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Printing With Books I & II

Item date(s): 2016

Isabel Hofmeyr


Medium: Books; Paper
Pages: 750 x 1500mm
Technique: Acrylic paint with book foredge
Edition: Unique

Theme(s): Book history.

Place publication: Johannesburg
Publisher: The artist
Exhibition 2017

Reference note:
I am an academic with a book problem. I work on print culture and books and grapple with their meanings as social objects. As an academic, I have too many books and struggle to keep the rising tide of volumes at bay.

A productive solution to my book problem emerged when I joined Bronwen Findlay`s art class. Bronwen encourages everyone to pursue their own interests and the class is an inspiring congregation, each person doing something completely different. Tired of yet again lugging a load of books to the charity store, I decided one day to see if I could use the book as a type of paint brush. Long interested in the anatomy of the book, I was curious to see to what ends its materiality could be coaxed. Books are material objects. They have heft, odour and texture. They carry marginalia and bus tickets. Their materiality gives them afterlives as trunk linings, door stops or cigarette papers. The technique used here adds another afterlife by turning the book into a printing implement. The books are saturated and then shaped into spidery forms.

To produce these images, several books were entirely saturated in water. The excess water was squeezed out and the books moulded into various shape and left to dry. The procedure involved grasping the spine of the book and `buttering` the foredge with acrylic and then smearing the book across the page. Paint was applied to the top or bottom end of the book and was then impressed on paper.

The technique produces pelagic, marine-like images, a far cry from the solidity that we associate with books - yet another metamorphosis of the book and its surprising materialities.

The resulting painting was then named after the book that had made it: my earliest efforts included The Autobiography of William Cobbett, Rebellion and Revolution and Sophie`s World.

Book history as an academic discipline has long explored the book as object - as gift, as interior decoration, as way of negotiating social relationships, as talismanic object, as embodiment of imperial (and anti-imperial) power, as religious fetishes and so on. This technique of `book marking` demonstrated another type of afterlife and another trajectory of booknesses.

Foredges of books used as paintbrushes with the resultant framed monochromatic print exhibited (right) and colour print (left). The book-brushes are also exhibited along with some trial prints

Sculptural books and prints on wall

1500 x 750mm

Artist as sole producer



Exhibition notes:
;‘Booknesses: Contemporary South African Artist's Books’.

FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg.

Curated by David Paton and Eugene Hon.

24 March - 5 May 2017



Ref: DP/17029




Printing With Books I (monochrome - right) & II (colour - left)




© Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts (JGCBA). All rights reserved.