Along with Richard Woods’ Woodblock Inlays, Carolyn Thompson’s Black Mirror is one of a couple of recent print publications that highlights the range of work currently on show in London, and also casts a light on very differing approaches to the artist’s folio and indeed to publishing. Emma Hill has run the small independent Eagle Gallery since 1991. The gallery has been at the centre of championing small-scale productions and artist’s books such as Blocks, a project between the painter Basil Beattie and the writer and critic Mel Gooding. The aesthetics of the gallery are distinctly minimal and Black Mirror could be seen to epitomise Hill’s approach to publishing.
Carolyn Thompson, an emerging artist whose work is largely concerned with the visual presentation of text, has taken pages from Truman Capote’s short story “Music for Chameleons” as published in My Side of the Matter, one of the pocket Penguins created for Penguin’s 70th birthday. She has scanned each page of the text and blacked out everything with the exception of rectangles where a colour has been referenced in the story. These colours then appear as openings in the black, windows of coloured light in an otherwise black void. Only the title or the author’s name remains at the top of each page, along with the page number at bottom, sufficient clues to enable viewers, if they wish, to track back and rediscover the original text. These small sheets, 18 x 11 cms, the size of the original paperback, connect to other works as well: Tom Phillips’ well-known Humument, in which the artist took a Victorian novel and subjected it to a process of visual and textural transformation; the musically inspired notation of Jack Smith and the black paintings of Ad Reinhardt. But Black Mirror calls for a very particular response, seeming to invite the connoisseur, to encourage the private one-to-one intimate engagement of handling and turning each sheet in turn, a metaphor itself for the fragility of existence.