The world of art is ever-shifting, not only in trend and influence, but in the array of voices demanding space and being heard. Off the Press offers a one stop shop for those voices to mingle, and the rest of us a chance to feel like we’re keeping up.
There are more platforms than ever before for artists to express the past, present and future of their work. But status updates are posted on social media at dizzying rates and even the most carefully curated exhibitions are eventually resigned to storage.
Artist publications, on the other hand, offer an opportunity for artists to provide a tangible snapshot of the ideas and aesthetics that fully represents that artist in that moment.
Off the Press is a free publication that will be found across galleries, museums, tertiary institutions and independent bookshops across New Zealand as well as online, and is the brainchild of Soar Arts.
A dynamic medium
For Becky Nunes, Head of Department for Photo Media at Whitecliffe, the second incarnation of Off the Press is a “much-needed addition” to Aotearoa’s landscape.
It includes books made by three of her graduating students as part of their curriculum. Becky says that “Soar have been very supportive of our students in their learning curve around print publishing.”
“Stuart Shepherd, who heads Soar Arts, has been supporting local art production and printing for years and it’s been great to see him develop this offering of art publications for artists and the public. There’s a really nice synergy between our photobook project and Soar’s aspirations to develop the audience for art books. The capabilities of their technology means they can create beautiful short-run publications that our students can afford.”
Forbidden Land by Zimeng Cai. Photo: Bobbie Gray.
“It’s the first time our students have had a presence in the catalogue, and coupled with their upcoming end of year exhibition we are hoping that it offers a quiet ripple effect to create more impact further down the track. The photobook is a really active, dynamic medium for [artists] to reach audiences. Even as an emerging practitioner, with the right support around you - an exhibition, a book publication, inclusion in Off the Press – your work can reach a wider audience and have real longevity.
Catalogue for enthusiasts
The significance of Off the Press can be seen threefold. Firstly, given that artist publications are printed in small runs and dispersed sporadically, it is easy for them to get lost in the annals of history. Off the Press acts as a catalogue for art book enthusiasts and their publishing houses alike. In a similar vein, Off the Press offers a snapshot of New Zealand art in that year; the themes, mediums and questions that are shifting our creative landscape. These are further teased out courtesy of several thoughtful, well-written essays within its pages.
Finally, it's accessible for emerging and established artists and collectors alike. An open call for submissions means that there is a good assortment of graduates to household names being represented. By pulling all of these elements together into one guide, Off the Press is not only filling a gap in New Zealand’s art book market, it is also securing its future. Erudite, practical and beautifully presented Off the Press is a must for any art enthusiast in Aotearoa.
Forbidden Land by Zimeng Cai. Photo: Bobbie Gray.
Crashing the boundaries
Wan Zhu Zao, John Shen and Zimeng Cai are the three Whitecliffe graduates who will be found in the pages of the upcoming Off the Press.
“We are really proud that they are either international students or New Zealand residents who have Chinese backgrounds...they are making a meaningful comment about what it means to be a young Asian person with an artistic practice in Aotearoa,” Becky says.
As a medium, Becky asserts that photography “crashes across boundaries and neat definitions of what art is - and that’s what gives photography its perspective.” Looking over her student’s offerings, each book hums with a unique vitality, where the lines between banal and art are blurred.
Wan Zhu Zao fuses street and fashion photography to create works that look forward and back with sumptuous effect. John Shen uses his iPhone to create a wryly humorous collection with a pop art bite. Meanwhile, Zimeng Cai explores traditional landscape scenes through a surreal, gothic lens. Collectively, they have created high quality publications that are provocative and edgily elegant.
In New Zealand, we are witnessing a resurgence in the number of artists opting to create artist publications that merge traditional book binding techniques with state of the art printing capabilities. Much like the creative guilds of the Renaissance, it takes a myriad of different skill sets - writers, graphic designers and curators - to create these publications, which are works of art in their own right.
Edition Two of Off the Press Launch is being held on Thursday 17th October, 6-8pm at Strange Goods as part of Artweek Auckland.
Strange Goods, 281 Karangahape Road, Auckland. For more information, visit Offthepress.co.nz