Its been a while since I tackled a large abstract painting. I was given colours and a sea theme – in an abstract style. I know people think its a matter of slapping paint on, but these are more difficult than you think :-)! Inspiration – The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai.
Edition of 2 handmade visual poetry books, one sent to Miguel Jimenez (Spain). These pages have been hanging around for a long time – they’ve become presences of various projects and a book that never happened as intended. But now they’re something else – an experiment involving fading words, shadows and near happenings. The initial text is from Empress Zhangsun’s words regarding her death and burial.
In some ways its peaceful in no-mans-land – words and brushstrokes have equal value here. Words I find though, can’t be painted with such broad strokes as paint. They struggle more to get attention, to be The Phrase, The Line that ends their relentless search for expression. Each wants to be the coup de grâce or misericorde, which ends the active adversary between librettos. Then/Now is another in the series of aleatory poetry I have been want to traverse. Available for download on
So far west I roamed
the fur so white
and who will farm the land,
the boats on fire?Then/Now
I have found with students that if I leave them, they can take DAYS to paint one painting – like wanting to go on a journey, but running on the spot for hours. They tickle the canvas without making any sort of progress – and they get BORED. And progress is SO slow. Plus the work is boring, more like colouring in. The solution is to demonstrate and to give a time of one hour in which to finish a painting. We paint together, so I talk/teach. The following paintings – 80 x 60cm are done in about 45 minutes. Lempika and van Gogh feature obviously!
An Encyclopedia of Everything – The Expanded Version
In Celebration of 50 books.
The first installation of An Encyclopedia of Everything took place in October 2014. Over 380 books were on display at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, but collecting and exchanging has not stopped there. All books are blogged on numerous sites including http://an-encyclopedia-of-everything.blogspot.com and to alleviate the enormity of the first catalogue, I have decided to publish a listing every 50 books. This first collection is available for download on http://issuu.com/cheryl.penn/docs/expanded_version_publishing_format
Artists’ books still function with some difficulty in the art world. To loose the pages of an unassuming book from its binding and separate the spreads could fill a gallery wall, yet the bound artefact remains small and intimate. Its stimulus is unlike that of a large two-dimensional painted canvas, or an arresting, digitally enlarged photograph. I think this is one of the reasons why some of the artists who make books are willing to exchange and collaborate. There is closeness in sharing words and images through the medium of books. A dynamic, multifaceted interaction evolves through this intimate involvement in personal expression, and this has come to be a hallmark of An Encyclopedia of Everything. There have been numerous collaborations organized on Robert Heathers book artists site http://artistbooks.ning.com – in fact, we are currently involved in our 15th book exchange. Other, closer collaborative engagement has also been an indicator of solid artistic relationships. All collaborative works are published on http://collaborativecanto.blogspot.com and I have begun to publish these works online on ISSUU. Let me give some examples.
David Chirot is an outsider poet/artist from Minnesota (USA), and together, over a period of 6 months we wrote a poem titled Today (an edition of 9 handmade chapbooks and 1 book). This is a series of pocket books, which hold copies of two rubbings David sent, and two visual poems I made on the day the books were complete. We wrote a verse/verses and the other artist responded. David Chirot and I also maintain an erratic email correspondence, but when his messages arrive their energy is rapid, like fast footfalls pounding the pavements of the city where he lives. One feels the truth of the true lives David inhabits within the spilling of his emailed words, falling too fast to take breathes between. His poetry is no different.
Today. David Chirot (USA)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
Rod Summers (VEC Publications)(Netherlands) is a conceptual artist and our first writing was done in a very short period. This collaboration became a limited edition of 5 chapbooks and 1 book from my side, but a multiple edition by VEC Publications. I say writing together, as words/lines/phrases were altered as we progressed, no matter who wrote the original lines. It’s a challenging way to work for me, as different voices have their own tones/word and rhythm colours, and successful collaboration demands sensitivity to this.
The Library. Rod Summers(Netherlands)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
A collaboration with John Bennett (USA) resulted in a limited edition of 1 book and 10 chapbooks – a series of 7 libretto arrangements. John Bennett is a writer/poet/performer who uses language and all its convolutions as his medium of expression. He puts together and pulls apart as the words move him, with unexpected juxtapositions of sounds and rhythm. John is an avid and very generous collaborator and I’m hugely pleased we got be ‘distrubeding our wurds’. We have been at this collaboration for over a year so I’m glad to have it committed to paper!
Also available for download on
Say What??? John M Bennett (USA)/Cheryl Penn (South Africa). 2015.
What can I say? From these few samples, this sort of trust and exchange circulating the globe has resulted in small works of great value, and personal experiences, which go a long way to fostering sound artistic rapport. Many thanks to all who continue this work with me.
Exploring the Gutter.
The gutter of a book is that no-mans land in the inside blank margin where the pages are bound. There are actually two gutters, so when one is looking at a page spread there is a doubling of space. In general page arrangement, it is blank for obvious reasons – one battles to access the information and would split a perfect bound book if attempting to. Straddling the border between texts the gutter is often a quiet place – blank and serene, indifferent to the clutter on either side of it. Of COURSE other book artists have entered this no-fly zone before – think of Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard (1897) by Stéphane Mallarmé. I must say, I enjoy the page silence.
The first 50 books of The Expanded Version of An Encyclopedia of Everything has been published on ISSUU. Please contact me if you can’t download the link. I decided to document every 50 books instead of attempting the task at over 350 like last time!
If you wish to exchange books, this is the following format:
A6 (postcard size when closed)/hard strong cover, 28 – 36 pages including blank end pages, title page, colophon or accordion format, A6 closed, hard/strong cover.