Detail of “In Conversation”, sculptural book art by H. Kurzke 2018

Books and writing are magic, utter magic. Just think about it: there’s nothing but paper, possibly bound to form pages; they are smudged in an orderly manner with regular marks: something very material. Or maybe someone holds a screen where some areas light up, and others remain dark in a carefully designed pattern. Readers will examine these marks, — and suddenly they burst into laughter or cry, get angry or enlightened… – and not by the marks as such, but something more and immaterial. Studying these marks is like a magic ritual that conjures up a voice in their head that telling them stories or giving them information. But unlike the writing, which is a physical thing, the process of reading and understanding is abstract, hidden in our brains.

Landscapes I, H. Kurzke 2018

I identify mainly as a book artist. This is a very broad topic, and there are probably as many definitions of what book art is as there are book artists.

A book in this context is for me a piece of artwork that has a topic (so won’t be a blank journal) which is not immediately accessible (has a cover or is boxed in a way, so is not a painting on a wall) and that requires reader interaction to be fully appreciated (pages have to be turned, flaps to be pulled…).

Personally what I strive to achieve in my art is to bring text, imagery, and book form together so that they together form the piece of work, and only all those elements together can give the finished work its whole meaning. Extracting, for example the text from one of my works, would not render it meaningless, of course, but the physical form I chose to give it, the imagery that goes with it, the haptic qualities, all add to the interpretation of the finished artwork, and without them, its meaning is thinner, or distored.

flight-detail, bird feet, artwork by H. Kurzke, 2019
Detail of paper sculpture “Flight”, H. Kurzke 2019

The writing down of ideas and language is a powerful cultural tool, and their permanence in the form of books is marvellous. We are so accustomed to books around us, so used to decode the meaning of the symbols on them that we often overlook their magic. Bringing this magic back into plain view as been the core of all my efforts in the book arts since the very start. This investigation leads me to utilizing illegible, asemic or secret codes in some of my works. Not ultimately to hide something from the reader, but to make them aware of what they usually do automatically.

Absences and a message in a bottle on display during an exhibition in 2018 at Beeston Library, UK

In another, most recent body of work I concentrate on my experiences as a woman in this society. Especially when it comes to pregnancy or the topic of procreation as such, public expectations are very narrow. In “346. A Journey While Staying as Still as Possible”, I examine women’s loss of rights over their own body during pregnancy and the tight prescription of acceptable emotions.
In my ongoing work I have started to utilize paper mache and sculptural aspects to study the topic of miscarriage.

Detail of “346. A Journey While Staying As Still As Possible”, copy 1, H. Kurzke 2017

My Project Message in a Bottle has been an ongoing art project since 2013. I view these filled bottles as pieces of book art in that they have to be handled to discover the contents in writing and imagery. And in putting a piece of work into a small bottle and sending it on its way, reaching out to an unknown finder of the message, leaving it to them to decode and discover the contents, this work combines all the aspects of my work mentioned above.

I have since engaged in several other projects which focus on art outside galleries, and I like to distribute small pieces of art for an unexpectant member of public to find. I like to think that thus I can reach and hopefully delight a different group of people that might not visit a gallery to seek out art on their own accord.

paper mache spheres, 2018 and ongoing