Thoughts & Images

Stone Talismans & Wisdom Keepers

My latest work is, on most part, no longer books.
I’m currently to be found here: www.miailluzia.com

This blog is now archive only and the posts continue in this new address: blog.miailluzia.com

Becoming Unbound

For the wonderfully apt title of this blog post I want to thank my dear friend Nina, my courageous fellow traveller on a parallel creative path.

I am now ‘officially’ taking a break from bookbinding and client commissions. Most likely I won’t be returning to sculptural artist’s books in the near future either, as I will be dedicating my time to other creative endeavours. Although I believe that whatever I do, it will always have a certain bookishness to it. Just sometimes one has to clear the mind for a clean break so as not to disperse one’s energy too far and wide.

This also means I will be making some changes to this website. From the communications I receive via email, the visual archives of my bookbinding and book art here may provide a good resource for many, so I will keep the galleries online for reference.

And there we are. After some further creative flux, cocooning and morphing, I will be emerging elsewhere… On to new adventures!

Contributing to the ‘World Rivers’ Project

Among those contemporary artists, whose work I deeply admire and respect, is Lee Tracy. Her beautiful art goes beyond the visual and artistically meaningful, it reaches out to make a difference. I have been aware of Lee’s World Rivers Project for a long while, so after settling back to the UK over the past year, I felt it was my time to take part in her project by dipping a white cloth in our nearby River Cam.

The concept of various people around the globe dipping their individual white cloths into a myriad of rivers, and those cloths to be eventually joined as one large river curtain, is vastly symbolic. It resonates with me as an act of caring for our Gaia and creating unity amongst its people. I wanted to respond to that symbolism in some way with my contribution. Each of the contributed cloths will have their own personal story, some have been large community projects, some more private, but all flowing in from their various origins to unite together as one harmonious stream.

I chose a piece of white raw silk. It is in fact, the only white fabric I have in my art studio, but it fitted perfectly for my purpose. It is white raw silk that I bought a lot of while living in Dubai. I now use it often for book projects, especially wedding related ones. I adore this particular white raw silk. My own wedding dress was made of the same fabric. It’s wonderfully versatile too, works even as rather stylish living room curtains! And because I found it so difficult to adjust back to the British weather after the Middle Eastern sunshine, it seemed perfect to introduce the wintery British river to this sunny white cloth that came with me from Dubai. Since me and our daughter have been missing the sand dunes most, I thought it would be lovely to take her along to dip the white cloth with me. I also wanted to wait for one specific day for this special ritual… our one year ‘anniversary’ of leaving the desert sun behind. Maybe it is time to finally accept the grey, dreary chill of the north.

The most natural spot for the dipping was where we cross the River Cam every day. The day was suitably grey, with no sun in sight, but it also was incredibly windy which made everything somewhat more problematic. It was necessary to tie a long string to the corner of the cloth so we could keep hold of it. The white cloth did not want to co-operate in the strong gusts, and the drop from the river bank to the surface of the water was a couple of feet. Maybe the silk didn’t want to swim in the chilly dark river either, certainly looked like it. I never managed to get the cloth to spread open on the river’s surface, instead it curled and folded in protest, didn’t want to fly nor float. Rather it seemed to want to escape.

In the end, the piece of white raw silk from Dubai took two plunges in the chilly River Cam. First time around it curled into what I thought looked like a shape of a boat, maybe hoping for  a chance to sail away… And on the second swim, it had seemingly settled into its folded-in-the-wind fate, shivering amongst the swans who had rushed over from the other side of the river hoping there would be some food involved.

And as I write this, the piece of white raw silk is on its way to Lee Tracy, taking its sunny and chilly stories along, to be whispered amongst the group of all the other white cloths that will be flowing together as one very soon.


As the waters of the world continue to suffer, it is crucial to have those, like Lee Tracy, who work to raise awareness of these environmental issues that impact so many around the globe. I’m honoured to have been part of this worthwhile project.

