Review: ‘Ministry Of Books’ - Dave Kirby/ Los Dave

Local artist Dave Kirby (Los Dave) has produced a review for our latest Craft Space exhibition, 'The Ministry of Books'.

The exhibition features a multitude of artist's books on loan from the University of Portsmouth's Illustration Department, including Kirby's 'Camerata' (pictured below).

Kirby's text (below) reviews Part. I of the exhibition (Miniatures; 11 January - 9 February), which is followed by 'Anything But Ordinary' (22 February - 2 April).

You can see more of the artist's work on Instagramhis blog or you can contact him by email.

"'The Ministry of Books' at Aspex, Portsmouth"

There is a delightful and cleverly curated introduction to the world of artists’ books, multiples and artefacts in the foyer of Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth. On display is a sample of the collection held by 'Ministry of Books' at the University of Portsmouth. Twenty or so moderately small publications cover abstract, whimsical, philosophical, poetic and cultural subjects questioning our humility, humanity and habits. Some are about mapping aspects of the psyche - others are informative, commemorative and exploratory. Juxtapositions of romance, fear, curiosity and commercialism make for a brief essay of human mores and habits seen through the ever inquisitive eyes and minds of artists. 

Artist's books can challenge conventional content and purpose seen in traditional publications. But this raises the question - beyond mobility, portability and sharing what is a 'book' or any such artefact for, if not to communicate? Expression for the sake of expression is meaningless without something to communicate - a direct appeal to the reader's attention. There aren’t many overt ‘stories’ here. Largely these are commentaries, observations and statements that tend to be ‘sound bite’ structured, succinct in nature - at least on the surface. Investigation of context and subtext is for the reader to ponder on. Narratives are (de)constructed and presented through images and forms that are sometimes explicit, sometimes not so.

'Mail Art Box', Patricia Collins - The Ministry of Books (Image: Dave Kirby)

Patricia Collins' humble 'Mail Art Book' (above) is a small package wrapped in brown paper, tied with string, addressed to somewhere in Paris, France. We are told that it was part of a series of miniature boxes sent through the post in the late nineties. That's all. It is what it is. But this unpresuming object is patinated, with the tarnish of its almost twenty year journey here. This wonderful little thing appeals to the nostalgic in us, a quiet powerful sense of history without braggadocio or exhibitionism. 

‘A Little Book To Be Taken Out Always, Just In Case’ - The Ministry of Books (Image: Dave Kirby)

‘A Little Book To Be Taken Out Always, Just In Case’ (above) is one of the smaller books that immediately pings on the conscience. This is a subtle little book with the appearance of a cheap book of raffle tickets. I’m sure this association is not insignificant. The pages are a set of perforated tear out pink tickets, printed on one stub with ‘Your Number’ and on the other, ‘My Number’. It has been used - there are a couple of tickets missing and numbers written on stubs. Such details you must look for and consciously register. What sort of person would carry - and use - such a book? Promiscuous? Needy? Insecure? Such an innocuous thing, but what would you say if you found a copy in your daughters’ handbag? It sends a little shiver down the spine.

'The Chimes', Sadie Tierney - The Ministry of Books (Image: Dave Kirby)

Happily, Portsmouth’s great literary history is represented with the inclusion of Sadie Tierney’s ’12 Plates Inspired by Charles Dickens’ “The Chimes” (above). Created for the ‘Beyond Dickens’ exhibition in 2012, its themes of time passing, New Year and hope are tenderly rendered in 12 small etchings drawn from the Dickens short novel.

There is much, much more to the twenty books on display here. For an introduction to a field of artistic endeavour as broad as artists multiples and objects, this is as strong and well considered a collection as you could wish for.