A special exhibition at UWE Bristol to celebrate the recent donation by Paolo Carraro of his artists’ books to the library and CFPR archive collections.
Paolo Carraro writes about his practice: When I was doing my diploma at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London, a tutor gave me a book to read about Sacred Geometry since he thought it would help the direction of my artwork. That was where I found out about Fibonacci’s Golden Ratio, a series of ratio which expressed a fundamental relationship in the natural world as well as in our human environment. For example, the spiral at the base of a pinecone or within the ‘face’ of a sunflower for example, conform to this pattern to mention just a few. The mathematical progression that embodies this truth has provided me with the starting point for almost all my work since that moment up to the present time. My books and prints begin from the exploration of a system where there is a beginning, middle and an end, often emerging from many drawings as I work out the final progression.
It wasn’t until I was doing my MA in Printmaking at the Wimbledon School Art back in 1990, that I was shown by the artist and publisher Ian Tyson how to bind and make an artist’s book. I thought that it was the most brilliant solution to stop me making so many prints in order to fully realise the ideas behind my work, and since then I have never stopped making artists’ books.
My first book (Variable Rotation, 1990) is a series of 12 drawings in which sections of a sub-divided square are rotated to create varying patterns. The scale of the uniform pages is determined by the size of the lattice-work square which each one holds at its centre. The square holds a screenprinted section in pastel colours and cut-outs, so that the voids both indicate the configuration derived from each rotation and also let in the colour from the following squares. As the pages are turned, both the left and the right-hand layers are built into different structures. Every shape, seen or implied, conforms to the Golden Ratio or ‘mean’. The second book (Integration & Unfoldment, 1993) was the first statement of great clarity for me; establishing my vocabulary that has been essential to my practice ever since regarding artists’ books, printmaking and painting. The key players being the “primary colours” Yellow, Cyan and Magenta plus the primary shapes of: the square representing the earth; the triangle representing the trinity or the first 3D figure, and of course the Circle; representing infinity, the cycle of birth and death – like the serpent biting his tail seen in so many ancient symbols. The cover image shows the circle and the triangle bound by the square, announcing the investigation within. The next book (The Magic Square, 1995) refers back to Durer’s etching Melencolia I (1514), itself replete with mathematical symbols. In the Magic Square, the values within the 16 squares’ equal subdivisions will always give the same total whether vertical, horizontal or diagonal quartets are combined. My homage to Durer is a completely white book of single embossed lines, again using the cover to indicate the subject matter. As before the circle and triangle are housed within the square, the whole being demarcated into the 16 subdivisions of the Magic Square.
The artists’ books I have made ever since these first editions continue to excite me. I am committed to exploring this knowledge I have found within a historical tradition of the three key components to my practice: the Golden Ratio, Primary Colours and Primary Shapes.
Paolo Carraro’s artists’ books can be found in national and international collections including the Library & Archive at Tate Modern and the National Art Library, V&A Museum, London.
*Due to social distancing measures we cannot currently welcome external visitors. We will be sharing the books with the public online via UWE Bristol Library’s Twitter feed. Up to date info can be found here.
UWE Bristol, City Campus at Bower Ashton, Kennel Lodge Road, Bristol BS3 2JT.