Artist’s Book: ‘Cross Rhodes’
The thing about inspiration is that we can never tell what might spark it, where it might come from or where it may lead. That’s the point, we just don’t know. There are however lots of ways to generate inspiration by creating circumstances and conditions where it’s likely to occur.
While preparing for my first trip to Rhodes, I knew I wanted to work on a book while I was travelling and exploring the island. At the same time, I didn’t want to crowd a lot of prefabricated ideas into the experience of discovery. I’m interested in the history of Rhodes as a crossroads amid the eastern Mediterranean, the island’s character accumulating in layers over millenia from prehistoric through modern times. I wanted to let the spirit of discovery and a strong Sense of Place lead the way in how my book would develop during my visit.
Creating a mix of irregular pages in warm Mediterranean colours was a good starting point for the book. I included a big fold-out page at the beginning though I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I installed pockets, inclusions, transparent, textured, marbled and natural materials. Into the cover I dug out a recess into which I embeded a glass pebble, symbolic of Rhodes island amid the blue sea. I then covered the case in a sea blue buckram (rugged finish takes the wear and tear of travel) and a deep brown textured silk bookcloth spine tape.
I always travel with a small art kit with watercolour paint box, pens, pencils, coloured pencils, ink, erasers, carbon paper, transfer paper, tiny sewing scissors, crow quill, tape, glue, etc. It’s a portable studio in a pencil case, really all you need. Having too much stuff to carry and worry about only weighs you down while travelling.
I created a general timeline of the island using the fold-out page inside the front cover. Having a visual map of key events and historical phases helped organise my understanding of Rhodes as a whole. This time map started as notes, became a list and then a drawing and eventually a painting I worked on throughout my visit. Information was relatively easy to gather by simply visiting the many museums, historical and archaeological sites across the island taking notes and checking facts as I went along. Things become more interesting as you learn more about them.
Exploring Rhodes’ sense of place isn’t limited to formal heritage sites. The Archaeological Museum of Rhodes housed in the fabulously beautiful hospital of the Knights of St John was as fascinating as the accidental and prologued lunch I shared with Savas, the 92 year old father of a taverna owner in the back streets of the old town under an immense fig tree planted in 1962, the year his first son was born. He told me about the tree and other big and small events in the long history of his neighbourhood. He remembers the year the Nazis arrived and the weeks before his escape in the night in a borrowed boat with his friends to Symi where they lived rough throughout the war. I took his picture before our parting at the end of a very memorable afternoon and had it printed at an office supply shop in town. That evening I wrote the pages of his story cutting the photo into my drawing of the fig tree and the taverna, Savas’ direct and steely gaze looking out of the pages. Some encounters you simply can’t plan.
The above image shows some aspects of the first part of this book. It’s an ongoing work-in-progress at present. I’ll to return to the island again to expand this exploration and work on the pages of this book of psychogeography, Cross Rhodes.