The Book Experience Function

judy is an Australian artist whose work I was introduced to through the Sand Book Collaboration Project of Marcela Peral. judy contributed drawings of feeding periwinkles, one of which is shown below.

Amy Wright: You live in Thirroul, Australia. Will you describe it?

judy: Thirroul is a coastal village, a seaside suburb of the City of Wollongong on the east coast of Australia, 70 K’s south of Sydney and 2 and half hours from the national capital of Canberra.

The Great Dividing Range is on the west of the narrow coastal strip. The main road and railway line follow the narrow strip of land from north to south. The rain forested mountain forms the backdrop to the stunning string of villages. People mostly live in single dwelling houses but there are blocks of units closer to the main road and the beach.

AW: I resonate with your artistic attention to the environment—making books from reused material. Where does your impetus to preserve come from?

Austinmer rock platform looking south to Thirroul, photo Judy Bourke© 2010

judy: My mother, father and grandmother found another use for just about everything. After the Second World War, there were very little materials. We used building materials to make things to play with or improvise as my parents did in their isolation. We lived in tents near the beach until dad and mum built us a house, 40 mins. walk to any shops.
I can imagine many uses for just about everything I see. I made the match boxes with a template provided, for an exhibition in the USA, though they are not at all like the match boxes we have in Australia.

AW: You tell Marcela Peral that you like to draw periwinkles at low tide because “each day it is all different again,” which suggests an inspired artistic process in accord with ephemeral nature. Change is a great inspiration, since it’s guaranteed! Have you always been at ease with it?

judy: I am at ease with change. I go to the beach every day. How I get there depends on the tides, weather and time of day. In dry weather I ride my bike. If its low tide I leave it at Thirroul beach and walk around to Austinmer rock pools to swim. If it is high tide I either ride to Austinmer or drive there to swim. As I walk along the rock platform, I see the changes in the patterns, the air, the sky and the surf. I love that it is different every time. Twice a day the tide washes away any trace of the periwinkles feeding tracks as they forage for food and leave their marks on the rock platform as they slowly move through the thin layer of sand. Every time I pass them I love to see the new drawings, new patterns. They are very complicated to try to replicate in a drawing. It is a challenge.

the Wollongong coastline from Sublime Point Lookout, photo Judy Bourke© 2010

I have never addressed change as a subject in my works that I can remember. I love the changes at the beach. The different light, the clouds, the heavy rain, the clear skies, the different tides the different swells, the angry storms, the blinding rain, the howling wind storms that make the sand cut into you, the completely calm and quiet days, the freezing cold mornings. Whatever it is, it is never the same as any other time or day, at any time on any day.

AW: Community art projects are clearly important to you. Will you talk about how they relate to your creative process?

looking from the Barracks Artists studio to the Pacific Ocean over the railway line at Thirroul, photo Judy Bourke© 2010

judy: I used to get involved in lots of community art projects once, but I have recently retired from that practice. I thoroughly believe in the practice of involving the community to develop our understanding of each other. It adds a value that can neither be measured nor counted.

Building communities is a creative process that I am interested in. I love the community where I live. The community feeling is why many people have chosen to live here in recent years.
I have worked all over Australia giving workshops using recycled materials and less toxic paints and dyes. I have worked with disadvantaged, old, young, teenagers, juvenile offenders, the disabled and the disadvantaged, remote communities and city groups, the interested and the interesting. Although I was invited to teach them skills they have been my greatest teachers.

I am involved in the Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival in our little village. I love to have my studio open for the visitors to see what I do and where it is all made and answer their questions. We have a greater understanding of each other and respect one another’s views more readily. I also enter works in the main exhibition, the miniatures, the sculpture on the shore and the small sculptures.

AW: I like your barcode book. I can’t tell from the picture if you have legible text in it, or if the book is more about the tactile experience of reading the world around us. How do you define “book” or “book experience function”?

Barcode Book 1, Judy Bourke© 2010

judy: There is no legible text in the bar code book. When the plastic bags from the supermarket are torn from the string that holds them together, this is the little bit of plastic that is left. I collected them from the supermarket. I used barcodes and bits of packaging from the stuff I bought and glued them in on all sides of the plastic. It is very light and soft like a child’s toy. It’s a book that is meant to be handled to be understood.

I don’t think I can define my books. I just make things and may call some books but they could also be boxes of things.

You can see more of judy’s work on her website and prints on the Print Universe ning site.