A weekend at the Tetley in Leeds was, I have to admit, not something I was looking forward to this time round. I should probably say straight away that I have nothing against either the Tetley or Leeds, and the artist's book fair there is one of my favourites. But this year I just haven't been in the zone. I realise that having the exhibition to think about at the same time didn't help, but I have no proper excuse - when faced with (by my standards) ample time to prepare in the previous week, I found myself slumped in front of the television watching good and bad (in a good way) films, serials, anything really.
To have an artists' book fair and an exhibition preview (with much attendant prep) in the space of six days is not ideal, but hey, if that's the way the cards fall, what are you going to do? In the event, both went well and were great fun, so maybe it is the way to do it. Still a little stiff from the unaccustomed exercise of painting walls, though.
A part of my brain, the part that wasn't zoned out, wondered if I was deliberately sabotaging myself. And if so, why? The sluggish part said 'shh, watching something'. Eventually I did get going on a project, but it was genuinely too late and I didn't make it to the end - this is something that has been worrying me for years, that one day I just wouldn't beat the deadline. Well now it's happened, and I'm not too impressed at myself, though I had enough stock so it wasn't the end of the world. I think I knew that, and I ask again - did I sabotage myself? Probably unanswerable, so I'll, um, put off thinking about it till it's almost too late for something or other. Meanwhile, I did produce a lot of useful prep towards the book, and next time it'll be fine. I expect.
I reached the fair last Saturday morning (dramatically snowy over the Pennines) in a much better state of mind and (of course) enjoyed myself as much as usual. I had a very erratic look round the rest of the fair, having long chats with some folks and failing to see some tables except to know I should have paid more attention, but it's hard to be behind a table as well as see everything else. For me at least. I think it's a part of the fading ability to multitask from which I've been suffering in recent years. I popped into the room holding vast numbers of David Barton's books on show (the picture below left was only a fraction of them!) and into the one holding Craig Atherton's Cafe Royal books (very smart, below right), and was very impressed with a gigantic book on display - the Bathymetric Atlas of the English Lake District. This enormous and pristine tome - it takes two be-gloved people to turn the pages, at set times during the week - shows the basins of the lakes, intricately cut away from vast, glued, double sheets of paper, like a negative version of building up mountains contour by contour. I only caught a section of the page-turning ceremony, but I think someone said that the depths of Lake Windermere appeared (or, I suppose, disappeared) first. It was surprisingly compelling to watch.
The preview for our Group Thirteen exhibition was on the Thursday evening, and there was a lot to do for it which (of course) I hadn't been able to concentrate on before the book fair. So, having found a room to myself within the allocated space at Hot Bed Press, I painted the walls in an agonised shade of blue - agonised in that it took me much agonising to reach a decision on exactly which shade. Really? For a fortnight's exhibition? Yes, but it was important to me. I managed the blue all in one day, and woke up in the middle of the night deciding that it was far too bright, but luckily by morning I'd decided that it wasn't (and that if it was, I'd just have to live with it). That, white paint on other bits and all the actual hanging left me unbelievably achy - unfitness doesn't mean you can't do these things, just that you suffer for them after. Still, probably good for me, and it was worth it - I might not have been ready till 20 minutes before opening, but I got there and I was happy with the results.
The exhibition is in an enormous space, giving us each the opportunity to organise our chosen patch exactly as we like, and resulting in what is really a number of mini-galleries. Work covers the inevitable trees, landscape, floral, birds, but also abstract, flotsam, ceramics, skulls, taxidermy, upholstery and insects. And more. I'm biased, of course, but I'd say definitely worth a visit (last day 23rd March, not open Sundays). In an effort to tempt would-be visitors, here's a selection of what's on show.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.