Ant Press ~ Australia
(Monica Oppen)
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Ant Press: “Monica Oppen is a book artist, printmaker and writer. She has trained and worked as a hand binder and has 20 years of binding experience. She has bound her own work and that of other artists.
By Monica Oppen
Stanmore, New South Wales, Australia: Ant Press, 2012. Second Edition of 6.

12.625 x 8.75"; 40 pages. Duotone images. Printed with a flatbed litho press on Magnani Velata Avorio paper. Handbound in a cloth case binding. Includes laser printed pamphlet It is Time! in envelope attached to last page. Concept, photographs, and binding by Monica Oppen.

Colophon: "Texts have been taken from Genesis 1:1, Brian Capon's Botany for Gardeners, and Hoimar von Ditfuirth's Children of the Universe: The Tale of our Existence.

"The original fine edition of ten copies with three artist's proofs were hand sewn on vellum tapes and laced onto blackwood ply boards and presented in a clamshell box in 2007. This edition of six copies, hand bound in a cloth case binding on the remaining sheets of the original printing, was completed in 2012. "

Monica Oppen: "This book is a celebration of the importance of plants to life on Earth. Plants have been so successful that they can be found in almost every ecosystem on the planet. They are so common and so useful that we take them completely for granted. But it was the flourishing of the plants that transformed the atmosphere on the planet, which enabled an incredible environment and multitude of ecosystems to thrive. They are still crucial to sustaining it. This book acknowledges the plants.

"This work includes a manifesto piece, It is Time, in a separate booklet. Each copy has a different black and white photo on the cover."

The manifesto uses expressive typography to emphasize its message.
$125 (Last copy) (Photo on cover buckling)

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Case: Angel Ryan
Text by Monica Oppen
Images by Peter Lyssiotis
Stanmore, New South Wales, Australia: Ant Press, 2012. Second edition of 50.

8 x 9.5"; 84 pages. Perfect binding with glossy illustrated softcover. Originally produced in an edition of 5 copies (2011).

The sense of outrage is powerful, the evidence compelling, and the narrative method singular and effective. This shout against violence toward women has all the righteous furor of hardcore feminism without the shrillness that sometimes obscures the message. Things haven't changed as much as we'd like to think. Case: Angel Ryan is testimony to that.

Monica Oppen: "The most powerful way to breakdown stereotypes is by asking questions, by keeping discussion alive. Only then can we move towards a new reality. In this book the discussion is about women, feminism, patriarchy, media and the possibility of equality.

"There is a base layer of images with what could be called fragment poems by Peter Lyssiotis. This is overlayed with new texts and newspaper clippings.

"Text 1: the red on black band. I found the images and poems to be very disturbing; violent and yet seductive. I had a sense that Lyssiotis was operating out of a socially accepted norm, not questioning the status quo, that norm being to abuse these anonymous women, after all they were simply images of models from fashion magazines, was okay. I was angered by this lack of self-awareness and cultural awareness. I wrote this text in response.

"Text 2: white on black band. This is the story of the murder of Angel Ryan. It is told through fragments, like we tend to experience the news. Fragments of radio broadcast, newspaper articles, people talking on the street and now social networking media. The intention of the story is to link up the base images and personalise them, to suggest that the violence was done against someone.

"Text 3: the green blocks in the coda. This test is by Grace King and was posted on tumblr. It has been reprinted with permission. It discusses the impact of patriarchy. King is dealing with the issues of this book from a different point of view."

Bibliotheca: "The magazine format echoes the origin of the images, which were taken from fashion/women's magazines in particular Harper's Bizarre [sic]."

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Dare to VOTE!
By Monica Oppen
Sydney, Australia: Ant Press, 2012. Edition of 50.

7.5 x 6.75"; 32 pages, including one pullout. Letterpress Printed from linoleum blocks, photopolymer plates, wood type, and with rubber stamping on Magnani Velata Avorio paper. Handbound and housed in box with two pencils.

