Saturday, 28 December 2013

I See You Everywhere

I am curating two exhibitions to celebrate 25 years of limited editions issued by Zitouna, an imprint run by the artist Roni Gross in New York. Since 1989 Zitouna has produced a limited edition object for Valentine's Day and Hallowe'en every year. The Zitouna projects divide themselves between the themes of love and death, whether it be the mating of toothbrushes or the alchemy of a person's life. For an advance preview of some of the works on show, click here.

The first exhibition, I See You Everywhere: Works From Zitouna Press Over 25 Years, will show at the Arnolfini Reading Room in Bristol from 1 February until 2 March 2014. This will present a survey of works made for Valentine's Day.

The second exhibition, They Cast No Shadows: Works From Zitouna Press Over 25 Years, comprising the Hallowe'en editions, will show at the Special Collections of the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England during October 2014.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Hawthornden Fellowship

I will be away until the end of the year on a fellowship at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. Hawthornden was the birthplace and home of the seventeenth-century poet William Drummond, and since then it has served as retreat to innumerable writers, giving them space to finish old projects and begin new ones.

I will be completing a collection of poems about the Arctic and working on a new song cycle Quujaavaarssuq and the Queen of the Sea. The latter is based on the legendary journey of the Greenlandic hero Quujaavaarssuq to beg forgiveness from the Queen of the Sea, who destroyed the ice as an act of revenge on the humans who pollute her waters.

There is no internet access at Hawthornden, but I will resume posting in January 2014. The new year holds some exciting new projects, including two book publications and the unveiling of Vantar | Missing, an fictional history of avalanches in Iceland.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Beyond Words

How To Say I Love You In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet will be on display in the exhibition Beyond Words: Artists and Translation at Amelie Gallery in Beijing. The exhibition opens on 15 November and continues until 20 December, after which it will tour in the Asia Pacific region.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Third Thing

I like riddles. Perhaps Gollum's 'Voiceless it cries, / Wingless flutters, / Toothless bites, / Mouthless mutters' in The Hobbit was the first I encountered. Then the far more ancient, suggestive kenning of Anglo-Saxon riddles from the Exeter BookThe equivocal scraps, stones and body parts that voice the works of the poet Vasco Popa

Writing a riddle demands concision, yet the frame of reference must be universal. Why title any poem with anything but a question mark? When I start writing about one thing, I soon notice that I’m describing another. A small object takes on a greater significance. This same shape-shifting perspective may be what draws me to Inuit ivory sculpture, tiny objects that from one angle may be a polar bear, from another, a human being. You head out in one direction, but find yourself somewhere unexpected.

It was a great honour when Frances and Nicolas McDowall of the Old Stile Press contacted me to ask permission to use my translation of one of the riddles from the Exeter Book in a new anthology of writings on water.

The Third Thing is a selection of poems with woodcut images by Ralph Kiggell. Water and swimming have featured strongly in Kiggell’s life and when the Old Stile Press commissioned a second book to follow his hugely successful Leading the Cranes Home (2006) it was only natural that the subject should be ‘water’.

A generous slideshow of pages from the book can be seen on the Old Stile Press website, where the publishers write:

"Roger Deakin, the author of Waterlog, linked the passion to swim to our body’s mystical sympathy for water: ‘When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is - water.’ However, swimming was not to be the focus of the book and Ralph allowed himself to explore poems and prose from across different ages and cultures. Writers have shown us that from sea to land to cloud and back to sea, the cycle of water encapsulates history and life itself. ... There are driving shafts of rain, frozen crystals, rivers which support teeming life on boats, clouds heavy with impending downpours. All derive from D.H. Lawrence’s wonder at the unknowable ‘third thing’ that, with an oxygen atom and two of hydrogen, completes the mystery of water."
Other poets in his selection include Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Padraic Colum and John Masefield. As well as the riddle, I have contributed a new poem, written in collaboration with Anna Zvegintzov, ‘The Last Assignment’.
The book can be purchased from the Old Stile Press. Main Edition: ISBN 978-0-907664-89-5 £340 (plus p&p); 
Special Edition: £1250 (plus p&p).

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

LMH Oxford Residency - Talk

My year as Artist in Residence at Lady Margaret Hall is now under way. I've been working in the library on the early stages of a print series which will combine my interest in Arctic landscapes with a response to the college site. I visit Bristol next week to meet with Arthur Buxton at the Centre for Fine Print Research, who will be advising me on the project.
More on this scheme as it develops. Meanwhile I will be giving a public talk to introduce my work at the end of the month. All are welcome, whether members of the university or not. 

