Libris Awards: Australian Artists’ Book Prize, 2018 – Artspace Mackay

Above: Clyde McGill, Witness, 2016, etching, letterpress, gold leaf, ink and graphite on BFK 270gsm, edition 3/6, 39 x 46 x 3 cm. Right: Michelle Vine, Contested Biography I (quadrat), 2017, cyanotype on altered book, stitched, 138 x 216 cm. Below: Judges Helen Cole and Roger Butler. Bottom: Jamian Stayt, Tagged, 2018, photography, vintage library card, cardboard and cloth on paper, 111 x 68 cm. Far bottom: Jenna Lee,  A plant in the wrong place, 2016, copper plate etching, image transfer, 16.5 x 13 cm. Photography: Jim Cullen.

Doug Spowart reports on the 2018 Libris Awards: Australian Artists’ Book Prize, held at Artspace Mackay.

In the judge’s opening remarks of the 2018 Libris Awards, judge Roger Butler[i] described the judging process that he and fellow judge Helen Cole[ii] encountered as ‘demanding and challenging’. The preceding month the two judges individually reviewed the 143 entrant’s statements and the accompanying images of the books. After consultation this yielded the selection of 74 finalists that were then judged in the physical exhibition space of Artspace Mackay.

Now in its sixth iteration, the Libris Awards: Australian Artists’ Book Prize gathers biennially the largest selection of contemporary artist books in Australia. The judges concurred that they found their encounter with the physical books at Artspace as: ‘Immensely enjoyable for both of us … it’s just wonderful to come here and see so many wonderful things that we did not know about, and artists we didn’t know about as well…’

Clyde McGill won the $7000 Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal National Artists’ Book Award. ‘Winning this award is an extraordinary thing,’ he said on winning. ‘Working as an artist is extraordinary fun, how lucky am I?’ McGill was the winner of the first Libris Award in 2006. McGill’s work, which includes a performance video, documented his response to the destruction of ancient Aboriginal petroglyphs at Murujuga on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.

The Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal National Altered Book Award of $3000 went to Michelle Vine’s Contested biography 1 (quadrat).

The work consists of a contested German biography that had been disbound and re-assembled as a flat patchwork of sewn pages over-printed in cyanotype with images of birds and flora.

The $2500 Mackay Regional Council Regional Artists’ Book Award went to Jamian Stayt for his book Tagged. Jamian’s book deals with the question of how today with digital technology, everything, including people, is classified and invites the reader to redefine themselves.

The Artspace Mackay Foundation Tertiary Artists’ Book Award of $2000 was won by Jenna Lee for her work A plant in the wrong place, a boxed set of etchings that comment on and compare the way both botanists and typographers rely on the concepts of ‘type’ specimens.

The Libris Awards will be on show until August 19 and will inspire and inform local artists of the diversity of the artist book discipline. And there can be no doubt that this award will attract visitors to Mackay to see the assembled books. A comprehensive illustrated catalogue and other Libris Awards information can be accessed here:


[i] Roger Butler AM is Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Australia. An expert in his field, Butler has written widely, curated and lectured on Australian prints and their place in the Asia/ Pacific region. In 2011 Butler was appointed a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for services to the visual arts.

[ii] Helen Cole, former Coordinator of the Australian Library of Art, was the second guest judge for the 2018 Libris Awards. With a career spanning over 30 years, Cole is an expert in the field of rare and artists’ books.