Whether you love Newtown or hate it, there’s no denying it’s always interesting. When it comes to people-watching and window shopping, sometimes I prefer the north end, sometimes the south end—but this day I was somewhere in the middle because I had a place to be, and I spotted this artwork on my way back to the car.
In typography, leading (also referred to as line spacing) is the vertical distance between lines of type. The term ‘leading’ comes from the days when type was set by hand and strips of lead were inserted between the lines of type to determine the vertical space. This week I have been reminded how important the appropriate use of leading is in blocks of text. I am currently reading two books whose approach to leading is extreme. One is a re-issued re-packaged fiction book, where the leading is set so tight it is uncomfortable to read, despite the fact that it’s a great book by an author I admire. The other is a nonfiction book where the leading is so airy that, while the content of the book is really quite informative, as I read the text I can’t help thinking that it lacks substance and has been overly line-spaced to meet the criteria of a certain number of pages to justify the price.
Eucalyptus haemastoma—the scribbly gum—is one of my favourite eucalypts because of the beautiful scribbly tracks in the bark made by the larvae of the scribbly gum moth. The side of this re-purposed shipping container conjures up the idea of a kind of urban scribbly gum—scribbly tin—with its small-scale scratches and markings.
Our kitchen tap started spurting water from a place where water was not meant to spurt, so we called the plumber. Luckily it was a quick and easy fix to replace the tap, but when the water is shut off it brings to mind those times when we have had to go without water for much longer than the short time it was off today. Not so long ago there was some major problem with a supply pipe and the whole Inner West was without running water for almost two days—which makes you realise just how often you turn a tap on and how important water is to daily life. I am also reminded of this bottle of drinking water, a souvenir from the Columbus Circle Wholefoods. I liked the packaging so much I wanted the other colours too, despite the ridiculousness of carrying empty plastic water bottles home half way around the world!
Around the time that Lord of the Rings was showing at the cinema there was a lot of press about the multi-talented Viggo Mortensen. Here was an actor who was also a painter (those paintings in A Perfect Murder were his own), photographer, publisher, poet and musician, conversant in English, Spanish, French, Danish and Italian. What could Mister Viggo Renaissance Man Mortensen not do! It was one thing to learn about how he performed his own stunts, but when we heard that he was perfecting his Elvish for an awards night speech it was almost too much to bear and my friend and I were reduced to a fit of the giggles. But out of it a word was born—viggoing—a noun to describe any pursuit of personal academic and creative betterment for its own sake. So, when my friend asks ‘are you viggoing this week?’, she wants to know if I am spending any of my leisure time improving my mind and becoming more accomplished in the arts. So I might reply: ‘Yes, ukulele lesson tonight, Spanish language and history tomorrow, and by the end of the week I would like to have mastered the onion-skin binding technique.’ And if I were to enquire about her viggoing, she might say: ‘I’m in a play, which I am also directing, and rehearsals start this week, and on the weekend I am teaching myself how to spin my own wool (before dying it with dyes derived from plants in my garden) and knitting a Fair Isle cardigan’. For example.
This is a spread from my recent artists book Dynamic vigour in music. The text is made up from cut up lines from an old book, and the image is a scan of a mixed media drawing I did a couple of years ago. It was only quite recently, when it was brought to my attention at a book group meeting, that I became aware of how much I use cut up text. And I realised I have done it since art school days, when I would take strips of words from magazines and newspapers to incorporate into drawings. In my more recent book work, I like the idea of taking text that appears in one form with one meaning, and rearranging it randomly—taking it out of context—to form new meaning (or nonsense, as the case may be). I’m not the first person to rearrange printed words—the concept can be traced back to the Dadaists in the 1920s and has been used since by a myriad of artists, writers and musicians—but I like the limitlessness of it and that every time the result is different.
This coming weekend, 11–13 September, Alphabet City Press will be at Volume 2015 Another Art Book Fair. The last few weeks have been a hive of activity, and I have made several new artists book editions, one of which, A Classical Education, will be launched at Volume on Saturday. The book fair is being held at the Artspace Gunnery Building in Woolloomooloo, and focuses on independently produced, artist-led publications, supported by a program of talks, workshops, launches and readings. Volume 2015 is being held in conjunction with Sydney Contemporary, which runs concurrently at Carriageworks.