It is an homage to Romanian-born poet Paul Celan, a book about slowing down. To accompany the artist’s book de Waal has made a series of seventeen new works, including vitrines, shelves, and diptychs conceived as open books, which take inspiration from the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán and the writer Federico García Lorca, and also from Celan.
20 February – 11 May, 2019
Comandante Zorita, 48, Madrid
There is porcelain, marble and gilding; there is gold leaf and platinum acknowledging the silver dishes on Zurbarán’s paintings. There are objects hidden from view and there are repetitions. Alongside these works there will be a reading room, a selection of one hundred books inviting visitors to sit down and read. The artist’s book, the exhibition, and the reading room are conceived as a joint project.
The artist’s book comprises three parts: an atlas folio book reminding us of a medieval bible, printed in an edition of six books (plus two artist’s proofs and one HC), that is held within a wooden box that unfolds into a lectern for the book to stand on. Within the box there is a drawer with a small onyx shelf in it, another lectern, which holds paper-thin, translucent porcelain tiles with handwritten fragments of Celan’s poems inscribed by de Waal.
The choice of materials plays an important role in the creation of the book. De Waal establishes a parallelism between the history of porcelain and the history of paper, two materials that have travelled the world, both beginning in China and Japan, and coming to Europe through the Silk Road.
Using papers from the Far East, Germany, and the UK, the book narrates that journey as you turn the pages— a history from the East to the West. Breath is also a celebration of bookmaking: the craft of letterpress printers, papermakers, and binders using traditional methods. The artist has collected medieval manuscripts previously used for binding, and has reused them inside the spine of this book. Working with different craftsmen on the making of this book has become part of the DNA of the project.