Weeds Selected for Regional Marks Exhibition
The collaborative artists book “Weeds” by Queensland book artists Helen Sanderson and Jen Conde was two years in the making. This work is inspired by the resilience, usefulness and beauty of weeds in our world, often considered ugly or pests.
Weeds’ has two parts – Earth and Sea. It references plants that grow in these environments. The two books are to be seen as one book…they have the same format, covers, binding, techniques.
The initial planning for this book began around discussion of weeds, those plants thriving in unlikely or unwanted places. Helen grew up on a farm and her work has a close association with the land. Jen lives beside the sea and much of her life is spent on the water and her work has a strong water component.
EARTH by Helen Sanderson
This work began before the deluge of the Brisbane flood in 2011. Her book was significantly affected by personal experience of this event. Helen lived on the banks of the Brisbane River in Fig Tree Pocket and the floodwater covered the backyard and stopped a meter short of entering her home. The neighbourhood was devastated. The weeds that sprang up afterwards ranged from listed noxious weeds to plants just in the wrong place like tomatoes and pumpkins. Fresh weeds from the riverbank where she has walked for many years were gathered and printed for use in this book.
SEA by Jen Conde
Jen lives on the foreshore near Manly boat harbour, about 19 kilometers from the Brisbane CBD. It is the largest boating harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. She and her husband sail regularly. Jen decided to concentrate on seaweeds, which is not a technically a plant but an algae. The flood also affected Jen’s work. Toxic run off into Moreton Bay also caused algae blooms and threatened the natural species that grew on the sea floor. Here, and on her boat trips around Moreton Bay and the Queensland coast, Jen collected different species of seaweeds. Washed, dried and pressed, these seaweeds have been preserved to use in the making of this book. Her selections of writings about seaweed show the diversity and importance of a seemingly insignificant plant life in our seas.
We are interested in environmental matters and in the old Nature prints from Victorian England. The process of monoprinting successfully allows the printing of the collected weed specimens to maintain the integrity of their shape and size. Using layers of these dried weeds and colours that reference the sea and the earth, the pages reveal interesting patterns and happy accidents that add to the abstract images. Minimal use of text and its style and placement, provide some anecdotal information as well as adding to the layered visual effect.
We wanted to bring the energy and randomness of weeds to the book, a fact not lost with the pages trying to escape from the covers.
The National Library of Australia purchased an edition of Weeds in February 2014. Philip Jackson from Printed Australiana of the National Library of Australia states ‘Both artists collected examples of their respective different kinds of weeds and reproduced them on beautifully coloured sheets of paper that burst out of the covers of their books in beautifully shaped leaves. Photographs and short essays also appear within the books, and the bindings sympathetically also evoke their plant connections with threads left trailing like tendrils.
Helen Sanderson and Jen Conde’s beautiful Weeds: Earth and Sea artists’ books present an intriguing look at an undervalued subject of great environmental significance, and a remarkable partnership between the two artists.’
‘Weeds’ is printed in an edition of five bound and signed copies. Throughout the edition of five books, though each page has the same design, they also vary because of the nature of how mono prints are made. Each book is unique, as well as being part of the edition.
Artists Statement – Jen Conde, Helen Sanderson
Note: Throughout the edition of five books, each page has the same design, and they vary because of the nature of how mono prints are made. Each book is unique, as well as being part of the edition.
We have one book in the edition left that is available for sale.
Photography: Shelley Fitzgibbons
Paper kindly supplied by Colour Chiefs, Windsor, Brisbane