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Hilke Kurzke

I am a book artist, writer and printmaker. Languages and their encoding, and how this relates to culture; what we do not mention, and what we hide in how we speak … all this is endlessly fascinating to me. Taboos and underlying expectations especially with regards to women and motherhood are interesting to me. And I am exploring what makes us see “the other” in a person and how this relates to identity and how we speak about ourselves and these others. I work through books written in plain as well as secret script, with book sculptures and performances, and also by hiding artwork within enclosures that have to be destroyed to find out what’s inside – or maybe to leave intact and never to find out.

My books may have hidden compartments where a perceptive reader can find additional, secret information about what is going on in a story. I have hidden whole pieces of (book) art in libraries and set them free in rivers to be found and uncovered by a stranger.

Written language is a container and medium for thoughts, and it is true magic: When we speak to someone, they hear our words as soundwaves in the air. When we write our words up, we project them through time and space, and can make the reader, not hear, but think our words. As such, writing not only encodes, it also transforms language.

To make this magic more visible, not all of my stories are written in an easy to decode way. Some of my works are written in secret scripts or are totally asemic. In these texts, the sense of meaning remains, and an atmosphere and general gist can still be conveyed – as if talking to a person whose language we don’t share.

Images of birds, feathers and fish are used symbolically in work that deals with the maternal and pregnancy. Birds stand as symbols for freedom and hope, as well as captivity. Fish hint at the watery element and the unborn babies as well as babies in incubators; they also hint at fear and darker elements of psychology, for the unknown, and the dangers that lurk in deep and dark places.

Selected exhibitions 

April- June 2023, “Open Studios Notts: Bringing Artists into View Exhibition”, Beeston Library
April 2023 “m’Other Postcard Show”, Plant and Public Café, what once used to be Loughborough Art College, East Midlands, UK

August – October 2023, m’Other Art Exhibition, Charnwood Museum, Loughborough, UK

October 7th, 2023 – January 20, 2024, “Others”, solo exhibition in outlook gallery MCBA, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Recent, selected Juried and invitational exhibitions and events

September/October 2022, “Excellence in Book Arts” exhibition at Wollaton Library, Nottingham, UK
June/July 2021, “Share Bears”, Backlit Galleries, Nottingham, UK
November/December 2019, The Fronteer Open, exhibition in Sheffield, UK
September 2019 Sheffield’s Book Art Fair, Sheffield, UK

Publications

1000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art, Sandra Salamony and Peter and Donna Thomas, Quarry Books, June 2012
500 handmade books. Volume 2, Julie Chen (Juror), Lark Crafts 2013.
Title page and feature for the UWE Book Arts Newsletter Issue No. 98
Milk Art Journal, Issue “Body & Belonging”, Summer 2023

Absences

The ending is surprising, funny, and a little sad too

The Smiley Oracle

Colourful mini book investigating content and how it relates to the reader

Folklórico

The flowing dresses and swirling colours of folklórico are the main influence of the visuals of the book