Book Arts

Focus on Artists’ Books III,
Artspace Mackay, Queensland, Australia
conference exhibitions masterclasses displays workshops residencies
February – March 2006


I was lucky enough to be invited as one of the six international speakers for the Focus on Artists’ Books 3 Conference at Artspace Mackay, and for a following two-week artist’s residency at the Visual Arts Department of Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales. My visit was supported by the host venues, the Regional Arts Fund, the Australia Council for the Arts and local sponsors.

Focus on Artists’ Books is an annual event to promote the book arts throughout Australia, via exchange and contact with practitioners in the field of artists’ books. This year’s programme consisted of the conference, exhibition and related events with artists, academics, gallerists, specialists and collectors presenting papers and joining panel discussions on many aspects of book arts, from regions in Australia, Asia, the USA and Europe.

This was also Artspace Mackay’s third anniversary, a beautiful, purpose-built structure housing the gallery space, the Tate Adams Reading Room resource of reference publications on book arts, and a collection of over 400 artists’ books from Mackay City Library. Artspace Mackay, led by the director Robert Heather, specialises in artists’ books, with a dedicated programme of continuing events.


The conference keynote speech: Book Arts in Society by the American artist Marshall Weber – one of the eight founding artist members of the Booklyn collective in Brooklyn, New York ( – was an inspirational overview of contemporary artists’ publishing embracing: popular culture, artists’ books and all related formats from literary theory and oral culture to performance, multi-media and interdisciplinary publishing.

The programme also included the launch of The 1st Libris Awards: Australian artists’ books prize and exhibition, a huge display of Australian artists’ books with over 180 entries, double the anticipated amount. These included well-known artists such as Diane Fogwell, Jan Davis, Stephen Spurrier, Juli Haas, Tim Mosley, Glen Skein and Judy Watson as well as less-established and student artists. The Mackay City Council National Artist’s Book Award, an acquisitive prize, judged by Roger Butler (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) deservedly went to Clyde McGill’s They Burnt My Boat (perahu) Today. McGill, a postgraduate visual arts student at Curtin University, made his book in response to the burning of confiscated Indonesian fishing boats which have veered into Australian territorial waters. Coverage of the prize books can be viewed on the ABC website at: and an ABC Tropical North radio interview with participating artists can be heard at


The papers and panels offered a great insight into artists’ books practice in Australia, Malcolm Enright (collector and artist, Brisbane) and Nola Farman (artist, Sydney) each gave a wonderful presentation, with inspirational examples of artists’ books, design and installation works. Images and info from Malcolm Enright’s paper on collecting can also be viewed as a QT™ movie on his website link at

Australian delegates were introduced to aspects of international practice in book arts from the perspectives of the UK, USA, Germany and Republic of Korea. The whole event was a wonderful opportunity to find out about artists’ books in Australia and to meet and engage with a fantastic crowd of over 130 delegates.

Before leaving Mackay a group of us also visited the beautiful Eungella National Park rainforest for the afternoon. I then moved on to the Visual Arts Department at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales, where I spent a two-week period as artist in residence.

Some links for further information on the events at Artspace Mackay and on artists’ books in Australia: home of the Focus on Artists’ Books Forums, with conference papers, and much more related information on artists’ books in Australia. Artspace Mackay also hosts the Artbooks email list which publicises artists’ books events in Australia and provides a discussion forum for related issues. The list can be joined through their website. is a great site, full of information on the artist’s book. This huge project showcases the State Library’s collection of artists’ books online, with a searchable database, essays, artists’ statements and information on using artists’ books as teaching tools. home of Books: Works of Imagination, which has grown from its beginnings in 1997 into an international event. Books: Works of Imagination exhibits artist’s books from national and international artists and includes student participation. Workshop programmes include talks by paper and book artists. The Print Council of Australia, a not-for-profit visual arts organisation that promotes, through IMPRINT magazine, all forms of contemporary prints, artists’ books, and paper art. collections/rarebooks/index.html for the Rare Books collection of Australian, and non-Australian books. The Australian Collection, established in 1965, is one of the most complete collections of Australian books in the country. The non-Australian, includes over 19,000 books, 12,000 of which were printed before 1800. A new, permanent exhibition: Mirror of the World, opened in December 2005, in the library’s Dome Gallery; of books and ideas that trace the development of civilisation through books. The exhibition features 205 books and 75 illustrated pages from the library’s Rare Books Collection. Celebrating books as keepers of ideas, knowledge and the imagination, and providing a window into the history of book production and illustration through the display of fine examples dating from the Middle Ages to the present-day, including artists’ books. National Gallery of Australia, follow the links to the Collection of Australian Prints and Drawings for information about Prints and Printmaking, Posters, and Book Arts including Artists Books & Illustrated Books. Printed works from all regions of Australia, including the Torres Strait Islands, Papua New Guinea, Maori and Pakeha Aotearoa New Zealand, New Caledonia and Pacific regions. There is online access to 16,000 images, through a searchable database by artist, subject or technique. Index to online information on printmakers, print workshops, print publishers, print galleries and public and private collections. Also a huge section of online papers presented at the Australian Print Symposiums. Australian Prints – website of resources and collections for printmaking throughout Australasian region – managed by the National Gallery of Australia. The Sydney Art on Paper Fair (SAPF) which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2005. SAPF is the only international art fair in Sydney and the only art fair within the Asia Pacific region showcasing photography, limited edition prints, drawing, painting, sculpture, limited edition art posters, digitally created art, artist books – all conceivable art forms using paper. Founded in1989 by the art dealer and historian Akky van Ogtrop, as the Master Print Fair, the SAPF developed to provide a forum for information, exchange and relationship building between artists, galleries and educational institutions, both nationally and internationally. The programme includes lectures, workshops and related exhibitions, and showcases the works of hundreds of artists. a search engine for accessing information and links to 1,500 museums throughout Australia. Southern Cross University, Lismore. Follow the links to the Visual Arts department for images of staff and student work and for more info on their extensive book and papermaking projects. Editions + Artist Book Studio at Australian National University School of Art Grahame Galleries + Editions – Brisbane specialising in prints and artists’ books and home of The Centre for the Artists’ Book. Ron McBurnie-Townsville artist’s book maker. Artisan Books: a Melbourne institution for 15 years and a major resource for artists and artisans. Specialists in books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues relating to art, craft, design and culture, also host an annual exhibition of artists’ books.

Marshall Weber of Booklyn was the conference keynote speaker, and one of the five artists to go on to a residency; see what Marshall got up to with his RAW Memorials work in Canberra at:

Click the following link to read more about Sarah’s Artist’s Residency: Southern Cross University, NSW, Australia (28/2/06-16/3/06)

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