No More Words for Snow: Arctic Alphabets
Nancy Campbell will discuss the influence of the vanishing languages and landscapes of the Arctic on her work. This illustrated talk will reflect on poetry and artist’s books created during residencies at institutions including the most northern museum in the world on the remote island of Upernavik in Greenland.

Refreshments will be served.

Venue: Old Library, Lady Margaret Hall, Norham Gardens, Oxford, OX2 6QA. 
Date: Friday 25 October 2013
Time: 5.15pm

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The London Art Book Fair

How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet 
was represented by KALEID Editions at The London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery earlier this month. The image below shows my book surrounded by book works by artists including Tamarin Norwood, Victoria Browne and Rose Smith. 

The Birgit Skiöld Award for Excellence was awarded to 
How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic during the fair. As a result of the award, the book has been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum. The award was presented by Elizabeth James, Senior Librarian in the V&A's Word and Image Department.

UDKANT, made in collaboration with Mette Sofie D. Ambeck
during my residency at Doverodde Book Arts Center Denmark, 
was acquired by the Tate Gallery, London.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hot Metal and Frozen Paper

Next week I'll be in Dundee, origin and last resting place of the Discovery, the ship on which Robert Falcon Scott and his companions sailed for their ill-fated Antarctic expedition.

But I will be talking about printing at the other end of the earth... I'm due to present a paper at IMPACT 8, the biennial print conference that this time around will take as its theme 'Borders & Crossings: The Artist As Explorer'. How could I resist?

Here's the abstract for my paper, for those of you who can't make the conference. 

Hot Metal And Frozen Paper: Printing in Arctic Greenland 

And if the sun had not erased the tracks upon the ice,

they would tell us of the polar bears and the men who caught them.

(Obituary of a great Inuit hunter, 19th Century)

In 2010 Nancy Campbell travelled to the most northern museum in the world – Upernavik Museum in Greenland. Her residency resulted in an extensive body of graphic work on the vanishing languages and landscapes of the Arctic, including three limited-edition artists’ books: How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Greenlandic (Bird Editions) and The Night Hunter and Tikilluarit (Z’roah Press).

Historically the Inuit ‘read’ tracks on the ice rather than marks on paper. But Arctic explorers brought a new form of communication – the book – to Greenland’s shores. Nancy will briefly trace the history of the printing press in Greenland since its introduction in the late eighteenth century, addressing the difficulty of printing in remote and extreme conditions, the problems of representing new languages using old alphabets, and the reception of early printed material by the indigenous population.

Is there any possible dialogue between the printmaker, with her desire for permanent marks on paper, and the historical hunter, with his reverence for temporal tracks upon the ice? Nancy will discuss the challenges of using different print processes (letterpress, pochoir, screen print) to respond to an oral culture that has traditionally seen print media as part of an unwelcome colonial heritage. She will demonstrate how the disappearing Arctic environment informed the design choices behind How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Greenlandic and The Night Hunter, and how the print processes and the form of these books address issues of environmental and cultural extinction.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet was selected by an international jury for representation by KALEID 2013 LONDON. The book was one of 50 ‘best artists’ books’ exhibited at the launch event at the Art Academy in July (pictured). I am delighted to announce that it will go on to be one of the 15 titles represented by KALEID EDITIONS at The London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery on 13-15 September 2013.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Summer Exhibitions: Brighton, New York, London

I will be showing work in Making Tracks, the summer exhibition at The ONCA Gallery, Brighton. Earlier this year I was commissioned by artist Pete Lally to write a poem for his Suitcase Library, a collection of miniature books. My poem 'Obituary' is now available as one of the letterpress-printed library titles, which will be on display at ONCA.

'Obituary' will be shown alongside The Night Hunter - the artists' book designed and executed by Roni Gross and Peter Schell in response to my poem of the same title.

Meanwhile the latest book from Z'roah Press, Tikilluarit (Roni Gross's imaginative setting of my poem 'The Hunter Teaches Me To Speak') will be exhibited at Poet's House in New York as part of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a group show of artists' responses to violence in Iraq. Tikilluarit, a recent finalist in the MCBA Prize, is currently on show at The Cambridge Arts Council, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Finally, How To Say I Love You In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet has been selected for KALEID 2013 London. The chosen books will be on show to the public at The Art Academy on Saturday 20th July 2013. The book will also be part of group exhibitions in Beijing and New Zealand during the autumn and winter: watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


KALEID 2013 London will showcase the best of artists' books to an international audience of collectors. KALEID editions works closely with librarians, private book dealers and individual collectors, to advocate public special collections and promote artists' books as an interdisciplinary activity.

