The James Gleeson oral history collection
James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists
Action man story. Montreal, 1976. An artists' book containing  pp. and title page, with a paper cover, staple bound 1976
Artist's book, planographic
25.4 h x 20.0 w cm
Gift of Tony Twigg, 1980
James Gleeson: I see. Ian, now the problem of presenting your work for you, I think you mentioned to me earlier the actual fact of making it is the important thing. But for us as a museum, we have a commitment to preserving the work and displaying it to best advantage to the public. Now, have you any ideas about how it should be best presented? I’ve got the clear image now that the supporting documentary material is essential to the display of the actual rubbing. Would you suggest that the strips of paper on which the rubbings are made are mounted on a single surface, or they should retain their quality as strips?
Ian Howard: I think probably the strips method is best. It’s certainly best for convenience. When I’m hanging a show it makes it much easier. But more significantly it’s probably a better way to do it because I myself in fact went through a scaling down of operations, so to speak, in showing work. You know, in my art school days I’d been in to the aluminium frame variety of presentation and then with some of the first rubbings I was still stretching them and putting them on wooden stretchers but of course without frames. But then with the later rubbing pieces I realised that to put them on frames was in fact delineating another shape, which wasn’t really helping the rubbed shape which we’d sort of captured. Now, the actual dimensions of the canvas or the paper, the outer dimensions weren’t relevant. It was just as though this was a big thing which was thrown over the object. The real important shape was the impression itself. So I then in fact discarded the idea of stretchers themselves, and the later works, if they’re canvas, they’re in fact just stapled to a surface, to a wall ideally.
James Gleeson: Yes, yes.
Ian Howard: Now when it comes to the paper pieces there’s something also I think—
James Gleeson: Ours is paper, isn’t it?
Ian Howard: Yes. Yes. There’s something I think very acceptable in the fact that it’s very thin paper. It is in fact fragile by the nature of a round aeroplane, round in all directions, not cylindrical, but spherical. You can only in fact cover it with strips satisfactorily. So that to retain that flimsiness almost is probably indicative of the process anyway. Rather than to bolster it up in some way, it’s probably good to keep it light. But again, of course, you know, I appreciate that it can’t be insubstantial. It’s got to be supported in some way. One of the nicest things that I saw of my works was that it was once displayed in the Musée d’Art Contemporaire in Montreal where in fact a piece was displayed near a doorway which had a slight draught. You had this massive helicopter which in itself—
James Gleeson: Quivering.
Ian Howard: Yes, it was quivering. It was lovely.