At the beginning of this subject, we were asked to define what we thought a book was. Broadly speaking, I described a book as a ‘container’ of a collection of ideas, thoughts or knowledge. And with e- books and audio-books in mind, I stopped short of saying that a book must be able to be held in the hand. However, I did say that a book in any format must have a beginning and an end, which could be represented physically by the front and back covers, or perhaps by the introduction and conclusion, or something else that denotes a start and finish.
Looking back now from the end of this subject I would still hold to my view of a book as being a container of ideas. However, I would most likely amend, and expand upon the idea of a book needing a beginning and an end and move more towards the idea of the importance of sequence within a book. Ulises Carrion (1985, p.31) described in a far more elegant fashion than I could that a book is “a sequence of spaces…each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment- a book is also a sequence of moments”. When I read this, I was able to see how the idea of sequence must be included when defining what a book is. That is why, I suppose that although the artwork in some picture books may be worthy of being on a gallery wall, they are more successfully viewed as part of a sequence of the book in which they came from, their context is defined somewhat by the images that came before and after them.
The bookmaking interludes that I participated in during the subject assisted with this new understanding as well. I could see that even though the format was changed, the pages still were still set in a sequence (by me, the book’s creator) for viewing. I think that this idea of sequence being one defining quality of a book could still hold up the digital environment. Artist’s books found online still have sequence, hyperlinks may make take the reader on a non-linear journey, but there is still sequence, one thing comes before the other, and as the links are laid to be explored out by the author, the reader never really strays too far from the idea or the message set out by the books creator.
My initial idea of what an artist’s book is has dramatically changed over the course of this subject. My previous thought was that an artist’s book was something like a notebook, or a visual diary used by an artist to plan and to gather ideas as part of their process, and that sometimes these were visually appealing enough to be published. I realise now that an artist’s book is a work of art and a vehicle for expression for the artist that can sit beside and is as relevant as other forms of visual expression such as painting, sculpture and drawing. My new definition of an artist’s book is that it is a container of ideas that is a work of art in its own right, created with purpose by an artist with the intention of communicating their vision. I feel regretful that I have overlooked an entire genre of art form, and look forward to exploring the field of artist’s books with enthusiasm.
Learning about the relationship between image and text in children’s picture books was of particular interest to me as I have young children. I now understand that they are carefully constructed products which rely on a dynamic partnership between two complex systems of communication, image and text to impart their meaning. Of additional interest were the theories relating to the symbolic codes attached to images and how colours, and character placement can be used to impart meaning. I will certainly use this information to inform my choice next time I choose a book for my children, or for storytime in the library in which I work. I most definitely will never casually read a picture book again.
Carrion, U. (1985). The New Art of making Books. In Lyons, J. (Ed. ). Artists’ books. (pp. 31-43) Layton, Utah, Rochester, N.Y.: G.M. Smith Visual Studies Workshop.