Fancy new books in the fancied up shop

I just finished listing a big lot of new books to my shop – fancy hardcover journals with handsewn silk endbands and rounded spines, some little less fancy (but still pretty great) basic case bound journals with and without vintage lace, and loads of long-stitch notebooks, both small and large, with watercolor paper covers you can paint yourself. For the pages of the larger long-stitch notebooks I used paper suitable for mixed media and allowed enough room at the spine for a collage option, too, so they’re perfect for creative journaling (I’m thinking travel journal here, myself…) or just for basic always-with-you notebook needs.

I’ve been quietly building an actual website for Paperiaarre, and boy does that make me feel old. The last time I built a website was in 2003 and things have changed a bit since. Basic knowledge of html doesn’t get you very far these days. Still, it’s been fun (and very time consuming), very educating and character building. I seriously have to give up the idea of building my dream website; a website would be a good enough start. I won’t be making any promises about when I’m launching the site, and I won’t promise anything spectacular, but I promise a few galleries worth of photos and basic stuff like that I feel this blog is currently lacking. Related to the new site I’ve been taking hundreds and hundreds of photos of my books (older leather bindings and things currently for sale), and decided to try out a new background made of old book pages. What do you think? I know not everyone will be a big fan, but I like how it brings a little more interestingness to the photos without being too distracting (not all shots work great, I still need to learn how to take better photos ).

This year I’m trying to have enough stock in my shop throughout the holiday season (I sincerely apologize for mentioning the holidays in September, but that’s when the things meant for holidays need to be planned and made – non-makers, feel free to not think about Christmas gifts until November), so there’s maybe thirty books on my work desk in one stage or another, and I feel more needs to be made. There’s also a familiar, terrifying feeling in my wrists letting me know I’ve been typing and folding and cutting and punching holes too much. I’m hoping a weekend away from home only reading or looking at books will put things on the mend. There’s an annual book fair in Turku I haven’t visited in years, so I’m planning to go there, visit my old hometown and meet some very dear girls.

Agnes Martin

“More and more I excluded from my paintings all curved lines, until finally my compositions consisted only of vertical and horizontal lines” 
– Agnes Martin, 1967

We were really lucky to have several great exhibitions coinciding with our honeymoon (okay, so we planned the trip first to coincide with the Cornell exhibition, before V proposed, and before we decided to get married before the already planned trip, so we could have all these great things happening on our honeymoon). I actually have a long history as an admirer of Agnes Martin, which is a bit random because her work isn’t very well known in Finland and I got acquainted with her art back in upper secondary school/high school/the Finnish equivalent when Internet was used mainly for school work and irc, and less so for viewing interesting art. The local library had a copy of Hiljaisuus taloni lattialla (links to a review in Finnish), a book of translated essays and art by Agnes Martin, and that book was possibly the prettiest book I’d held in my hands by that time. I can’t remember much about the book, other than it was aesthetically most pleasing, though I must have read it a lot, since I remember having it on loan for really long periods of time. After moving away I haven’t even thought about the book until this spring when the news of Agnes Martin’s exhibition at Tate Modern reached me. All these years Agnes Martin was one of those artists whose name I couldn’t remember (just like most other artists; I’m useless with names), and whose work I tried describing to people in hopes of someone recognising the artist and being as thrilled about her as I was.

I was a bit worried beforehand that the exhibition might be boring (if not for me, for V at least), since Agnes Martin mainly painted and drew stripes and grids, and a lifetime’s worth of stripes and grids can be a bit of a daunting thought. It turned out I was concerned for no reason at all and we both enjoyed it heaps. Repetition ≠ boring, repetition, more often = meditation. There’s actually a quote on the exhibition leaflet from critic Lucy Lippard describing Martin’s work: “legendary examples of and unrepetitive use of a repetitive medium”, and I think she really hit the nail on the head there.

Most paintings on display at the Tate are 72″ (183cm) squares, the ones painted later in life – when Martin had become older and more fragile – 60″ (152cm) squares, which I can imagine being very much easier to handle, but there are some small drawings on paper there, too. I liked how the repetition spreads from the canvas to the size of canvases, it was a lovely constant to have Viewing the exhibition was a very different experience from any other exhibition I’ve seen; I just went into this strange mode where you suddenly have a connection with all these grids and stripes, and grids are suddenly the best thing in life. So, yeah, I definitely prefer grids to stripes, and I found out I have a favourite type of grid, too. The postcard at the bottom right corner in the above photo features a nice grid, but I’d prefer it sideways. Horizontal rectangles with very thin lines, approx. 1:2,5 – that’s the perfect grid to me.

One painting really stood out, most obviously because of its uniqueness and materials. Friendship (incised gold leaf and gesso on canvas, 1963) has a gorgeous dim glow about it (and a great grid pattern) in real life; the above photo nor the postcard in the photo do it no justice at all. No surprise, I’m a big fan of gold leaf – it’s just wonderful to have a material that seems to illuminate itself from within. Well, that’s how it works at its best, when the gold leaf is not polished to a perfect mirror finish but has some character.

