An artists' book is a limited edition artwork that is produced by an artist or by a collective and that has aspects of handmade work in it. They are signed by the artist/s who have worked on them as well as by the writer of the text if this is relevant. These artworks are often made using an unconventional format and unusual binding. They can incorporate hand printed lithographs, etchings or lino cut prints and sometimes pencil drawings or paint elements. In South Africa not many artists make them, it is a time-consuming process and is something that the general public is not that aware of.
They allow artists to combine aspects of their art making with text in novel and exciting ways. The edition number is usually fairly small (100 copies or less) and this makes them relatively rare and collectable. The "can do" approach of South Africans has extended to these works of art and has resulted in some original 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. Books produced by The Artists' Press have received international acclaim and can be found in some of the worlds leading libraries.
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 the public has access to them and that they are available for research purposes.
One of the best and biggest international collections of such work is that of a Johannesburg art patron, Jack Ginsburg, who is also the founder and Director of the Ampersand Foundation. Ginsburg's is a collection of contemporary work and includes all the books that have been produced at The Artists' Press.
The following works published by The Artists' Press are sold out: GIF 1, GIF 2, GIF 3 and Belinda Blignaut's "Antibody". GIF is the Afrikaans word for poison and is fig spelt backwards. FIG is an acronym for Famous International Gallery, which was an alternative gallery space in crumbling central Johannesburg in the early 1990's. The GIF collections are an ongoing series done as a collaboration of varied artists.
Below are links to the artists' books that are currently available from The Artists' Press:
Qauqaua (Coex'ae Qgam, Kuru Art Project)
Joanne of Ark (Flip Hattingh)
The Ultimate Safari (Nadine Gordimer, various artists)
To take a look at the archive of books produced by The Artists' Press please follow the links below (these books are not available from us).
Mark Attwood working on a artists book by William Kentridge, "Remembering the Treason Trial".