Dan Walsh, Catalog, 2004; watercolor and mixed media on Yoyoi paper, wood and canvas cover; 8 15/16 x 10 1/8 in.; ed 6, 2 AP's.
Just when I think that I couldn't possibly get another new idea for a format or medium, along comes a show that excites and inspires me. Last month it was the Dan Walsh show at Paula Cooper. Along with terrific paintings (I wrote about his last show here), there were cases displaying books that he'd made. The precise, yet hand made aspect of many of the books was very beautiful, showing geometries hard and soft.
Dan Walsh, Grid Book, 2008; ink and pencil on paper, 11 1/2 x 13 in.; ed 10, 1 AP
I wish I could have seen more than the double page on view. Here was a variation on a theme of the crossed forms often found in his paintings. Since they are paint, or ink, I wonder how he managed to make editions of these books. It was the hand-made-ness of Walsh's books that so made me want to make books, and got me to figure out how to do very small painted pages in very small books.
Book 1, cover; egg tempera on Sekishu natural paper, 4 5/8 x 4 7/8 in; 12 pp.
In my often funky fashion, the two books I made are rather irregular and imperfect, but I see that as part of their quality, being similar to my potato prints in that way. I folded strips of Japanese paper and bound them with a simple 4 hole Japanese binding, explained clearly in this video.
Book 1, pp. 2, 3
As you can see in the photos, the paper, although doubled, is translucent, so allows the shapes from one page to appear as ghosts on another.
Book 1, pp. 4, 5
I used the painting on a previous page to guide the work on the following one, to allow for a subtle relationship between shapes. I love this quality of the thin Japanese paper.
Book 1, pp. 6, 7
The painting of these pages is completely improvisational: my brush hovers over the page, drops down, and marks a shape (of course I hover, I mark). I mix colors that I hope will work with what came before.
Book 1, pp. 8, 9
Improvisation comes in handy sometimes: I groaned when I noticed I'd dropped some paint on the right edge of the page, but then thought "why not paint over it?". I wouldn't have thought of painting on the edge if the sloppiness hadn't happened.
Book 1, pp. 10, 11
I then emphasized the use of the edges by painting two more rectangles along them. I am studiously avoiding the concept of narrative here, wanting each page, or double page, to read as "painting"; there's no development of form or idea, just relationships from page to page.
Book 1 back cover
The final page is also painted. There was something fanciful and lighthearted for me in making this book, and the one that follows. I'm not sure if it's the medium of books, or the way these are made, or if it's the shapes and colors, but the experience was very pleasurable. I shy from calling these "artist books" because that seems so formal, and these are so informal, so "book paintings".
Book 2, cover; egg tempera on Akatosashi paper, 7 x 6 1/4 in.; 8 pp.
My second book is larger, but with fewer pages. You might notice that the binding is much neater as I gained some practice. I happen to love this darker paper; it is very beautiful to use, with a wonderful character.
Book 2, pp. 2, 3
The ghosts of other pages aren't as present with this paper, though. With this book, I'm using thicker and more varied shapes, not just rectangles as in Book 1.
Book 2, pp. 4, 5
Book 2, pp. 6, 7
I am still using very minimal means, with lots of empty space.
Book 2, back cover
I thought this––3 tiny circles––was a fun way to end the book, centered between the thin lines of the previous page. I often try to articulate to myself what it is about minimal abstraction that so appeals to me, so satisfies my aesthetic longings, but it's difficult. I will just say here that there is a sense of touching something beyond the everyday, a reaching for a sense of the essential, that permeates these forms.