I'm delighted that How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic has been selected from over 200 submissions for KALEID 2013 London. KALEID editions will be exhibiting book works from Spain, UK, Ireland, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway. This prestigious annual event, established in 2011, is an opportunity for creative practitioners and invited collectors to view singular book works. The international jury comprised Sofie Dederen (Frans Masereel Centrum for Print, Belgium), Elizabeth James (Word and & Image Department, National Art Library, V&A Museum, UK) and David Senior (MoMA Library, USA).

KALEID welcomes visitors to the public event on Saturday 20th July. Follow this year's progress on #KALEID2013London.

Awards and acquisitions will be held during a private event on Friday 19th July, supported by The Art Academy, Frans Masereel Centrum, the British National Art Library and English Arts Council’s Saison Poetry Library. 

A selection of twenty five books will be represented by KALEID editions during The London Art Book Fair at The Whitechapel Gallery, 13-15 September 2013.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Stories from the Flood

This month I was a writer-in-residence for Words Across Northumberland, a project facilitated by Hexham Book Festival. Two writers, the novelist Susan Fletcher and I were stationed in parts of the region that have been severely affected by flooding in the last decade. Susan Fletcher recorded her experiences in Morpeth and I spent time in Rothbury, a small town in the Northumberland National Park. 

The River Wansbeck looked demure the day I arrived in Morpeth. It was hard to believe these waters could have caused such devastation a few years ago. But breakfasting in a cafe before starting work, I saw a gloomy forecast in the Mirror

The moorlands with their low population make the Northumbrian landscape one the most tranquil in the country (CPRE Tranquillity Mapping Report). I grew up in the region and have often gone walking in the hills. However, I've never travelled along its winding roads in a Mobile Library van, so I was excited about the opportunity to start my residency with a guided tour from the Northumberland Mobile Library Service. 

There are several Mobile Library services in Northumberland: the one I travelled with operates from Morpeth Library (which lost 20,000 books to flooding in 2008). Morpeth Library incorporates the Northern Poetry Library, one of my favourite haunts as a teenager. I was pleased to be back and it was satisfying to be able to leave one of my own books behind as a donation for their collection. 

Northern Poetry Library

The Mobile Version

The Mobile Library is much less spacious, but the space was found for a writer-in-residence, packed in among the books. Keith Bruce manoeuvred the hulking library - not unlike a New York taxi in colour, but far less agile - out of Morpeth, and drove over the moors towards Rothbury and up the Coquet Valley, stopping in each village. As he navigated the winding lanes and potholes Keith told me his own stories on flooding in the region. 

Easy Read

The Mobile Library is clearly an important service, especially for older people, as it brings fresh supplies of literature and a little kindly contact every fortnight. We also stopped at a number of schools, and managed to escape from the eager children with a few books still left in the van. I was lucky to get an insight into how the system works, not to mention having a beautiful ride on a bright summer’s day, past hedges bursting with blossom, cow parsley and campion. Mr Dixon, author of Upper Coquetdale (available from the Mobile Library) quotes a traditional verse:

If life were like a day in June,
                 And we had choice of England wide,
         Who would not spend an afternoon,
           And evening too, by Coquet-side.

A break for lunch at Harbottle

Stopping for squirrels

The River Coquet at Rothbury

Rothbury Library

After seeing the Coquet valley at its most idyllic, I was in for a shock in Rothbury next day - where the effects of the floods of 2008 can still be seen, five years on, in the building work on the bridge. 

As I listened to the people who came to the library to tell me their stories, it became clear that the floods have an enduring effect on daily life in Rothbury. While the disaster brought a friendly community even closer together, there are still challenges. Five years on, some old people still sleep in their clothes because they fear the waters will rise in the night and catch them unprepared. Some comfort is offered by a dedicated team of volunteer Flood Wardens who keep an eye on the river as it rolls down from the hills after heavy rain. I was very moved by the bravery the Rothbury residents showed as they told their difficult stories, refusing to be pessimistic or self-pitying.

Armstrong Cottages, one of the worst-hit buildings

Thank you to everyone who came and shared their experiences. Now comes the writing up – a poem based on the river, which will be published this autumn.

Many thanks to Keith Bruce, Claire Watson and Diane Wright, and the other staff of Northumberland Library Services, for making me feel so welcome and for sharing their stories too.