Naturally I’m terribly interested in the creative processes of other artists, and Agnes Martin’s was really relatable to me. Agnes Martin had schizophrenia, so maybe the lines were a way of bringing order into her world, maybe they were something totally unrelated to her mental status. I’m not really all that interested in her personal history, it’s sort of irrelevant, but I personally find my Aspergers has something a lot to do with the way I create and view art (and how could anyone’s personality not affect the things that, basically, form the core of their personality… I just stepped into a weird vortex. Let’s just forget it and continue, okay?). I find the thought of drawing hundreds and maybe thousands of lines with a ruler comforting as well as meaningful. I, too, think it odd to feel there’s meaning in straight pencil lines, but why not? I’m not always quite right in the head, either. I just find it interesting that someone spent decades perfecting their spectacularly straight lines and created so wonderfully beautiful artworks in the process.

“My paintings have neither objects nor space nor time nor anything – no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form.”
– Agnes Martin, 1966

The Agnes Martin exhibition at Tate Modern is still open until October 11th. Do go and let me know what’s your favourite type of grid (or stripe)!

Joseph Cornell’s Wanderlust – Final Days!

Apparently wedding planning, having a wedding and going to honeymoon made me abandon my blog for a good while, but let’s not dwell on it. I’ll tell you more about everything later, but first things first: Joseph Cornell’s fabulous Wanderlust exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts is coming to an end on Sunday. If you’re in the neighbourhood or even in the UK, you must go! This exhibition was obviously the highlight of our honeymoon to me, and I do believe V was pretty impressed, too (and he’s quite picky).

It may come as a surprise, but I wasn’t terribly familiar with Cornell’s work before this exhibition. I’ve had people mention Cornell numerous times when they’ve seen my matchboxes and mixed media work, and I’ve naturally googled his work a few times and run into it on Pinterest, but I haven’t really studied it – maybe I’ve feared finding too much common ground and feeling like an unoriginal idiot who simply repeats things done a million times better over half a century ago. That’s pretty much how I roll; I avoid reading poems, too, worrying about being too easily influenced by the work of others. And of course, there are so very many similarities between my work and Cornell’s, but, honestly, there are few mixed media artists creating boxes who can say there’s no connection between their work and Cornell’s. Going through the exhibition I kept realising, more and more, that the connection is not on a material level, after all, but on the intellectual level. We share a way of thinking, of seeing the world around us, of finding that world in our tattered old hoards of raw material, as well as the need to tell stories (and the key element of all good stories is often familiarity/timelessness), and it’s only natural mixed media artists end up playing together in the same neighbourhood. Let me tell you, there were some freakish moments of recognition there.

My absolute favourite piece at Wanderlust was this Untitled (Compartmented Box), 1954-1956, which is on loan from Moderna Museet. (Sadly, photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition (but the Royal Academy building was pretty and waiting for me to snap a few shots), so I just added a link here and suggest you open Google and get to know more about Cornell, who was quite the character, as soon as you’re done with this post.) The photo on Moderna Museet’s site does not do the artwork any justice – it was vertiginous in real life. There’s a sheet of blue glass on top of the compartmented box and it gives everything a magical tinge, and looking at the box was like staring into an abyss – I mean it in the best way possible. There simply was a sense of depth that’s impossible to describe any better. Naturally I’m a big fan of repeated elements (ooh, I should write about Agnes Martin’s exhibition, too), and twenty-five is a good number of repeats. This was the one piece I kept coming back to in an exhibition full of fascinating collages and assemblages. Cobalt blue was actually a repeating element I gravitated towards during this visit to London – there were fabulous cobalt gowns on Pre-Raphaelite ladies at Tate Britain, and I’m sure there was something else cobalt, too…

We left Royal Academy in a strangest state of mind that was a combination of excitement, dizziness and confusion, but we had a stack of postcards, a Wanderlust paperback and a copy of Dime-Store Alchemy to help us come to terms with wishing to go back to the exhibition the moment we stepped out.

I have yet to read the books, since there’s been other books needing to be read after returning home as well as a big joint poetry project with V (deadline today! luckily we finished on time without major stress) that took a massive chunk of both my September and my stamina for literature. I’m hoping to share something about that project with you later this autumn, even though it’s strictly in Finnish and Finnish readers are a huge minority here on my blog. There’s actually so much to write about I don’t know where to start. Time management issues make themselves known, painfully. Anyway, there are new books – finished, in the works as well as planned. I just got some reindeer leather again, so leather-spined Coptic books are definitely on their way. I have some wedding stories, some bookish wedding stories and some London stories for you too. Here’s to hoping I get to tell at least 50% of the things I’ve been meaning to tell you <3

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