Veronika Schäpers, “A Darkened Boat”

Veronika Schäpers
Karlsruhe, Germany

A Darkened Boat
letterpress and gold embossing on Japanese Urushikoshi paper Binding made from Kozo-laminated Enduro Ice paper and grooved plexiglass box made from Japanese paulownia wood
10 x .78″

Artist Statement

Norwegian author Jon Fosse cultivates the art of the essential and the simple, of reduction and concentration. The image that frequently surfaces in his verse is that of a boat, which he describes as a protective shell that holds and carries everything – seemingly within grasp and at the same time far away.

One such example is his poem for the artist book “A Darkened Boat.” Here, Fosse describes the existential experience of being carried and protected by this boat; it is almost a religious experience, blurring the boundaries between dream and reality.

In the poem, Fosse contrasts opposing elements: light and dark, heaven and earth, presence and absence, all coming together in the unifying element of the boat. Like Noah’s ark, it draws everything into its protective embrace.

The image of the darkened boat as a protective vessel gave me the idea of working with illustrations of head coverings. Like the protective vessel or embracing power each religion offers, I noticed that every religion also offers some kind of protective head covering.

Each of the 31 drawings in this book represents a head covering worn in a religious or spiritual context; they come from various faiths around the world. Thanks to the straight-line drawings and partial rotation, the protective hats are also reminiscent of vessels, entering into a dialogue with Fosse’s “darkened boat.”

The hats are embossed on very thin Urushikoshi Japan paper, so delicate that it does not have a sealed surface but instead reveals the individual fibers. Pigment printing would not create a continuous line on this paper, but the light-gold foil printing on both sides of the page succeeds in closing the gaps, so the hats appear like glowing symbols on the fragile paper. When the pages are layered and illuminated, the viewer sees a network of lines, which only turn into independent drawings when the pages are turned.

The drawings are intentionally separate from the poem in order to direct the viewer’s concentration toward the text as well as the drawings.

The letterpress printed poem is stitched into the wrapped binding; the typography is large and bright, but not necessarily easy to read. Readers must first focus their attention on the text and then re-wrap the binding before they can open the cover and see the hats.


Educated in Germany and Switzerland Veronika Schäpers moved to Tokyo/Japan in 1997 where she started her career as an independent artist. In 2012 she moved to Berlin and lives now in Karlsruhe/Germany. 

Veronika’s work is focussing on the observation of social phenomena in foreign cultures. By working with writers from east and west as well as her exceptional use of refined materials and techniques influenced by her long living in Japan, she produces art work that stimulates all our senses. Veronika Schäpers has won several prizes and her work is in many renowned collections all around the world.

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