Australian book artist Monica Oppen created "Lessons in History II: DEMOCRACY" an exhibition at Grahame Galleries & Editions in Sydney (September-October 2012).

From the text: "Only 60 per cent of Australians think democracy is preferable to any other form of government, a Lowy Institute poll published last week shows. It gets worse. Just 39 per cent of those aged between 18 and 29 favour democracy."

This is the context in which Dare to VOTE! appears.

Monica Oppen: "We place a lot of importance on democracy. Yet our system of democracy would not have been recognized by the ancient Greeks as democracy. Is this why some countries seem to fake it? Are we faking it? But would we consider the ancient Greek system democratic? Only a select group of male citizens were allowed to vote. Women and slaves, more than half the adult population, were excluded.

"This book comes with pencils so that all readers can vote — for or against democracy. If they dare!"

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Dark Forest
By Monica Oppen
Stanmore, Australia: Ant Press, 2009. Edition of 10.

9.375 x 13.5"; 16 pages. Offset lithographic prints, handpainting, intaglio prints. Stitched sheets in paper wrapper and slipcase.

Dark Forest is a prime example of how the book arts – image, printing, design, binding – can bring life and form to narrative. A wonderful example of the possibilities on combining art and book.

Monica Oppen: "Dark Forest is a love story without a happy end. It is about a broken relationship, a broken narrative; about loving the 'wrong' person, a person so un-free, so locked in habit and unhappiness but able to communicate, unable to act and unable to change, so love is suffocated."

Bibliotheca Librorum: "This work is about love; about power and powerlessness; about action and inaction; about sacrifice, betrayal, and loss. The trees have been cut down. The trees are burning. The forest was a world rich with creativity and love. The binding is so flimsy, only a wrapped around sheet of paper, because the world inside the work is collapsing. A more substantial binding would have not have been in keeping with the work. It is in a slipcase because it is private; a personal unhappiness."
$290 (Last four copies)

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The River
By Monica Oppen and Peter Lyssiotis
Stanmore, New South Wales, Australia: Ant Press / Masterthief, 2009. Edition of 75.

13 x 8.75"; 68 pages. Text by Peter Lyssiotis. Photographs by Monica Oppen. 68 photos shot on black-and-white film. Digital printing. Spiral bound.

Monica Oppen: "When the Hungarian photographer, Gyula Halasz Brassai walked the streets of Paris the camera was a relatively new invention; not everyone had one in their pocket. The book he produced Paris By Night has become on of the early iconic portraits of the city. Since then the photographic image has risen to swamp newspapers, magazines, books, billboards. ... Now Paris is photographed a hundred thousand times a day, the monuments of the city immortalized in dead clichés. We walked past those monuments which have been drummed into us as the quintessential Paris. Was it possible to take a different photograph? In this book we try to capture unidentifiable Paris. An evening in a city, a flow of people, a flow of water. This city bereft of the clichés, the postcard monuments, can become any city. The spiral binding was chosen because the first edition of Paris by Night was also spiral bound."

Peter Lyssiotis is a Cyprus-born Australian writer and photographer.

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Seven Rooms
By Monica Oppen and Peter Lyssiotis
Sydney, Australia: Ant Press / Masterthief, 2007. Edition of 17.

8.75 x 9.25 x 1"; 132 pages. Photomontages printed offset. Printed on a flatbed proofing press by Bernie Rackham at Redwood Prints in Centaur on Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite eggshell 104 gsm. Felix Oppen at Wide Open Media and Chris Boone at Splitting Image contributed to typesetting and pre-press works. Casebound by Monica Oppen and Daphne Lera at D.S. Murray Bookbinders. Quarter leather with decorated papers over boards. Exposed sewn bands. Housed in black clamshell box lined with photomontages. Signed and numbered by Oppen and Lyssiotis.

Monica Oppen: "Seven Rooms is a narrative poem in seven parts. The text had its beginning in the deep subconscious. The rhythm, form, and length of the work was given by an intuitive flow rather than formed to fit any preconceived format or genre.

