Reflections on William Kentridge



Another noted artist that I only discovered in the last few years, but whose art and ideas have greatly influenced me, is the South African artist William Kentridge.

Renowned for his animated expressionist drawings and films exploring time, the history of colonialism and the aspirations and failures of revolutionary politics, South African artist William Kentridge (b.1955, Johannesburg) featured in two major London exhibitions in the last two years that I was fortunate enough to see in the last couple of years.

The Whitechapel Gallery exhibition showcased six large-scale installations by the artist, where music and drama are ruptured by revolution, exile and scientific advancement.


Highlights included the film work Second-hand Reading (2013), installation O Sentimental Machine (2015) and The Refusal of Time (2012), an immersive work created with composer Philip Miller, projection designer Catherine Meyburgh, choreographer Dada Masilo, scientist Peter Galison and collaborators from around the world.

Marian Goodman presented two multiscreen film installations: More Sweetly Play the Dance, and Notes Toward a Model Opera.



More Sweetly Play the Dance is an eight-screen danse macabre, reminding one of the medieval tradition which summons diverse vestiges of humanity in a paradox of revelry and mourning. Kentridge presents us with part carnival, protest, and exodus: a 45 metre caravan traversing in a sphere around us with figures in procession, a form the artist invoked in his 1999 Shadow Procession.


About the processional form, Kentridge says:

“In some ways we first come across it in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In a prelude to talking about the responsibility of the philosopher king, he describes people walking behind a screen carrying wooden and stone objects in their hands, their shadows thrown onto the wall opposite the prisoners shackled in the cave watching the shadows.”

Kentridge manages to combine traditional media with new media in work that references much of the culture and history of humankind’s interactions with each other – my work does not of course encompass such a vast range of subjects and media, however, I have found him inspiring for what is possible.

As with Mona Hatoum, Do Ho Suh and Tatsuo Miyajima, other artists who have greatly influenced me over these last two years, I dream about the kind of work I might make that goes beyond my previous boundaries of tradition painting and printmaking, of relatively small-scale, framed works, to the ideas of truly multi-media, multi-sensory pieces and installations drawing from a myriad of sources, cultures, languages and peoples.



Links and references



First year MA student’s Interim display at the Camberwell College of Arts Postgraduate Summer Show 2016

UAL_MAVA_CCA_PGshow2016As the summer heats up (well, we can hope) the graduate and post-graduate shows are happening all over the country. If you want to be amongst the first to see the most exciting new talent emerge, pop-in to see the  University of the Arts London’s (UAL) freshest graduates open up their work to the public. Visit the UAL summer shows – a series of free art, design, fashion, communication and performance exhibitions taking place across London.

Of particular personal interest are the up and coming artists and designers of tomorrow at the Camberwell College of Arts Post-graduate Summer Show, featuring work by graduating students from the MA Visual Arts courses:

Sharon Low is in the first year of the MA Visual Arts in Printmaking at the Camberwell College of Arts. MA Book Arts and MA Printmaking first year students are putting together an “interim display”, to give visitors a taster of the MA projects they are each concerned with.

The Private View is on Thursday 14 July 2016, from 6pm – 9pm.

The show is then open to the general public:

Friday 15 July – 10am – 8pm
Saturday 16 July – 11am – 5pm
Sunday 17 July – Closed
Monday 18 July – 10am – 8pm
Tuesday 19 July – 10am – 8pm
Wednesday 20 July- 10am – 8pm

Visit the UAL website for more information.




The Candyman of Artists’ books

The Magic of Paul Johnson: Movable Book Artist and Teacher

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson: book artist and children’s literacy expert

Last year I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand the art and magic of British book artist and children’s literacy expert Paul Johnson, as part of the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures at the St Bride Foundation in London.

In her interesting blog about making books with children,, Cathy Miranker said:

“Johnson’s specialty is doing exceptional things with single sheets of paper, and he uses his magic in two ways, teaching book arts to school children (and training teachers to use bookmaking in their classrooms) and making many-layered pop-up paper constructions.

