Jan Davis – artist book – SOLOMON (1995)
Limited edition artist book presented in seven volumes – each labelled with a letter from the book’s title.
SOLOMON’s seven volumes explore language and space in the context of the Solomon Islands. The work combines certain aspects of concrete poetry with historical and contemporary images and texts.
The artist visited the Solomon Islands in Melanesia in July and August of 1994. From the moment she saw the islands from the air — stretched like a concrete poem across a watery expanse — she began to recognise a vast amount of physical and cultural material appropriate to spatial exploration via visual images and text. Space in the Solomons had significance in a similar way to space in the ruptured syntax of the concrete poets. In addition, the Solomon Islands exhibits a strongly hybridised post-colonial culture, particularly manifested in use of the pidjin language, and this seemed appropriate to a response based in a ‘hybrid’ art form that linked image and text in a non-hierarchical manner.
SOLOMON presents, through text and image, a collage of historical and personal reflections on language and space against the backdrop of the Solomon Islands. The structure and format of the work reflects the influence of Mallarmé and concrete poetry. The work develops invented relationships between language and meaning. For example, O signifies head, the sound emanating from the head, an oral culture, the spirit which resides in the head, the coconut and the small puncture left by the tatooist’s needle. The work suggests that these ‘inventions’ have been lurking within the name Solomon.
Each book has a particular emphasis but there are some recurring elements that bind the volumes together –
establishes the analogy between space in the text, and space between the islands. The page and the ocean are surfaces for inscription.
responds to the significant encounters and experiences that I had as a visitor to the Solomon Islands and notes the impact of the Second World War on the landscape.
juxtaposes fragments of stories and diaries from a number of sources. It acknowledges power in the hands of the colonising forces to deliver a dominant vision of the Solomon Islands.
is about headhunting, about singing, about the relationship between indigenous spirituality and Christianity.
uses the clash of language, which occurred under colonization, as its inspiration. It presents the development of pidgin and the development of an independent Solomon voice.
takes the coconut as its subject. It posits an analogous relationship between its appearance and its name – the coconut as the ‘o’ contained within its own name. The book represents the many functions of the coconut in traditional society; providing fronds for the weaving of baskets, poles and cladding for dwellings, fence palings for pig enclosures, and coconut shells for drinking cups.’O’ goes on to contrast this with the role and status of diesel in contemporary society.
returns to the theme of naming and completes the naming/weaving relationship. It repeats and re-articulates many of the concerns and inventions of ‘S’ creating a certain resonance throughout the extended work.
Images for SOLOMON were derived from photographs taken in the Solomon Islands. The transparencies were transferred onto Kodak Photo CD and the images manipulated using Adobe 2.5 on a Macintosh computer. The words and images were arranged using Aldus Pagemaker 5.0 and printed on an Apple Stylewriter Pro Colour Inkjet printer on Canon LC201 coated paper. The pages were bound by master bookbinder Fred Pohlmann, Brisbane.
Inkjet prints – each volume 37 pp, 13.5 x 13.5 x 10.4 cm in box 14.6 x 13/8 x 9.5 cm.
Edition of 10 sold out.
Grahame, N 2007, ‘the book the poet, the artist and the breakthrough’, in R. Tipping (ed.), the word as art, Artlink, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 68-9 (illustrated).
Grahame, N 2015, Une histoire du livre d’artiste australien, grahame galleries + editions, numero uno publications. p.13 (illustrated p.12).
Menz, C 2000. ‘Jan Davis’, in S Runde S Soltek & C Menz (eds), Craft from Scratch, Eine Spur von Handarbeit, 8. Triennale für Form und Inhalte – Australia and Germany, Museum für Angewante Kunst. p. 65 (illustrated)
2017 & So… Artists’ Books from the Centre for Artists’ Books,Queensland College of Art Library
2017 Speaking Volumes: Artists’ Books from the City of Fremantle Art Collection, Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia
2015/16 Une histoire du livre d’artiste australien, Artists’ Books from the Centre for Artists’ Books Cabinet du livre d’artiste, University of Rennes, France
2015 Multiple Choices: 40 Years 40 Winners, Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle, Western Australia
2008 16th Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE), Artists’ Books from the Centre for Artists’ Books
2007 Unbound – artists’ books from the collection, State Library of Queensland
2006 Artists’ Books from the Centre for Artists’ Books, AGNSW
2001 Australia + Germany: International Craft Triennale, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide and Object Gallery, Customs House, Sydney
2000 Frankfurt International Craft Triennale, Craft from Scratch, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt Germany 2000 Australian Artists’ Books, grahame galleries + editions, Brisbane
1999 Bernheim Invite l’Australie, Artists’ books exhibition the Centre for the Artist Book, Bernheim Bibliotheque, New Caledonia
1996 Palimpsest, toured Artspace Sydney, Canberra Contemporary Artspace, RMIT, Melbourne and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 1996 From Silkscreen to Computer Screen: 20 Years of the Fremantle Print Award National Touring Show, Melbourne, Bunbury, Geraldton, Kalgoolie, Orange, Armidale, Noosa, Rockhampton, Cairns, Sale, Alice Springs 1996 2nd Australian Artists’ Book Fair, Brisbane 1995 Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle Arts Centre
1995 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
National Library of Australia, Canberra. (1/10)
Fremantle City Collection, Fremantle, Western Australia. (2/10)
Curtin University Collection, Perth, Western Australia. (3/10)
Bibliotheca Librorum Apud Artificum. (4/10)
Australian Library of Art at State Library of Queensland, Brisbane. (5/10)
Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts, Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa. (6/10)
Artspace Mackay, Mackay, Queensland. (7/10)
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney. (8/10)
Centre for the Artist Book, grahame galleries + editions, Brisbane. (9/10)
Fryer Library, University of Queensland, Brisbane. (10/10)