Somewhat by default I've become a specialist in book design, producing many artist monographs and group exhibition publications. This came about initally through my work with the Douglas Hyde Gallery, which began publishing in earnest in the late 1990s, and for the Irish Museum of Modern Art which has been a highly prolific publisher, particularly under the directorship of Enrique Juncosa.
In conjunction with gallery director John Hutchinson I devised the original structure and format for the Douglas Hyde Gallery’s highly popular and on-going series of demi-octavo format books, and I produced the first few titles in the series – PATMOS, Home, and Lazy clever doubt. After a hiatus I went on to design approximately 25 books in the series over the years, including special editions Leaves and papers 1-6, and a book on the work of Hilma af Klint.
Having worked with the Irish Museum of Modern Art since 1994, I have designed many major publications for the instituition including monographs for Gerard Byrne, Barry Flanagan, Cecil King, Alice Maher, James McKenna, Shahzia Sikander and Janina Tschäpe. (I also designed the wayfinding system for the museum). The award winning Vertical thoughts which accompanied the 2010 exhibition Morton Feldman and the visual arts' was followed by the landmark publication The Moderns which accompanied the 2011 exhibition of the same name.
I designed the seven volume Boulevard Magenta, an expansive journal edited by Enrique Juncosa and featuring contributors as diverse as Pedro Almodóvar, Matthew Barney, Jessica Craig-Martin, Seamus Heaney, Mark Manders, Brian O'Doherty, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Garrett Phelan, Philippe Parreno, Steve Reich, Richard Serra, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Terry Winters.
Thus, much of my print work has involved working with artists, architects, editors and curators. This is a small studio with a concentrated output – working book by book, carefully considering every decision, monitoring every production detail.
Rather than graphic design as an end in itself, I am interested in ideas, in finding form for ideas, and the best way(s) to communicate them. Formal aspects of design can be compelling, but only genuinely so when they serve the content. (If there's no substance, just make sure it looks good!).
I am tuned in to the particular energies of each project, and to this I add a contemporary language, mindful of tradition and context, but happy to exceed boundaries and territories to the needs of the idea. Practical as well as economic constraints often come into play, but these are useful tools, and they force you to make decisions and commit to an idea.
A book is a visceral and physical object. It smells good. It communicates through its handling, through its page-turning. A book has a dynamic language similar to that of a film, where context, (graphic) language, sequence, editing and movement (page-turning) are forefronted. Paper, ink and binding when carefully blended become embedded with the material and the experience of the book.
The book is the work, the book is not the work. That is to say that while the book may reproduce work(s), these are not the work, only reproductions of the work in a book. In the best books this is understood, and the material serves the book. A good book in turn serves the material.
The best books are collaborative. There are many manners of collaboration - sometimes it's as simple (or as complex) as the commissioner leaving things open for me to do exactly what I think I should do. Sometimes the exchange is much more involved. Sometimes a few conversations along the way, sometimes a misunderstanding. You may set out to do one thing, but the process leads you elsewhere.
Another vital part of the collaboration is with the makers – the pre-press, the printers and the binders. Many of the books I've made have been in collaboration with Marcel Meesters, whose knowledge and committment to excellence is unrivaled.