Nature and Artists' Books
Tracey Bush

There are three main areas which relate to my practice and nature as its subject.

Firstly, by working in the environment. 'The Thames pH Book' is a multiple of tiny litmus paper books which are dipped page by page in river water. The water was collected with the help of the Environment Agency. The river journey is encapsulated by a list of locations, combined with physical traces of river water.

More recently, my forthcoming publication 'Old Bargehouse Stairs' is an alternative to a traditional panorama. Instead of surveying the River from the bank the panorama of photographs in this book take the viewer down a flight of stairs, along a causeway, and into the Thames itself. To further emphasise this physical connection with the water, the blue sun prints which make up the panorama are all developed in Thames water.

Secondly, my interest in Natural History collections- my collections of Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, began as an installation in a cabinet in The Natural History Museum, South Kensington London, and were called, The Ephemeral Imago. This title highlighted the extreme fragility of some populations of Lepidoptera, as an early warning of climate change. Some species only live for one day as an imago (adult form) the title was a double reference to the ephemera, and other recycled papers from which the collection was constructed.


In the artists book 'British Butterflies (stamp album) I also explored the conventions of another area of collecting, that of stamps (philately). The book is an adapted stamp album, containing British butterflies cut from maps of the British Isles. There are quirky links to the common names of each specimen. For example, a real Comma butterfly has a white comma mark on its hind wing- the comma is in the same place on the cut paper specimen.

The most recent work in this series is British Butterflies (Complete Collection ) which was shown at 'Migrations' an exhibition of paperworks at Eagle Gallery London. The exhibition case contained a complete set of the sixty-two British butterflies, including most of the migrants to Britain, and some species which are recently extinct - for example the Large Blue (extinct 1979) Each butterfly is formed of layers of cut paper, sewn together using a bookbinder's pamphlet stitch, and pinned out using entomological pins. This case acts as comment upon the urge to collect- and is an alternative to a collection of real specimens.

My most recent commission has been from the Natural History Museum, to create book butterflies from recycled materials. These have been pinned out in reclaimed cases from the entomology department's decant, in preparation for the construction of the Darwin Centre stage 2.

Thirdly, the use of recycled materials in the making of artists books- developing from a 'hobby', that of creating scrapbooks of found materials. The collections of Lepidoptera have all been made from recycled materials. This is strategy to reassemble both materials and images to create something new.

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