Tuesday, 4 March 2008
The Falcon Bride by Carolyn Trant
Carolyn Trant came by the shop to show us some recent work. Carolyn is one of my favourite book artists – what is there not to like about someone who creates a book called My Mackerel Lover? She has been extremely busy recently. The Falcon Bride, an installation or ‘room-sized book’, was exhibited last year at the Star Gallery in Lewes. It is book art taken to the very boundaries of the gallery space, an orchestration of found objects, painted books and sculptures, works which were created after a visit to Kracow.
The birds of the title were inspired by the mummified falcons in the Department of Ancient Art at the Princes Czartoryski Museum. These falcons appear frequently in her new work, interchanged with the figures of decaying Dickensian brides. The exhibition prompted several books, including Kracow Pages and Boat Book, which range from unique works bound in conventional codex form to multi-dimensional boxed work and prints – all imbued with images of skeletal remains or departing vessels in sombre greys and sepias.
Over lunch at the Poetry Café Carolyn tells me that the works in the show were ‘constructed from basic organic materials such as feather, bone, wax, wood, or recycled paper.’ Such transient and unexpected materials are also present in the book works – some of which feature collages of lace, dried grape stems, scrim and newsprint, as well as a free attitude to washes of paint. The organic approach is also apparent in another, more conventional two-volume work, Hunting the Wren and Love Poems and Curses by James Simpson, in which Carolyn’s illustrations take the form of collograph prints made with the impression of fern leaves and twigs. Carolyn delights not only in the texture of found materials but also in the range of papers available to her, and in this book she interleaves the printed text with papers featuring natural inclusions or punctured with holes by the maker. These are sensitively used to suggest sere winter hedgerows, the world of birds and their predators.
Carolyn has also added to her recent series of Carnival Boxes, exquisitely made reliquaries each containing a concertina of prints inside. I particularly like the Dr Caligari version, the varnished millboard box with its hand-incised design in the lid depicting a shadowy studio lined with frames and its painted borders. The cut-away base reveals a further collaged compartment, on which the sequence of prints joined with buckram hinges rests. In true carnival tradition, the colourful images, which at first glance seem joyous, incorporate sinister political processions, the forms of mythical animals, fierce beasts and masked or naked figures.