Creative Transitions

I have been enjoying a sweet flow of creative inspiration in the recent weeks. In fact a more mellow, consistent level of pure bliss from the contact with materials and processes than I’ve experienced in all my years of artistic endeavour. This period has also carried on gently and steadily for a lot longer, without the usual highs and lows of a creative process, than I’ve been used to so far. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I now have more studio time and less tug-of-war with “must create, need to create, but when!” amidst all the other life commitments. Whatever it is, I ride this beautiful wave until it’s time for the next stage in the process again.

I have shed many “shoulds” and “should nots” from my making, which is incredibly liberating. In many ways I have also returned to the beginning, to re-discover  why I used to like making books in the first place. Yet it’s an ongoing spiral upwards, now combined with some purposeful research and development. I’m currently playing with macrame bindings, where the knotting is integral to the book’s structure, as well as carrying on with more jewellery work. I’m fascinated by this direction. I sense this time is full of transitions and new beginnings, and I’m quite excited to see where it all ends up.

“Uncommon Threads” book art exhibition in Portland, Oregon

One of my artist’s books titled “How Stories Are Born” is included in this juried book art show that will open on September the 23rd in 23 Sandy Gallery. If you’re near Portland, Oregon, it will be worth a visit – there are many, many amazing artists included, with some breathtakingly beautiful work. You can see them all in a full online catalogue too, which is great for those of us who cannot travel to see the work “live”. The exhibition runs until the 29th October 2011.

Oh the sea, the sea…

When the weather chills, the beach is nearly one’s own. Time stops and my soul rests in this vast expanse. At times it seems like the earth blends into the sky in the far horizon. It would be easy to forget to go home. Such wonders and treasures all around, permeated by a limitless sense of freedom.


Rooted in these rugged shores

I have always had a strong sense of belonging to one specific place – the archipelago off the west coast of Finland. Having moved away 20 years ago, my heart and my art are still strongly rooted in this landscape. Whilst I have chosen and adapted to some different environments and climates over the years, that have fed my creativity in various ways, it is all blended in with the energy of this scenery.

Therefore it was a great opportunity to soak up the serenity here this summer, revel in the glorious rays of August sunsets, and to be once again grounded by these homely rocks. Between such visits these photographs serve as memory triggers, but every once in a while it’s wonderful to step into them, live it for real, mosquitoes and all.


Wings

Sometimes the most hastily snapped blurred image can become the initial spark for a full creative project.

An angel came into this world
Trying for a while to hang onto his wings
But eventually having to let them go
So he could settle more fully into this world

Beyond expectations

It feels like I gave them a few sticks and stones… and they created artistic masterpieces! The four participants on my 1-day intensive Artist Book course completely blew me away yesterday. I got to witness creative inventiveness at its best, individuals tapping into their imagination and creating thoroughly considered work. I’m impressed. And humbled. Grateful to have seen their process evolve and their work take shape.

Once again I was also reminded how certain limitations in materials and techniques open up new unexplored creative doorways which, if you agree to proceed through, will reward you with surprising discoveries. And these four certainly did, creating with focus and a sense of purpose, in my opinion, gallery ready work.

Imagination and creative vision certainly are wonderful tools, but what elevated yesterday’s results to another level, had to do with execution. Meticulous concentration and following through with in inner sense of integrity about the quality of one’s work. This group paid attention to the minutest detail of what they were making and carefully balanced those details in relation to the whole. And when I see that combination in someone’s work, especially in a workshop I’m facilitating, it makes me very excited indeed, to the same extent that shoddy workmanship annoys me.

I had compiled yesterday’s workshop as an experimental and experiential book art course, something that would deal with the whole process of creating an artist book. It wasn’t just about the materials and how to put them together, but rather a journey that started with various exercises in guided doodling and creative visualisation, initiating a connection to one’s inner resources. Even the results of the very first exercise amazed me. The group instilled their work with deep personal symbolism and turned a bare-bone exercise into a fully fledged artistic project.

I am utterly grateful for having had the chance to work with these people for a day, hoping to see what creative directions they will explore next. What a successful, memorable day!

