We all love books, whether it is from a picture book to that beautiful novel you have obtained from a second hand book shop with a smell that musters up its glorious history. Danny Aldred is our very own ‘Mr Books’ at Winchester School of Art, a lecturer for the Graphic Arts pathway. A book can go beyond the words written within the pages, as Danny looks further into the wear and tear of the novel itself. Every fold, scuff and mark completes the aesthetic to what a book should be, with an amazing history intact. On his knowledge of this type of art, Danny has created a graphic language that goes a lot further into any contemporary art practice. I took some time out to speak to Danny about his work, books and his future.
Nicola Manuel: Sum up your work in three words.
Danny Aldred: Ok… I would say; Transformation, Absence – as my work deals with the present and absent, and Revealing – as I reveal something that may not have been noticed before and I make it apparent. This all sounds perhaps a little serious and it’s important to say that there is always a sense of ‘play’ within my work; it’s got to be fun.
NM: Why do you choose the book form to direct your work?
DA: Books are obviously loaded with many meanings for different people, they transform and alter our perception of ourselves and other people. We can carry a story with us long after we close the book; I’m really interested in all of these things. I also see the book as a container to communicate beyond the printed word. I like it when an artist can twist / subvert the known meaning of book and its contents.
For over a decade I designed publications and books for other people. Crafting a ‘container’ for content for a specific audience usually of little interest to me other than achieving the best results for the client. At this time I started to create my own self-published editions of photographs and collages. I enjoy working through a sequence of pages / spaces filling them with my own content or transforming existing pages. It’s been a natural progression for me to use the book in these different ways and both the commercial and personal work feed one another.
As a child books actually made me feel anxious because I had real difficulties understanding the text due to being dyslexic, unfortunately dyslexia was off the radar at my School. I would create my own fantasies and imagined journeys based on my visual experience of the book.
NM: Who are your greatest influences?
DA: There’s so many! Ian Hamilton Finlay because of his use of language to subvert the meaning of things. The Icelandic book artists Dieter Roth has definitely been a huge influenced as he was so incredibly prolific – I loved his printed croissants and his polka dot children’s books. Wolfgang Tillman’suse of the real image and different forms of showing the work, Sigmor Polke’s graphic language and use of dot! I find artist inspiring because they are prolific and have this energy to constantly create new work. Its like they have broken through into another whole level and reached a ‘formula’ for creating work. Nick Cave has inspired me for these reasons, we lived near him once and I would often see him out. The work just constantly trickles out of him.
NM: If I were to say ‘book’, you’d say…
NM: What would you say to a budding book artist?
DA: I would say keep it really integral, and really honest about what you’re doing and don’t be influenced by what someone else has done with that same piece of content or idea etc..
NM: Who would win in a survival of the fittest- a book or computer? And why?
DA: Well I’ve got to say book. Books are always going to exist in physical form and can be read without any software or connection issues! Recently I couldn’t open a file produced eight years ago – OSX could not read the format. So for me it’s the accessibility that wins. However I also like the fact that a book leaves a trace or map of where it’s been.
NM: Do you have any aspirations for the future that you would still like to pursue?
DA: Yeah I have loads! There are educational ideas and seminars, which I’m working on at present with Tate Education and Winchester School of Art for World Book Day next year. There are collaborative opportunities with international artists that I want to pursue and I am also setting up a press!
So if you are ever around university, studying the book format or even interested to meet Danny, then go up and say hello to Winchester’s own Mr. Books. In the meantime click on the following link to have a look at Mr. Books online.