Hilke Kurzke, “Erased”

book closed

book half opened, view of the seam running across the cover/wrapper

pages with erased writing

closed book, fore edge with visible tie

clear view onto the structure, loose leaves are held in place by the cotton tape, attached to the parchment wrapper


Hilke Kurzke (Nottingham, UK)

acrylics, ink
Unique work
5 pages
14.5cm x 23cm x 1cm open
14.5cm x 11.5cm x 1.2cm closed

I am a mostly self trained book artist and artisan bookbinder. I am (was) a mathematician and theologian by training, and a lover of stories. Topics for my art come from where those three interests overlap: I am curious and ever again amazed by how books work and manage to conserve and teach knowledge and experiences, and I try to show and examine this magic with my work.

My early pieces concentrated exclusively on structural elements of books, but soon I discovered the writing down of language as an important aspect. Consequently works in secret and fake script entered my body of work, and books where all or part of the text is concealed or erased.

I like to experiment with printing methods, most prominently relief printing in different form and from different materials. Striving for simplicity and a more intimate encounter between artist and reader I moved from commonly used materials for printing blocks (linoleum, rubber, wood), to cardboard, and on to handwriting and -drawing and simple stencils for most recent work.

Some of my books feature my own writing. Most of my writing is what I like to call “fragments”, very short pieces that seem to be fragments of a larger story. I am interested in small moments of clarity that can happen in the most banal situations, in atmosphere and setting a scene with words, leaving it to the reader to play the puppets. And so my fragments are written in a sparse style which often utilize the book, its structure, and imagery to complete the story in the reader’s head or through the reader’s action rather than on the paper.

Erased is a poem, written by hand in ink and then crossed out, such that the ascenders and descenders remain visible. With some effort, squinting, and holding in a good angle the poem still can be read. It is self conscious and starts with a short introduction: “I am a poem, and I am erased”, it addresses the reader directly, and thanks him for the effort of reading. It ends with the expression of hope that, although it was erased, it might still be of some value, maybe inspire another poem und concludes with a final, not erased: “That would be worth it”. This poem is an homage to the creative process. And a declaration of love to readers who dig deeper.

The text is written by hand with rubbing ink on Waterford watercolour paper which I gave a thin coating with gesso. The poem was then erased by painting over with gold colou red acrylic paint. The backsides of the pages are covered with an acrylic wash with it deliberately staining the front page, and here and there are golden fingerprints or water drops. I wanted to create an atmosphere between precious (the gold) and discarded rubbish (good paper, but looking like rough cut-offs). And I wanted the cover to reflect this by choosing a precious material (well, semi precious) but I wanted it to be not quite there. So I decided to stitch parchment pieces together to use for a limp cover. The loose sheets are held together by a brown cotton ribbon which is held into place within the parchment wrapper by parchment tackets. The whole constructions resembles a file fold er more than a solid book. The binding is completely non-adhesive.