Artist book scrolls in progress by Anne, David, Catherine and Diana:

One of those days

Today I looked at the stack of folded papers on my work desk, sections ready for marking and sewing. I looked at the leather that was due to be the cover. I stood there surrounded by all the tools and materials… And it felt like I had never ever bound a book before in my entire life.

Maybe I’ve completed too many intensive projects lately. The natural rhythm of creating, with its ebb and flow, has become rushed and forced. I know, I’ve been there before too. Right now, I should take a few hours, maybe even days, to just BE with the tools and materials – without a defined target. That would melt the block. But I know how this goes. I try to press on for productivity’s sake.

Yet today – sooner than usual, I find myself drawn to various bits and pieces around the studio, off-cuts, remnants, forgotten beginnings. Random ideas appear in my mind, I go off on a tangent, testing, researching, developing – someone certainly could call it procrastinating. But my right brain knows what my work needs while my left brain is stuck on a time-table of shoulds and musts. A glimmer of excitement returns…

And whilst I momentarily gasp at the enormity of the next task, the reassuring thing about experience is the fact that I know every step of the journey by now. I know the pattern. And that means: this is yet another beginning.

Art is alchemy of emotion

In the midst of beginning and completing many commissions in the past few months, I have also been contemplating my process of making and what it is that keeps me making books. It is an eternal theme that I need to clarify to myself every once in a while. Then, somewhere between a bonefolder and a steel rule, in the vicinity of a scalpel and a roll of leather, I distilled it all into one sentence – for me, art is alchemy of emotion.

I explore, define, interpret, make sense of the world around me with my tools and materials. They take me further than thinking, they release me from linear, logically binding stream of reasoning, and in the process I discover deeper, vaster truths than my logical brain would be capable of.

Art as ‘alchemy of emotion’ is completely different from art as ‘therapy’. The former is concerned with product, the latter is concerned with process. I am concerned with the product, the end result, what is born out of the process. For me, if the process is successful, the end result – the product – shows it.

The process itself is in fact most often far from therapeutic for me. Very often it is the exact opposite, which sometimes makes me wonder why I put myself through such agonising process. But I’ve began and completed the alchemical journey of creating a piece so many times by now that I know the exact landscape I need to traverse.

There always comes a point in the journey, where it would be safest to stop, announce that particular point as the destination and pretend there is no unknown, nothing beyond the horizon to explore, no need to push myself further. And that is the crucial point, the reason why I embark on this process time and again: making a leap into the unknown means entering into a dynamic dialogue with the work at hand, questioning, balancing, being willing to try out directions that the work itself suggests to me.

The treasures beyond that horizon, the unknown that even my imagination doesn’t reach by itself is where the excitement is for me, because I have learned to trust that the work eventually comes together if I just listen to it and follow. I get to discover creative solutions with my tools and materials that are beyond my own imagination. For me, that’s magical.

Beginning with chaos

It is only possible to tidy up if there already is a place for everything. Then it’s just a matter of organising mis-placed things to where they belong. But when there isn’t a place for anything to begin with, organising a new studio seems daunting. A workshop space lives and often organises itself by necessity. I may have good guesses from experience as to where to place tools and materials so that their ease of access helps the workflow. But in the end, adjustments are always needed, tools and materials find their own natural places best through the stages of books being made. So I’m trying to allow for this organic process too. Everything is now unpacked, no more large cardboard boxes left from the move. Some things have a place, many more don’t, and I already need to attend to commissions. But through having already made a few books in this space, I like how it’s taking shape. Out of the chaos a streamlined working process is emerging little by little. And although this space is yet again a temporary solution, it is a comfortable one for now.

The Invisible Tool

Sometimes I’d like to document the whole process of making a fine binding by a sequential series of snaps, hoping there would be a way of conveying all of what goes into it before arriving to the final, completed book. Having taken a few process snaps here and there, it’s become clear it’s not going to happen. I cannot be immersed in the process and stop every few minutes to document what I’m doing. I’ve tried and grown increasingly frustrated – between one snap and the next, to tell the process truthfully, I’d need to have included a few more snaps. And mostly, I’d need more than two hands. Or an assistant. Instead, at best of times, any process imagery I manage to get together, is disconnected from the main flow. Single frozen moments in time, possibly interesting to fleetingly glance, but not what I’d ultimately want to use them for.


