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Artists Books - Alan Johnston

Artists Books

I started to make these during my studies at Strasbourg. “FÜNDSTUCKE FOUR HOT DAYS IN JULY” maps the exact locations of where I found dead insects on the road (in my street) on my way to work in the “Jardin de Wiltz” every day for a week. In this extremely hot week the insects were disorientated and they became victims of collisions with cars (more so than in other weeks). The idea of the book combines my interest in collecting found objects, the post mortem study drawing of animals (regularly practiced in my sketchbooks) and it an draws on experience of species mapping for monitoring studies.

BOTANICAL GARDEN is an anthology of Indian ink shadow paintings made on to thin, translucent Uchiyama Washi paper, made in the Uchiyama studio of Paper-maker Satoko Ueno. It is bound in a traditional Japanese way by the bookbinder Véronique Jamar of Liège. The title which I wrote in a modern style “Kanji” implies the “Formal Garden of a Temple”, is deliberately ironic as the plants depicted within were mostly weeds in a neglected garden. This book along with a medium-sized oil painting with the same title was made on my return from my first Japanese residence, in 2011.

From time to time, I decide that a sketchbook should “become” artist’s book as was the case for a GUADELOUPE, a Chinese concertina sketchbook filled during 5 days on the island of Guadeloupe and VAUCOTTES another similar one made in 5 days on the Normandy coast at Vaucottes, near Etretat. Both books, part of the cycle of works “ROCKPOOLS” were a technical challenge in watercolours as the Chinese paper is very absorbent - almost like blotting paper! The rockpools cycle has its roots in one of my (since childhood) addictions, that of beachcombing. When I work on the coast for a published book always include illustrations of objects found by beachcombing as in La Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel, The Marquenterre and The Camargue.

LES SOURCES DE L’AUBE is a Concertina Sketchbook, in which I painted and drew some of the incredibly rich variety of plant shadows to be found in this special place,
in the Haute Marne in the late spring of 2014.
As with the oil painting, my artist’s books are slowly but surely becoming an important element in exhibitions, to compliment the other works: their focus is more on the regard and less on the subject. Check NEWS for further developments!