Sarah Gregory*

MEET UPS: January, February, May, 24th June Words & Images, July, August, September

PROJECT : To explore the interaction between pictures and poems on the pages of a book.

QUOTE : ‘Islands and stories.  Every time you arrive, you think / how it would feel to pull the sea around you at night,/ except that the next land floats in the distance, waiting.’        From Of Islands in ‘Mandeville’ by Matthew Francis



Having been away from home almost the whole of March and with another two weeks away in April, I have not produced anything substantial.  However to develop the project I have been keeping two diaries:  the first is largely written and intended as a base for future writing and the second is a concertina sketch book (now complete ) which contains both writing , drawing and collage, often on the same page.  It is a bit tentative and lacks unity since I chose to experiment but again it is a base for future work.  I am showing the sketchbook to anyone interested as a way of getting feedback on what works.  This means I have been thinking about the project most days.


What I gained from sharing my visual images with the group

Most  people, perhaps all, enjoyed looking at the visual images.  I think those there found them attractive and interesting.  This seems to me to validate the process.

It was agreed that the narrative of the poem had been lost but other meaning had been gained.  Some were more certain of this than others.

We noticed the disaggregation of the lines and floating words.  One or two people were disturbed by the effect of this on the poem and all agreed that legibility mattered though in a visual art workshop this might not be so strongly felt.  No-one liked the poem printed up side down though this is a strong visual image.

I could see that the fragmentation of the drawings and poems could go much further perhaps producing visual images that were more ambiguous/enigmatic/challenging.


I started down the woodcut route in January but quickly realised that I was taking the project forward in far too narrow a way.  The woodcuts themselves imply separation from the pictures.  And some of the pictures I want to use do not lend themselves to woodcuts.   The whole production process was rigid and unwieldy and slow.  

So I have taken another route:  I am now using my drawings, experimenting with size, scale and tone and making collages.  I am also developing, not yet successfully, my own calligraphy which can also be cut up and pasted where it fits.  In terms of the final product, I am trying both screen-printing and using my Mac. (This is helpful in investigating alternative fonts).  On both fronts, this is a steep learning curve.  So I am not sure where this is leading….



In the short-term I am creating pages of pictures and poems.  Ultimately I would like to make a themed book of new poems and pictures.

black-poplar-pond-paul-nashI shall do this by creating a book of my own poems and pictures.  Some of the poems and nearly all the pictures will be new. Each double spread should work in terms of meaning and style.  The pictures should not be only illustrations and the text should not be only a commentary on the pictures. The models for this are Blake’s illuminated manuscripts such as ‘ The Songs of Innocence and Experience’.  But I also had inspiration from the current exhibition of Paul Nash at Tate Britain.  His wood engraving ‘ Black Poplar Pond’ (usually seen by itself) is exhibited alongside his own hand written poem.  Another inspiration is Mervyn Peake’s  ‘Letters from a Lost Uncle’ which is a perfect example of pictures and text used together creatively.  In these examples the book is an integrated whole.  .  This raises questions about materiality: size, paper, typeface if any, colour if any, binding. 

I would like this book to be truly contemporary but on the whole do not like modern ‘artists’ books’.  Often I find both pictures and writing are subservient to the idea of the book itself as a work of art.  Content may be thin or just not rich enough in scope.  Such books suffer from a kind of quirkiness.  The challenge is to reconcile the traditional (a book itself is traditional) with what is happening now in writing and visual art.  I hope I can learn something from the graphic works of Anselm Kiefer and William Kentridge.




One comment on “Sarah Gregory*

  1. janetmcclean says:

    Hi Sarah – I very much enjoyed your words with graphics. I live in Holt and if you would like to meet up for a coffee do drop me an email.
    best wishes Janet


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