual/artistic interpretation of Taoist cosmology. That in and of itself is amazingly cool. But what really gets me is the scope/cohesion of the book. Every aspect of it has been thought out, and thought out well. That kind of dedication and what i have to attribute as passion is incredibly inspiring to me. It’s also extremely original…at least to me: i have never encountered another book that plays around with layout and design styles as much as Poetics of Harmony. But, as weird as the layout is, all the elements of it feel informed by and connected to the others. There’s nothing that seems gratuitous…and on that note, i feel like the stranger aspects of this book are kept in check by the simple black and white color pallet. It’s challenging and original, but grounded. I also feel like the physical book itself is a huge part of the experience the book creates. It’s like going to a really well done concert: you’re already familiar with the songs but the band cultivates a live experience that encompasses everything. I feel like Poetics of Harmony does that: you need to have the physical book to have the complete experience. Or, in other words, the physicality of the book itself is essential to intimately connected with the content it presents. Maybe that’s how books with weather the digital age, by making their physical bodies indispensable to the experience of reading it.

1 comment
  1. meredithpurvis said:

    Thanks for your thoughts! Both of these book artists are really quite amazing in entirely different ways, and I like that you examined both an artist who is turning existing books into art and an artist who is creating art as a book. I also think that you made a good point when you were talking about how, in Soh Jin Ping’s work, the unique elements of the book form a cohesive and well planned form–that is incredibly difficult to achieve. You also make a good point when you discuss how the more innovative elements of the book are grounded by the color palette–that question of balance and effect can be important when working on an art book. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts in class.

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