“His show-and-tell session was electrifying, the most inspiring talk I’ve heard. The audience applauded and applauded—they just couldn’t stop. There was a lot of hugging, too, as if people hoped to catch some spark of his.




“Paul himself is modest, low-key, soft-spoken, undemonstrative. Except that as he talked, something extraordinary began to happen: a quiet passion seemed to take possession of him and spill over into the audience, too.

“I was completely carried away by the story of how he discovered paper—he said he didn’t notice it until he was 45, and then he couldn’t help but change his life—his endless fascination with the possibilities in a single sheet of paper (“I didn’t add anything, I didn’t take anything away, but look what it turned into! I think this must be Zen.”), his work habits, his love affair with color, his belief in book arts as a compelling path to literacy for children.”



Paul Johnson has an international reputation for his pioneering work in developing literacy and visual communication skills through the book arts. He is author of over fifteen titles including A Book of One’s Own, Literacy Through the Book Arts and Pictures and Words Together (all published by Heinemann,USA.)  Recent teaching tours include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand and he regularly teaches in the USA.


Innovative educator and successful book artist, the work of Dr Johnson can be found in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, the National Gallery, the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and many US universities including UCLA, Berkeley, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Yale and Harvard. His work was selected for the Stand and Deliver USA touring exhibition of pop-up editioned books, as well as the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild’s, The Art of the Book touring exhibition  for which he also received the guild’s Book Art Colophon Award. He is on the UK Craft Council’s select list of British designer-makers.




Johnson studied at Norwich School of Art and Rabindranath Tagore’s University of Santiniketan in India. When he was and art educator at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the late 1980s Paul Johnson inaugurated The Book Art Project, the main focus of which was to teach writing to children through the book form. Since then he has made books with over 200,000 children and over 25,000 teachers worldwide.

Paul Johnson says, ‘It was seeing the sculptural bindings of Phillip Smith over thirty years ago that inspired me to look beyond the book as something to read.’

pauljohnson_05In the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures presentation, Paul Johnson shared his life experiences as book artist and teacher. It was simply delightful “eye candy” to see several of his unique carousel pop-up books: first in the flat-pack state, then assembled into the 3D form. An added joy was hearing how these books inform the pop-up books that children – some as young as four years of age – make in his workshops.

pauljohnson_06More information


InsideOUT: Exhibition of contemporary bindings of private press books

The Designer Bookbinders stunning and ambitious InsideOUT project celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and private press printing.

The project is a collaboration between thirty-four binders based in the United Kingdom and twenty-five based in North America and ran from 15 May to 22 August 2014 in the Layton Room Gallery at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ, before continuing to the United States.

More than beautifully bound books, the exhibition shows the heights this art form can attain: these are finely crafted three-dimensional objects that are gorgeous to behold!

Seeing this exhibition was so awe-inspiring, especially for someone like me, who is just beginning their journey of discovery in the world of fine-bindings. I can only gasp in amazement at the finely crafted designs and hope to one day achieve something vaguely close in conception.

If you missed the exhibition in the UK, it continues in the USA (details below). I now look forward to the upcoming Designer Bookbinders lecture: Paul Johnson – Movable Book Artist and Teacher at St Bride’s on Tuesday 28 October 2014, 7.00pm.

USA Tour
Houghton Library
, Harvard, MA 11 September – 13 December 2014
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis 10 January – 28 March 2015
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015
San Francisco Center for the Book, California 6 June – 5 July 2015

Participating Private Presses
Arion Press (USA), Barbarian Press (Canada), Incline Press (UK), The Lone Oak Press (USA), Midnight Paper Sales (USA), Old School Press (UK), Old Stile Press (UK), Shanty Bay Press (Canada), The Whittington Press (UK).

A fully illustrated catalogue of all the bindings will be available at the exhibition venues and may also be purchased from the DB Online Shop.

Beautifully crafted inspiring paper art

If I wasn’t already a fan of paper art, then I think Creative Bloq’s feature on the art form would have made me one. I can’t yet say which one is my favorite as there are so many wonderful examples even just in this article.

