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Books of Art (2)

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

13:38, October 08, 2012

Artist books featured at CAFA's "Diamond Leaves"(Global Times /Xu Ming)

Exploring possibilities

Artist books first appeared in the last century and have gradually matured in several Western countries. Avant-garde writers and artists such as Kafka, Duchamp and Salvador Dali created their own works by hand, usually in limited batches or with only one copy.

The first artist books are thought to have been created by British poet William Blake and his wife Catherine, who together illustrated, printed and bound unique books by hand. This early integration of words, images and self-publication set the tone for future artist books.

The experience of taking in an artist book is a combination of reading, visual appreciation and tactile sensation. Such works are a vessel for artists to design and create imaginative bound volumes, often defying traditional notions of what defines a book. Many artist books extend the process of bookmaking by creating all kinds of artistic twists in the materials, content and shapes of books.

For example, in Para-schwarte, artist Micha Brendel used animal skin, organ tissues, paper and letterpressing to form a three-dimensional book with various patterns. In Axi Fire Festival, a work by Colette Fu, the artist took photos of 30 tribal communities in southern China and produced a dynamic pop-up book to show the life of the region.

These books, either laid flat, hung along the wall or appearing in the form of three-dimensional cubist paintings, demonstrate the immense artistic potential of books. What's more, they remind viewers of the irreplaceable nature of physical books.

In the era of the Internet, more people are reading digital books and communicating via e-mail rather than on paper.

"In this environment, artist books have room to develop, because they carry people's nostalgic feelings for books through history," said Xu.

Artist Chen Qi said that artist books are proof that physical books will not vanish anytime soon. "Many artists are still creating works of art in the form of books. This reflects people's deep connection to books."

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