Journeys reconnoitred through artists’ books in new exhibition

14 April 2014

A survey of Artists' Books based on real and imagined journeys will transport visitors from Melbourne to Paris and beyond when they step inside Deakin University's art gallery this month.

A survey of Artists' Books based on real and imagined journeys will transport visitors from Melbourne to Paris and beyond when they step inside Deakin University's art gallery this month.

Reconnoitre: Real and Imaginary opened at the Burwood-based Deakin Art Gallery this week and includes a series of artists' books from the University's art collection as well as student work produced during the Faculty of Arts and Education's Art History Study Tour to Paris and Provence in 2012.

Exhibition curator Honorary Associate Professor Rob Haysom said Reconnoitre: Real and Imaginary reflected a variety of ways artists present their visions through Artists' Books.

"So what are Artists` Books? Definitions are many and varied as the field is constantly shifting and complex in its variety," Associate Professor Haysom said.

"That said, my definition refers to ideas expressed by artists in limited edition works generally in a book form. It is not necessarily books about artists, although there may be some self-reflection involved, but rather books made by artists."

Associate Professor Haysom said the exhibition titleReconnoitre: Real and Imaginary, was chosen as it alluded to looking, surveying, scrutinising and analysing material and events within the field of Artists Books and the imaginative artistic responses contained within.

"Deakin University`s art collection includes an extensive and varied range of Artists` Books judiciously collected over several decades," he said.

"The collection began when the director at the time, Caroline Field, first saw Artists` Books in London. Captivated by the elegance and intimacy of the works she began what has emerged as an important collection of Artists` Books. Significantly for me, I was able to draw upon this collection in my visual arts teaching at Deakin."

The studio-centric concept was a major platform in shaping Deakin's 2012 Art History Study Tour which followed in the footsteps of three key Modernist art figures – Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh.

"After visiting important art collections and sites in Paris, the Tour went to Giverny, Aix-en Provence, Saint Remy de Provence and Arles, to locations and sites where the aforementioned artists lived and worked. A visit to the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence extended knowledge of Cezanne`s influence on the Hungarian optical painter," Associate Professor Haysom said.

"To stand in the locations where Monet painted his water lily series in Giverny, or Cezanne painted Mont-Saint Victoire in Aix-en-Provence, or Van Gogh painted numerous locations in Arles and St Remy over a furiously productive two year period is to be made aware of the impact of those sites and motifs on the artists.

"To then view the important works produced by those artists at those sites in Parisian galleries provided a potent understanding of their translation into art. The scale, the surface marks, the painterly flourishes, the colour and atmosphere all made palpable."

Associate Professor Haysom said the impact on the students who undertook the study tour was profound.

"Experiencing the different light to Australia, and visiting the settings that the three artists drew upon, brought their work and influences on 20th and 21st Century art practice, to life," he said.

"After the tour, students created Artists` Books in response to what they had experienced and identified as important to them. The resultant Books provide a personal and intimate response from each student on their experiences. Unlike an anecdotal diary, each student`s works are visually rich and engaging."

Reconnoitre: Real and Imaginary will be open from 16 April to 24 May at the Deakin University Art Gallery, Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Highway. Entry is free.

Click here for more information about the exhibition and the Deakin Gallery:

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