In the face of these uncertain times we are happy to still be able to carry out our monthly routine and present March’s Publication of the month* – “Carpere” – an artbook by designer Joanna Ocias and visual artist Barbara Czapran.
Carpere is a beautiful art book made in one single copy with a lot of details, crafts, drawings, layers and foldout pages. Although very elaborate in its physical appearance there is barely any text that reveals its background and story. This made us even more intrigued to ask the artists Joanna and Barbara to share some insights of the creative process.
What is the context of this piece, how was it initiated and how would you describe your different contributions to the process?
Barbara: To start with, I would like to thank you for the positive response to our project. When Joanna contacted me about donating our artist book to your venue, I immediately agreed. The book has found its rightful home!
When Tegnerforbundet gallery in Oslo announced an open call for an artist book exhibition in 2009, I invited Joanna to collaborate with me on this project. We’ve known each other since our studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. I work as visual artist with sculpture, drawings and installations in Oslo and Joanna works as a designer in Stockholm. During all these years, we’ve kept up a continuous dialogue both as friends and professionals, although we work in different fields.
Joanna: This book is a form of dialogue between me and Barbara where my contributions are my responses. Since our studies, our long friendship has transformed into a relationship of creative energy. We have realized that we can fertilize each other’s work.
There is a relational aspect to this work as an interpersonal interactivity has formed our meetings and created a situation where our artistic process is based on the friendship between us and doing things together rather than goal-oriented stuff.
We represent two different temperaments as individuals and that is of course reflected in our work. With this project I gained confidence to choose and use Barbara’s work freely – it was fascinating! During the process I also started working with my own drawings in ink or mixed technique. It reminded me of my earlier art studies and the feeling of coming back to the creative drawing process was really great. This work allowed me to revisit a sphere which used to be sacred for me. I could really lose myself in the creative proces
s. My sense of orientation in time and space dissolving, just like the act of physical effort, rewarding you in the end with a feeling of truth and satisfaction. In this process I found my way back to this and reached a phase of revelation. When me and Barbara work together we are surrounded with an aura, a creative force that is expressed in the space between us, nourished by our exchange of thoughts and impressions.
There is a multitude of different materials in this book, can you tell me something about the artistic choices behind them? For example, the different kinds of papers, layers, threads etc.
Joanna: Materiality and textures are very important ingredients in all of our productions. We have always been fascinated with different materials, because each has its own weight and properties, like the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) representing four different aspects of our self—physical, intellectual, energetic and emotional, which witness that we are a part of nature.
Barbara: There is a strong interest on both sides for the actual materials. My interest in using different materials both in sculpture and drawing started in the 90s. After receiving a British Council Fellowship and taking a Higher Diploma at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, I was introduced to a very dynamic art scene in England with a strong focus on non-traditional materials in sculpture and design. After my return to Norway, I started to experiment with so-called low-cost materials in my art projects such as used cardboard boxes, corrugated cardboard, used matches, shredded paper, and crepe paper. I also call myself an artist on the move, always in search of new materials. During my art residence in China and Japan, I collaborated with local craftsmen and experimented with rubber, lacquer and glass.
Joanna visited my studio in Oslo regularly and has always shown a keen interest in and support for my projects. I as well followed her design work with interest, and we supported and inspired each other with our ideas. For this project, we made a selection of materials from our studios to use as content for the book. As the framework, we used a previous book that Joanna had designed but never published. It became a book within a book. My drawings, a piece of rubber mold, and papers that we picked up at the conservator studio became our materials for the project. Joanna sampled all the materials and added her freestyle drawings. As we both work within the 3D field, I’ve always seen the book as a sculptural object. The sampling of different materials: folded pages, rubber relief with the drawing under as cover, drawings on different textured papers and threads all come together in the body of the book. The process is akin to a direct encounter of the artist’s body with the material.
I’m also curious about the binding, the cover and the hardcover sleeve. I’ve never seen anything like it. How was it made?
Joanna: As Barbara mentioned the framework is based on a previous book which was never finished, but the idea of it was still alive and we used it as starting point for our work. The binding was based on the experiences Barbara made during a research-study 2002 in Beijing within traditional lacquer techniques and paper arts and crafts. The idea has been met the material.
I work daily with multidisciplinary projects including spatial solutions, graphic design, painting, illustration, product- and furniture design. My experience as a designer is that the material is very important for the work and needs to be balanced in relation to the idea. The choice of material positions the idea.
During a preparation process, in Barbara’s studio in Oslo when we were selecting drawings for the book, she showed me a large silicon negative surface which remained after a material experiment, she did once. I realized that this silicone remains was a very interesting material to re-use as the cover for the art book.
In terms of publishing (as well as art pieces in general) the exclusiveness is a factor that affects how we relate to the work and its value. Do you have any reflections on this in relation to the book?
Barbara: The fact that we were making just one book gave us a lot of freedom during the creative process. In my work, I am using low-cost materials. What fascinates me is how, during the working process, I can change the material’s original character and give it a new status. This also applies to our artist book. We made use of materials from our studios that had lost their purposes and created an object with a new character and value. It is a spontaneous act of the moment as reflected in the title of the book, “Carpere” which plays with “Carpe Diem” meaning “Seize the day”.
I also collaborated with Joanna in designing some of my art exhibition catalogs and posters. Lately, I have come up with an idea of creating an art book combining the presentation of my sculptures and objects in paper with actual samples of the original papers used. I hope that we can collaborate on this project too.
Thank you, Barbara and Joanna! We are proud that the reading edge collection can provide a home for your artbook and we hope to take part of your future collaborative publication projects.
* POM – Publication of the month highlights publications from c.off’s Reading edge library. Reading edge holds over 200 publications and aims to foster a discourse on self-publishing within the fields of choreography and performance by expanding the notion of self-publishing into a variety of format and materiality such as moving image, digital publishing, printed matter and performance.