Mon 28 Feb 2011 by Penny_Dann
It was a treat to have local artists Peter Chasseaud and Carolyn Trant, also writers, book makers, print makers and gallery owners to talk to B.i.G. Given the time available they could only touch lightly on their very productive creative lives but none the less, it gave a real flavour of what they make and are interested in.
First to speak was Peter. He took us briefly through his education in which he initially studied Humanities at university and then art at Brighton Art College in the 1960's. Peter has always been keen on radical ideas and thinkers and it was this interest that led him to commission a recreation of an eighteen century style letter printing press, the sort that Tom Paine's first pamphlet, (written in Lewes) would have been printed on. This type of press, 6' by 6" high is able to print double page books. Caxton would have printed on something similar.
At The Tom Paine Printing Press Gallery, Peter has aimed to recreate the ambience of the original presses and having visited on a number of occasions it is a peaceful place conducive to looking, learning and buying something interesting that's handmade.
Peter took us through the process of printing on his wonderful press. He prints the traditional way on dampened Khadi paper, (from Nepal) which is hung up and left to dry. He showed us a limited edition of the Rights of Man broadside, which required three pulls on the press.
Peter collects C18, Victorian and all sorts of old type. Complete sets can be hard to achieve. He collects wooden and metal types and also replica type moulds. A book on type by Moxon illustrates many eclectic types, including Russian type, that he would love to get hold of.
Lack of complete sets of type do not put Peter off creating his own broadsides. He has an easy going style and views the missing type as a challenge as to which words to use.
As well as a love of old types and typography, which he enjoys for the variety of shape, size and personality, he also relishes C17 wood engravings, wood cuts and copper plate illustrations. Not only is the mastery and sharpness of the crafts a joy but the illustrations themselves are full of life and interest. Peter showed us a setting of Shakespeare's work which illustrated his points well.
Peter scans these old printed illustrations and has them made into polymer plates which he then uses in his own prints. He enjoys combining these images with his own texts to create new broadsides. He hand composites his work and mixes wooden and metal type together. He enjoys a playful approach to design and he will arrange letters to form shapes or spell words backwards like puzzles to be worked out. His witty, ‘The Riot Act Has Been Read’ can be seen in a current exhibition at the British Library. Peter also showed us prints from his book East London Line shown at The Art Book Fair.
Lewes District Council commissioned a poster for the unveiling of a bust of Tom Paine by Tony Benn. Other commissions include a Glyndbourne Production poster and a share certificate for Lewes Football Club.
Peter talked briefly about his own book production under his Altazimuth Press. In these artists books or poetic photobooks, Peter brings together an interest in maps, photos, text and poetry.
In "Thames, The London River" he looks at changes in the urban landscape over time. In his Kings Cross book he revisits childhood sites and re-examines them. He records the old, changing industrial landscape and creates associations based around memory of them. Again Peter returns to a combination of words and images in his Euston Arch book. This play of words and image seems a constant in his work and can vary from witty and fun to more reflective and melancholy in mood.
Carolyn studied painting at the prestigious Slade School of Art. However, she feels she never quite fitted in as from a young age she had naturally veered towards making books rather than being a pure painter.
She was taught by the formidable and Marxist Peggy Angus, an inspiring teacher who seems to have left an impression on Carolyn. Peggy Angus' wallpapers have recently being featured in Interiors magazine and Carolyn used to help print these when still at college and on leaving.
Carolyn embarked on her artistic career exhibiting paintings but a visit to an artists’ book fair on The South Bank proved to be a turning point. Equally, an etching project with Peter became an important moment in a move towards her own book making. She acquired knowledge and skill in bookbinding and other crafts as she went along.
Carolyn's urge to make books comes about as her response to things that interest her. She favours an intuitive approach to design and is very involved in the materials that she uses, the touch, the surface and process of using these. Although Carolyn's heart lies in the zine movement in bookmaking, she seems drawn, in spite of herself to producing large, complex books which are labours of love and layered in meaning and process.
Carolyn has continuously being engaged in exploring the creative possibilities within bookmaking. She brought in several examples of her work and took us through her many explorations.
A writer she loves is the Spanish poet Lorca and she has produced a bilingual book, illustrating eleven of his sonnets. Using stencils and woodcuts the book is part of an edition but the hand printing processes have allowed for each to be a one-off in it's own right.
In a book inspired by Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, Carolyn has used low tech printing devices, (card from cereal packets and scalpel!) to create richly coloured collagraphs. Her painting background is in evidence as she dabs her colours on in a painterly way, each taking several hours to ink up. For the lettering she has used silk screen printing.
Carolyn has explored making three dimensional books and a wonderful example is My Mackerel Lover, based on a poem Carolyn wrote after waking from a dream. It's an edition of seven and it is not until you handle it and read it that the magic and intimacy of the book is revealed. She has also designed and constructed complex pop up books. Carolyn does not work to a formula, each book is a new project and this makes her work very engrossing. The rich, Blue Beard's Castle,(shown at the exciting Press and Release exhibition at The Phoenix Gallery) is a good example of a 3D book project, the whole form part of the story. A box of secrets and a theatre, bringing together many of Carolyn's interests in literature, fairy tales and their visual expression.
Carolyn is full of ideas of what a book can be and she is preoccupied with how the reader will interact with the book. She aims for the experience to be a slow revealment and in this way I think her work can be argued to be subversive in it's rejection of contemporary throw away and shallow culture. Her work is necessarily expensive, given the amount of time it takes to make, but is collected by The British Library, so these books at least remain in the public domain.
In her role as teacher herself, (print making at The Paddock Studios Lewes), Carolyn has created with her students two lovely books celebrating Lewes High Street and pubs. These are hand bound in editions of 100.
It was a pleasure to invite Peter and Carolyn, artists working to their own brief and passionate about their many interests.
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