I’m trying to make a decision that I’m finding very difficult. I’ve been thinking about it since 10th April when I had a little under an hour to look at quite a few shelves of big books in the City Library’s stacks to select 1 or 2 that could inspire me to make artwork.
It’s part of a project – more of which later (there is a launch week coming up soon) – that involves about 20 creative people participating in a programme of professional development (workshops & mentoring) to help us, as well as making work in response to these underused big books, some of which date back to the very early 19th century. There will be an exhibition of our work in November (might include live performances too).
There are many subjects covered by these books. They’re not on the digital catalogue. I took some photos of the spines – but just a few. I should have taken more. I realised as soon as I looked at the photos when I got home that I had missed a book which probably contained some of the kind of illustrations I’d thought I might use. There were 2 other books I’d glanced inside but unfortunately missed noting or photographing the titles.
I have to make a decision so the library staff can get the book/s out for the project’s launch week.
Before seeing the books, I’d thought I’d look for 19th century maps, and illustrations of ancient monuments or archaeological finds/details or architecture. I got distracted by early 19th c sea charts (based on sea charts over the previous 200 years), drawings of canal locks and tunnels, the structure of railway embankments & sidings, steam locomotives, facsimiles of medieval – Tudor manuscripts, & a 19th c comic strip (that I don’t even like but I recognised it as of historic interest in the context of cartoons).
Looking yet again at the spreadsheet of the books I recorded on my slightly under an hour visit, my eye sort of snagged for the umpteenth time on the alluringly entitled ‘Boundary Commissioners Report’ of 1885. I don’t know what it contains, but it could be an interesting challenge to make artwork inspired by its content.
But I have realised that I have been focusing on books that could lead to artwork that is about heritage, and that I was feeling a duty specifically to find North East of England historical material. It is safe ground for me after many years of managing heritage, and years of researching art/architecture/design history & local history. There’s a great danger that I might tackle it from a heritage interpretation angle. I could possibly produce some reasonable artwork through doing that, but as I was thinking of creating prints (probably), my work could wander too close to illustration rather than fine art.
I could do with at least another hour in the stack, to look inside more of the books (it’s slower and harder work to browse these books because they’re big, relatively heavy, and have to be handled carefully due to age and often quite fragile bindings). I haven’t got another hour. I must make a decision and email the librarian…