Why then, would there be a need to show everything that goes on before the book is finally complete, the stages of making, handling the materials, making the templates, all structural aspects… If nothing else, it could help in understanding how long time it takes to make a bespoke book, which might be a revelation to some who are not involved in making bespoke books. Yet it’s clear to me how far removed single process snaps are from the final book they’re leading to. The measuring, cutting, gluing, measuring again… Someone said that “writing a novel is just re-arranging the words of a dictionary”. Similarly,  simply put, bookbinding is just cutting and gluing materials in various ways… But the thought process behind it all, or rather, the process of “feeling” my way through to a completed book, I haven’t found a way to take snaps of that. For any artist, that’s the invisible tool that in the end brings all the general measuring and cutting to life. I guess the ultimate process snap for me would be of that particular “process of feeling”. And that tool is as of yet, invisible.

Hopeful off-cuts

If I saved every off-cut that I’d like to save from the various work stages of a book, I wouldn’t fit into my studio any more. Yet it seems there could be a myriad of creative possibilities using all the discarded bits from the bookbinding process. And if I had time, I would make use of those elements that need to be cut and trimmed away to give shape to the work at hand. But when one book is complete, it’s on to the next one, and the discarded trims full of creative possibilities still remain just hopeful off-cuts.

Creative flight

We had the chance to observe tropical butterflies emerging from their cocoons this weekend. It’s always wonderful to witness something so symbolic in real life. One cannot but help to draw metaphoric parallels to the stages of creating art and life. For the past months, it has been cocoon time for us – once again, after the death of the last butterfly. Time crawls like a caterpillar, when waiting for the time to emerge again, to get to follow the flight of the once again new butterfly for as long as its time allows. There is even beauty in death, no sorrow in its inevitability, but gratitude for having experienced the flight.


Artless

A very talented friend of mine, fine art photographer Ian Talbot had a brainwave that resulted in Artless. It is a collaborative visual online project between participating artists, described thus:

Contributing artists post work that may or may not be connected with what has preceded it. Threads of meaning, style, associations etc. are thus suggested, grow, interweave, fade and die… only to be revived possibly later. Unintended connections and associations may also be suggested as the collective piece develops. It is up to the viewer to decide what and where such threads may reside within the resulting “matrix”. This could be termed “the beholder’s share”.

I have been part of Artless for a while now, and find it one of the most inspiring ways to quickly inject some creativity into each day. It keeps my artist brain ticking, and it’s fascinating to follow the visual “conversations” that form between images. Each image belongs to a thread on Artless, so here my images are out of the context in which they appear there – but I thought to include some of them and invite you over to see the whole project.

From steel to stone

Our thousand and one warm Arabian nights dawned into the cool morning of England. Shaping yet again a new life in a new scenery. After the modern shiny steel architecture of Dubai, it’s now the historical handsome stone buildings. No sea nearby, but a river. Atmospheric but oh so chilly. Still, books get bound here too, and many things will be easier workwise. Dubai was in a league of its own and will always remain with me. But as these current times are about transitions and transformation, I’ll go with the flow.

Walking on Roses

Intricate details that transform something ordinary into something just that little bit different always delight me. And in that vein, I have always enjoyed walking on this particular stretch of pavement in Cambridge. It is decorated with sunken bronze roses. There, underneath the busy feet rushing past back and forth, lay these small treasures, whether you notice them or not.  Adding a thoughtful, uplifting detail that elevates the plain standard into something noticeable may seem unnecessary to some. Public art may seem like waste of money to many. But adding beauty into the world, a little detail at the time, is unbelievably important, especially when large built environments distance people from nature and the energising beauty of natural surroundings. Some may not notice the effect of beautiful details around them but for those who do… they are a lifeline in the worldly chaos. It is possible to breathe beauty, let it in to vitalise one’s whole being, and it says there’s still hope for this world at this time.

