the seven books of tears bärbel ullrich  
Artist's Statement

I have used the format of ‘artists books’ (Artists books without an apostrophe has become the standard name for this activity) as they require the physical interaction of the viewer on an intimate and personal level and they can only be viewed by one person at a time. The artists book is an object which has physical qualities utilising the sense of touch and smell – size, texture, surface – that the viewer can interact with.

The concept of ‘books’ can also be a metaphor for how Western culture imparts knowledge and learning in contrast to the traditional oral story–telling of Indigenous Australian peoples. They are also sculptural objects and it is the artist's aesthetic vision, the selection of elements – images, text, materials and the process by which they evolve into a book that is key to its interdisciplinary status as an art form.

The book is also more than an object, it is an idea. The book embodies the idea of containment – many images and ideas contained in a small space which becomes personal, private as well as tactile. The object/idea can be made to look mysterious and sacred thus imbuing my land–based content with the same attributes.

What I like conceptually and aesthetically about the use of artists books, is that the artist becomes a storyteller sequencing images, text and ideas together or it may have no sequential narrative but may be thematically connected. The movement and timing, the flicker of papers, colours, textures, elements, are part of the “sensual theatre” of artists books.

Each page has the potential of generating different spatial formats, arrangements and the capturing of ideas. The reader needs to use their imagination. It is a book where you can go backwards and forwards and spend as much time as you wish with each image which remains open to various interpretations.

The importance of the artists book is the visual thinking, a means to convey ideas rather than just being about the craft of binding. It is about how to make a book respond to a concept. The book can go from the structural to the conceptual. The concept of transformation becomes important – using the book to explore new images and ideas. I find that the technique of palimpsest is useful for representing the Australian landscape and lends itself to the transformation aspect where there is a layering of text and/or images overwriting old text and/or images. Layers from the original prints or drawings come through other images creating interesting layers of surface quality.

Finally, the artists book embodies the idea of a journal or journey – a record of ideas and images over time. Books are very portable and can travel with you. A journey through the book for the viewer and the artist.


a series of 12 mixed–media on hahnemule paper, muslin & strawboard
80cm x width variable
all works are for sale and reasonably priced
please contact the artist –