Artists books are limited edition art works that are produced by an artist or by a collective and that have aspects of handmade work in them. Artists books have an edition number and are signed by the artist/s who have worked on the book as well as by the writer of the text if this is relevant. The book may be in the form of hand printed lithographs, lino cuts, letterpress or even hand written. They are often made using an unconventional format and unusual binding. There are not that many artists in South Africa who make artists books (it is a time consuming process and is something that the general public are not really aware of).
The artists books that are currently available from The Artists' Press are : The Ultimate Safari, Qauqaua and Joanne of Ark.
The book allows artists to combine aspects of their art making with text in novel and exciting ways. The edition number for these works produced in South Africa is usually fairly small (100 copies or less). This makes artists books relatively rare and collectable. The "can do" approach of South Africans has extended to the production of these exceptional artworks and has resulted in some unconventional approaches to the concept. Graduates from the University of Johannesburg have done some very exciting pieces, which have included handmade paper, sculptural elements, plastic bags, fabric, embroidery and wire work. The books produced by The Artists' Press have received international acclaim and can be found in some of the worlds leading libraries and collections.
Any artists book produced in South Africa has to have a copy, or a number of copies donated to the State Library Collection. This ensures that South Africa as a country has an archive of these artworks produced in the country. It also acts as a resource for people who are interested in them but who cannot afford them.
One of the best and biggest international artists book collections is that of a Johannesburg Art patron, Jack Ginsburg, who is also the founder and Director of the Ampersand Foundation. This is a collection of contemporary work and includes all the ones that have been produced at The Artist Press.
Joanne of Ark
The Ultimate Safari
Syneth Nyandeni working on the hand press that prints artists books
An artists book by Nadine Gordimer