"The narrative occurs because time passes. The place it occurs in is not a real place but of the subconscious mind, which does not need the logic, three dimensional solidity, and consistency of the real world. Initially I saw this place as a house from which the title comes.

"The subject of the work is change and transformation; personal and social transformation. The possibility muted is that when the individual changes society can change. The individual, the girl in this narrative, is essentially reduced to nothing but there is no death only a clearing for another beginning."

Bibliotheca Librorum apud Artificem: "Seven Rooms is a report brought back from the interior. The travels document surreal spaces and deep transformations which hit at the possibilities of change on a personal and a social level."

Peter Lyssiotis is a photographer/photomonteur, filmmaker, writer, and book artist who has worked in the field of book arts for over 25 years. In 2005 he was a recipient of the State Library of Victoria Fellowship. Monica Oppen works in the book arts, writing, printmaking and bookbinding.

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Ant Press Out of Print Title:
Rebecca's Diary
ByMonica Oppen
Redfern, Australia: Ant Press, 1990. Edition of 15.

7 x 10.5 x 2.25" case with two volumes. "A Foreword to Rebecca's Diary": 6.75 x 10"; 22 pages; "Rebecca's Diary": 6.75 x 10"; 82 pages. Handbound in full goatskin. 56 original etchings by Monica Oppen (with 35 hand colored). Printed on paper handmade by Meredith Brownhill. Translation from German by Monica Oppen. Collograph endpapers. French-fold style double slipcase. Signed by the artist on colophon of both volumes.

Monica Oppen: "The starting point of this work was the Brothers Grimm story of Aschenputtel or Cinderella. My interest was in the part of the story that tells of the death of the girl's mother and her life before the glamorous balls, the lost glass slipper, and the romance with the Prince. I asked myself, if this lonely, unhappy child had written a diary what would she have written? Although it is a personal story it is also a universal story about growing up.

"The Foreword was added to the final work because it was obvious that the readers of the work had little access to it without some background knowledge. The text of the diary was written with no thought of an audience so there are very few markers for the reader to pick up on as to the author or what the 'greater' narrative of the story is. Yet if the background is known I hope the book will become instantly clear."

"There is an underlying structure to the work ... Physical Structure and Internal, Personal Structure.

"Binding: hard cover, leather binding, plain natural colour with no blocking. It is sewn in 4 sections, each section represents a season; section one is Spring, two is Summer, three is Autumn and four is Winter. Each section is made of 7 leaves, representing the days of the week (0r 14 pages, a page being only one side of the leaf) forming a book of 28 leaves representing the lunar month and the human menstrual cycle. Each leaf can be seen to represent a day the two pages of the leaf the night and day of the day.

"Thus every event recorded can be seen within the context of the year, according to the season, the lunar/menstrual month and the week; no page is dated, no dates are required.

"Other, perhaps obvious, links have been made for the purpose of simplification, (what one could call) 'natural rhythm' and structure.

"The girl's (monthly) fertility is recorded or presumed to occur in the first section, which is Spring, the season of regeneration. It is celebrated with new growth appearing on the trees, in particular, the tree on her mother's grave. It is the season in which she received the twig from her father, the giving and planting of which is, in it's essence a conception which enables the rebirth of her mother. It is also the season of her own conception and the season of her father's remarriage.

"If her day of fertility is on the twelfth day of her cycle, her menstruation will occur 16 days later, if she has not conceived, 16 pages later the menstruation is recorded and it falls in the autumnal season. If, on the other hand, a woman does conceive in spring, the child will be born in Autumn. Therefore, autumn is the season the girl's birthday and the fruiting of the tree, which offers the promise of regeneration through the growth of new trees but also through sustenance given by the food. Also, recorded is the mother's death symbolized as the tree enters a period of no growth.

"The internal, personal structure rocks between these two transitional months. Summer can generally be considered as a month of optimism and warmth and Winter, conversely, a month of depression and low spirits."


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Page last update: 08.12.14


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