Book as Element, Various Book Works by Michelle Stuart

Michelle Stuart, various works. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018
Michelle Stuart, various works. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018

Stuart’s beautiful sculptures look as if they have been excavated from the ground. The folded concrete from some building site, the stacked dusty-brown layers from a desert floor.

Michelle Stuart, 'Afriqya Night Chant' 1983. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018
Michelle Stuart, ‘Afriqya Night Chant’ 1983. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018

The book-like shapes are so simple and the elemental colours are very appealing, is if they are calling to some primal instinct buried in us.

Is it a coincidence that these forms are shaped like books or stacked pages? Is the implication that reading, storytelling, book-making are as old as time itself? As old as civilisation?

'Frijoles Notebook', 1974-5. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018
‘Frijoles Notebook’, 1974-5. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018

The work reminds me of Anselm Kieffer’s book-works, his sculptures made of diverse, but often earthy, materials. Kieffer’s works are certainly books: often containing text, images or scraps of found materials.

'Earth Box Etowah', 1965. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018
‘Earth Box Etowah’, 1965. Image credit: Chris Gibson, 2018

Stuart’s work on the other hand is more stripped back, more elemental, more self-contained. It’s amazing how much can be conveyed by such simple forms.

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