New path ahead

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
- T.S. Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’

Echoing the words above, I feel now more than maybe any previous year, that my visual language will undergo some changes in the coming year. Not a harsh parting but a natural evolution of inner images that seek to be made manifest. I recently read about someone promising “not to change this coming year”. For me this would be the worst outcome of the new year. I see change as positive. I long to change from year to year, if I didn’t, I feel I would have failed to grasp all the opportunities life lays in front of me, to grow as a person. So my promise is to allow change to enter, let the flow of life transform me, to change me by granting me more understanding of life and its intricacies, and to let my work evolve into more and more honed direction, so that each passing year it shows more clearly that which I have envisioned.

Behind the scenes

Having neglected this section of my blog for quite some months, I haven’t been neglecting my own personal creative explorations, even amidst work and other daily pressures on my time. Here and there one always finds a moment to grab and explore, but what fills those moments needs to be carefully selected. As the year approaches its end, I notice the developments that have been brewing behind the scenes all year are slowly coming to a culmination. Through some amazing synchronicities, wonderful people and following that which has heart and meaning for me, I have delved deeper into the world of stones and crystals. Eventually some of my Tibetan-style malas will be available online, but that will be a new story for the new year.

Last days in Dubai

The textile souk in the old part of Dubai is one of my favourite places, full of colour and vibrant movement. When our time in Dubai was drawing to a close, I noticed myself visiting many places at their quietest. There is a different atmosphere in empty, silent environs. This is probably what reflected most my own emotions about leaving. It has been the most special, precious four years in my life, with far-reaching effects in both how I look at the world as well as how I approach my art. I will be returning regularly still to catch up with some work and friends, as well as, very importantly, to charge my inner solar energy reserves…

I stand in these waves

I have recently been reflecting a lot in the presence of the windy sea.  The most precious gold in this place is the glitter on these waves.  The pastel hues of sunset create a calm all around me. They paint a soft rainbow as a backdrop to the shining fireball dropping fast behind the horizon. I stand in these waves and they connect me to all other shores, everywhere. I am everywhere at the same time, while each moment turns into white foam wave by wave. There is nothing more beautiful than this. I begin with the sea and I end with the sea.

Tree beyond my vision

Spending a tranquil summer week by a rocky shore near Helsinki, Finland, meant our children could experience the scenery I spent my own childhood summers in. On our first evening I suggested to our daughter (5) that we explore the forest and the beach and make some sort of earthy artwork together. Carrying things such as dried sticks, pine cones and pebbles, we picked a spot for the artwork. I had not yet even thought further than collecting materials when she suggested we make a tree. To me, that was just a word, a rather common one – but it was clear she had a vision. She set to build it and didn’t seem to mind me taking on the role of just an observer. She worked with great concentration and care, found more materials like dried seaweed nearby, and let me follow her vision unfold. It was once again a revelation to me. How easily it all comes to her. How hard I must work to arrive to just a fraction of the effortless creative touch her tree was made of. I am still humbled by these photographs, and yet again reminded about the dimensions beyond my own personal vision.


The tree stayed guarding the beach until our last day. Even the strong night winds did not blow away the delicate grass at the root of the tree. Before leaving for good, we went back, quietly and gently took the tree apart, scattering the materials back to their natural environment. A beautiful completion to a beautiful week.

Vacation, in tones of grey

Visiting Finland this year was energizing, peaceful, insightful. Full of playful journeys into natural surroundings, rocky beaches and wild forests. Far away from glitzy malls… Grey tones on this vacation were far away from dull and depressing, but instead the subtlety of colour among it all was a reminder of all the beauty in the normal daily grind too – just need to look for it.