Yusuke Oono is a Japanese artist and designer  creating books that tell their stories in a multi-layered 3D scene, where each page is a separate laser cut plane, together making deep and gorgeous 3D images that reveal the story as you make your way from the front to the back of the book.

Japanese artist and designer Yusuke Oono's exquisite books with multi-layered 3D scenes

Japanese artist and designer Yusuke Oono’s exquisite books with multi-layered 3D scenes

See more of Yusuke Oono’s exquisite work:

Yulia Brodskaya combines classic design principles to create beautiful and thought-provoking visual fusions.

Yulia Brodskaya combines classic design principles to create beautiful and thought-provoking visual fusions.

Perhaps one of the most well-known of the contemporary designers working with paper art, Yulia Brodskaya’s art “brings together all the things she likes most: typography, paper, and highly detailed hand-made craft objects”. See more

Yulia Brodskaya's colourful creations are bursting with life

Yulia Brodskaya’s colourful creations are bursting with life


I really love paper engineer Helen Friel’s Revolution “pop-up book”: it follows the cyclical journey of a single water droplet, and unsurprisingly took almost a year to make and shoot in one continuous take. This is a collaborative film by photographer Chris Turner, animator Jess Deacon and paper engineer Helen Friel.

Pam Langdon shows there’s much more that can be done with a book besides reading it. The paper sculptures are created by meticulously folding pages of old books, transforming them into eye-catching pieces of art, inspired by marine environments and patterns within nature.

Pam Langdon's paper sculptures are created with meticulously folded pages of old books

Pam Langdon’s paper sculptures are created with meticulously folded pages of old books

Langdon says of her work:

“They are transformed from a discarded and unloved existence. Intricate folding and rolling of their pages forms spirals symbolising movement and energy and reflecting growth patterns in nature. Casting shadows of their previous lives, they are cut and bound and metamorphosed into precious specimens. The labyrinth of folds and curls entices the reader for closer inspection of their mysterious new life.”

Zim&Zou's colourful paper creations have been used to promote recycling in Paris

Zim&Zou’s colourful paper creations have been used to promote recycling in Paris

Continuing the re-use and recycle theme, Zim & Zou’s colourful paper creations have been used to promote recycling in Paris with design agency June21. The Zim & Zou website could keep me transfixed for hours…

Moscow is recreated with paper art by Matthew Picton.

Moscow is recreated with paper art by Matthew Picton.

UK-based artist Matthew Picton caused Creative Bloq to have their “minds … a little blown” by his finely crafted paper map sculptures. His maps are based on past events, and depict various cities in the midst of historical events, including fires, war and disease. Picton also takes the project further, by constructing the sculptures with paper connected with each event.

Blow your mind a little more when you visit his website:

Nahoko Kojima somehow crafts some “truly original and awe-inspiring” paper scultpures from a single sheet of paper. Mind-bendingly the large-scale works are each hand-cut from a single sheet, “exploring themes of human existence, animals and the forces of nature.” Visit

Peace (2014) Paper Cut, handmade by Nahoko Kojima One Single Sheet Black Gold Japanese Washi

Peace (2014) Paper Cut, handmade by Nahoko Kojima One Single Sheet Black Gold Japanese Washi

Illustrator Eiko Ojala draws everything by hand to create the landscapes, figures and portraits that look as if they’ve been cut from paper.

Illustrator Eiko Ojala draws everything by hand to create the landscapes, figures and portraits that look as if they’ve been cut from paper.

Illustrator Eiko Ojala created ‘Vertical Landscape’ was digitally but without the aid of 3D software. Everything is drawn by hand to create the landscapes, figures and portraits that look as if they’ve been cut from paper. Nominated for the Young Illustrator Award at Berlin’s Illustrative festival, Creative Bloq summed it up: “this is only the beginning of a flourishing career for Eiko.”

I could go on, but while I inspire myself in doing so personally, do check out the Creative Bloq article for yourself – there are another 25 artists showcased in this fabulous article by Meryem Meg and the Creative Bloq staff