Iconoclastic printer, writer, and artist Ken Campbell was born in London in 1939. He apprenticed as a printmaker and later studied design at the London College of Printing. For a period, he taught typography and graphic design in art schools in Britain, Canada, and America.
Although he has worked in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, and sculpture, since the 1970s he has concentrated on letterpress printing and the making of artist’s books. His training in the traditional methods of printing and design led him to want to break the restrictions they imposed and to experiment with improvisational approaches to making his books. Using a variety of printing processes, he often composes his books on the press bed and embraces the aleatory, or chance, processes involved in this way of working. The resulting multi-layered books merge text and image into a single artwork.
Unlike many book artists who create art to accompany the words of a different writer, Campbell writes the content of his books, touching upon subjects as diverse as Halley’s comet, artist Alexander Rodchenko, and the Hindu deity Shiva. Faith, loss, and freedom are some of the weighty themes that recur throughout his work. The physical form of his books is often large and sculptural, lending to them an air of solemnity.
To date, Campbell has created 24 artist’s books. Notable among these works are A Knife Romance (1988), a visually fluid work encompassing two poems and other fragments of text, and The Word Returned (1996), a heavily layered dos-à-dos book whose edition required 66,000 passes through the press to create.
Ken Campbell’s books are found in collections worldwide, including those of the British Library, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Herzog-August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany among others.
Books with Ken Campbell available from Boreas Fine Art:
Campbell, Ken. Tilt: the Black Flagged Streets. [ London ]: Ken Campbell. 1988.
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