If ever visiting the capital Helsinki, I do recommend finding the nature trails on nearby islands, such as Seurasaari Open Air Museum. Just a few miles away from the city centre there’s a whole different world…

Another antique day

Running out of things to do in this scorching summer weather, we pass the local antique shop for an umpteenth time. But it’s only me who’d walk hurriedly past, having seen it for so many times. For the kids, there’s always something fascinating to see, always something fresh and different. So I force myself look closer too, to spot new ancient things. And yet another hour has gone by, closer to catching the plane north where we might even come across some precious rain…

The reality of it

I thought to illustrate here the battle with time I often have. It is about needing to get some own work done amidst all the family and other work commitments that compete for my time. Being an artist with children at 5 and 1 years of age is not always easy. Luckily my bookbinding studio adjoins our home. It is the only way I can hope to get any creative work done. If I waited for long stretches of undisturbed personal time to spend in the studio, I’d never get any own work done – because I’d never make it into the studio in the first place. I currently need to be content with snatching ten minutes here, a half an hour there, and only occasionally getting a luxurious few hours at a time. But the need to create is so deeply engrained, growing so fervent at times that a few minutes here and there is better than none at all. I always thought I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything in such broken bits. It’s amazing what necessity facilitates. I have learned to switch in a fraction of a second into deep concentration that seamlessly carries on from the last such moment. And the miracle of it is… several ten minute moments do eventually build up, and a little by little a personal project completes, ends up a finished piece. Which wouldn’t exist if I waited for those several undisturbed studio hours at a time.

This is the first and only time I have ever recorded to the very minute a project takes. Writing down all the start and end times, this is how one of my recent projects got completed in just over 40 hours:

Day 1
9.30-10.05 | 10.35-11.50 | 15.30-17.40 | 23.15-00.15

Day 2
8.55-9.10 | 10.00-11.00 | 11.15-12.30 | 13.00-16.20 | 17.05-18.00

Day 3
11.55-12.40

Day 4
13.35-14.00 | 18.35-19.15 | 19.45-20.00

Day 5
11.20-12.20 | 20.40-20.50

Day 6
18.30-18.50

Day 7
8.40-12.00 | 13.30-14.45 | 15.10-18.00 | 20.55-23.15

Day 8

9.00-10.00 | 10.50-12.30 | 16.00-17.00 | 17.50-18.50

Day 9
8.20-9.45 | 10.10-12.50 | 13.30-17.20 | 18.30-19.40 | 22.00-23.45

Day 10
21.40-21.55

~
Artist book: a scroll triptych
‘Mother, Daughter and the Holy Spirit’
acrylic & ink on stitched canvas, 2010

Piles of stones

Making books got more difficult when we moved here. I cannot just walk into a store to replenish my stock of millboard, archival PVA or other specialist materials I used to have easy access to. It is costly and a headache, especially in case of liquids, to organise delivery from Europe when needed. And this year I ran out of some essentials a few weeks before holidaying in the vicinity of bookbinding supply stores again. I’ve always liked the idea of using what’s readily available in any local environment so I have been fervently thinking how I might possibly start to use more of what I can easily get my hands on here.  Although I haven’t (yet) been inspired to make anything out of sand, seashells and stacks of colourful fabrics. However, being currently more obsessed about stones than I am about books, I have found the perfect summer break from the bookbinding studio in learning more about semi-precious stones. Making many fascinating discoveries on this different creative path, some of which may indeed end up taking a book form eventually but a lot of them won’t. And I’m quite happy about that.

After posting this blog entry, I had a Twitter conversation with architect and author Anthony Lawlor, whose wonderful comment I want to quote here:

“Stones are books. So much can be read in the shape, color, texture and sound of stones.”

Gold, the fourth primary colour

Before we moved to Dubai, I had never been here. The first thing that struck me at the airport where we landed, was the amount of golden shiny details everywhere. Historically, gold-tooling has been a large part of traditional bookbinding, in the skills of which I’ve had my due initiation as well. However I have always had some sort of aversion to using gold in my work, whether tooling or otherwise. It has felt a bit over the top, certainly not quite “me”. But as usual, I like to give myself the challenge to see how I might make peace with anything gold…
As there’s something golden everywhere I turn here, I have become practically desensitised to it now. In my visual thinking, gold has taken on the role of just another colour. I see details in all the colours of the wheel, just combined and mixed with gold here and there. As I have come to see it, where I live, gold is the fouth primary colour. Mixing it with different colours produces shine and shimmer of all possible tones. There’s red gold, green gold, yellow gold, purple gold, blue shimmer, orange shimmer, brassy shimmer, sparkly light tones and darker glows. Thinking of gold as one colour among the others, makes it more palatable for me, an additional tool to my palette which I’m just getting to grips with. Another artistic journey.

