Exhibition Opening Friday 6th June 2014
Book as Art, 30 years in the Making by Catherine McCue
“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that comes from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper from a passing shape or from a spider’s web”.. Picasso, an apt quote when you consider, Book as Art, 30 years in the Making.
It is always a pleasure to be asked by a friend to speak at their exhibition and one as significant as this for the artist Catherine McCue. I think we both have the same artistic loading and aspirations, the drive, persistence and on the odd occasion, the subject matter as has been similar.
Where do these ideas come from? Some, if you look are self explanatory others directly from emotions or a piece of information or an actual object can ignite the ideas that you follow when you want to explore a particular subject matter. It then becomes the source for research, in the form of drawings in some cases or photographic records or a specific graphic medium. In this case it could have been etchings, lithographs, computer generated prints, mono printing, screen printing, solar etching, lino printing and photography. Certainly the repertoire of a consummate printmaker who has made it her medium.
In some cases the you first instinct to pick it up begins with a cover. How many times have we literally judged a book by its cover? Put it down because we don’t like the image or haven’t liked its touch or been repulsed by the words, on the other hand how many times have we deliberately chosen one because its texture is seductive or it sits well in your hand? If you were like me I was intrigued by the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s title, A Thousand Years of Solitude, a memorable book of fiction and one you would choose to reread many times. But the appearances of an artists’ books takes us on another journey. Not all the story is ever in words, they can be symbolic, visual representations, textured, fold out, become concertinas, have holes stamped out of them like the invitation for this show. I am sure it intrigued anyone who received one in the mail. How beautiful it is and if the invitation was an indication of what was in store was I am sure it intrigued you as well. Maybe enough to come and to see for yourselves.
In Catherine’s A Shredded Fairy Story, the imagery has strong German Expressionistic lines and shapes like many of Max Beckmann’s work. I asked Catherine what came first the red shoes image or the name of her print studio and it was no surprise that the Hans Christian Anderson fairy story image came first. In her statement, Cathy says that the artist books are not easy to comprehend at first but the familiarity with the artist’s art forms gives you the visual understanding to keep on looking.
When I first saw the work titled New Directions in Design 2012, I thought it was one of the most exciting artist books I had ever seen. The format at first glance belies what it is about. The book itself appears to be a materials sample for a furnishing company with fold outs with crimped edges done with the old pinking shears but on closer inspection each photograph has been turned as if it was inside a kaleidoscope.
You turn it one way and the colored pebbles fall into another design but look closely. Each image comes directly from photographs connected to her idea of the environment. She asks the question “what have we put into and on top of our soils to extract its wealth’s in the form of minerals?”
Still one of the strongest photographs in this exhibition is from Putting a Lid on it. This work empathies with the artist’s eye for dramatic color and form found on the disused oil fields. The strength of this emerald/cobalt green is as deadly as the name belies. It is beautiful yet you know it could well be toxic.
In the works Pioneers, we see numbers, images collating ideas and we join the dots to put together our own image of what pioneers and pioneering means. This makes reference to Catherine’s Scottish ancestors from Roebourne and Cossack.
Is the artist a pioneer? Well in a way yes, but it is her own understanding of the art forms and how she has used the process of book making that makes it all so fascinating. We see the printmaking stretched into a long concertina shape like a musical instrument, an accordion, we see the printmaking of intaglio, lithography, the pinnacle of printmaking, where you have to draw on a prepared stone and using acids make an intaglio image that can be inked up and printed. Behind me the scroll you see has the ordinary plates once used to illustrate papers and magazines which have been inked and printed to read in a different way. Once we would have had to turn a page to see these images illustrating the newest appliance for an ever growing consuming age.
It is all a fascinating process and little wonder it is a retrospective of 30 years work. A highly commendable achievement and commitment to forging new approaches, producing many variations on what a book can be. From a sculpture or a box; a pseudo roll of film from an old camera, and like Pandora’s Box what will come out next?
As Catherine says, there appears to be no restrictions to visual communication and it is reflected in her use of new technologies. This whole process of creating artist books had its genesis in 39 original etchings she purchased at auction as her first, printed edition. This action helped instigate this whole love of artist book production. These books contains all of the following, the whimsy and playfulness that invades our head space as well as the reflective and moody atmosphere that can come directly from Shakespeare or the poignant family stories in other work.
I am drawn to the common thread that we both share in the work of the Red Shoes and William Yeats in 1888 said: Red is the color of magic, to every country from earliest times. It is in the caps of fairies and magicians are all well nigh red.
Congratulations on a wonderful exhibition Catherine I hope you get the opportunity to tour this work it deserves to be seen in different climes and hopefully those works we weren’t able to view will be given full reign in other galleries and it is always my pleasure to officially open Books as Art, 30 years in the Making
Artist and writer Jennifer McDuff