While watching the glue dry…

I rarely work on more than one book at a time. This is because each is unique and requires my full focus and concentration. Not as much from technical perspective, but from the creative viewpoint, the thematic and symbological. I tend to hold a dialogue with the book in the making, and like with people, I’d have difficulty concentrating on two intense conversations simultaneously without one or the other suffering. While making a book, several stages require waiting. It would be sensible to use the time well and be working on another book while one is in the press, drying. So I’m entertaining myself by making something entirely different in the meanwhile. Like… I might relax and enjoy myself by making a set of runes or a Tibetan style mala. These are also much more instant gratification than my books that take hours and hours to complete.  Works well, keeping the creative stream flowing.

Untitled intention of no meaning

How would it affect your viewing of this image, if this was called “Untitled”?

Or would you view it differently, if it was called “Lady and Feather”?

And would you see this image below differently if it was titled “Untitled” or if it was called “Soldier”?

When I was studying art, I kept noticing in exhibitions how many artworks were given the title “Untitled”. There were so many around it felt to me almost like it was in fashion. Or that if you called your artwork “Untitled” it meant you were a really cool and serious artist. The notion seemed to be that an artist should give space for the viewer’s imagination and not restrict the viewer’s associations about the artwork in any way. Of course, there’s nothing wrong if someone wants to release their artwork into the freely associating mind of the viewer, maybe it is very generous, maybe it has become expected. But why?

Giving any kind of descriptive title to a work no doubt affects the way the viewer looks at it – and it leads them to see the way the artist did while making the work. Why would it be a good thing to discourage that? If I want a free reign for my imagination to create meanings out of unintention, I can look at clouds or anything else in my environment, I don’t need to see an art exhibition for that. In artworks, I look for intention. So all this untitledness always bothered me in some indescribable way. Having seen countless of “Untitled” artworks, I can remember about three which really, truly carried off that title – works that actually could not have and should not have been titled anything else.

Very often, of course, viewers see the work without even knowing what the title might be. In fact, I have recently posted some of my latest artist books on my Facebook page purposefully without any titles. In that context they are momentarily “untitled” as I do also believe that an artwork needs to stand on its own visual merits without a need to be explained in words, titles or otherwise. However, having mulled over photographer Ian Talbot’s writings about the ownership of artwork and intention, I have come to realise what my untitled unease was about all those years ago. It is easy to call the work “Untitled”. When it comes to titling artwork, it is easy to give up, offer the ownership to the viewer. To me the title is one detail of the artwork just like any other element. I own it, I consider it, and just like I wouldn’t let my child into the world without a name and let everyone call her what they please, it is natural for me to want to title my works as appropriately as I have intended the artwork itself. The title points the viewer to the direction of my intention, gives a clue as to why I made the work in the first place. It is about my intention and communicating that intention to those who might be interested in it.

Here’s a series of images. I believe my intention could make them art, should I choose that act of intention. And I believe they are not art, unless I intend them to be. Giving these images a title would constitute intention (even if the title was “Untitled”.) If I intended these to be art, I might call them “Departures I, II & III”.

But I didn’t set out to make these images, and I didn’t make exactly them. I merely discovered them, even though it is ink from my brush. Of course, one aspect of art is discovering. Seeing something differently. I was dyeing paper for an artist book when I started to look closer. And like one sees shapes in clouds, I started to see meaning in these random blotches of ink. These images were an off-piste trail for me, a sudden tangent, after which I returned to the artist book I intended to make. The 36 long pieces of paper I dyed (of which four are photographed below) are material to me, not art. Framing and naming parts of them was entertaining, yet not quite art for me, as I’m still not intending them to be so. But the resulting book I intended, I indeed mean to call art.