c.c. But the stamp was in Arabic.
g.d. Sure, it was another aspect of trying to take on the mantle, absorb the skills of the originators who themselves connected to other times and trades. And yet to the people I imagined were my audience, this would be appreciated, as was indeed the case when His Highness Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan bought two of the pieces from the London show. This was because he owned the originals, I didn’t know that when I made them because I had worked from old illustrations. He told me that he liked them because it made him look more closely at the originals and re-live the original pleasure. I was amazed that the original picture could so easily re-claim its echo. I liked that magnetism, it linked me to the source. So they were never forgeries although I have seen some at auction, they never fooled those hawk-eyed Persian dealers, in context it’s obviously what they were.
c.c. A pastiche?
g.d. Enough already! I was just working away, following my nose, I can’t help it if Persian dealers aren’t big on post modernist irony. Anvway, it all moved on. I started to combine the marbling with photography in the PHOTO DOMINO series.
c.c. The photo I can see, what’s the domino?
g.d. In France decorated papers were made by dominiters. I read somewhere that it comes from the word for hood 44. They worked in secret, shrouded, veiled. I’d been in North Africa and photographed some diminutive mannequins in the window of a haberdashers. When I got back I printed the image down using the gum bichromate technique where you make up your own light sensitive emulsions and can coat different types of paper. I overmarbled the lengths of different materials that swathed the models. I liked the contrast, I felt that it got back to the fascination of the little Indian picture that I had seen in the V&A. I then went on to do a series of mannequins, making up a family group, but mannequins look so unfriendly. I also made other pieces unconnected to the Indian ideas, RIVER OF BOOKS was one that I liked. I was just enjoying the kick of being able to do it and didn’t need the history crutch.
c.c. But it came to an end?
g.d. Eventually it all fell apart. With craft set-ups you need constant conditions, the right temperature, this and that, otherwise things don’t turn out; remember marbling is a temperamental business, very alchemical. So I decided to pull it all together, sum it all up and make a piece that would stand as a milestone and started casting around for the framework. Walking down Milsom Street 45 one day I saw that Waterstone’s bookshop was having a massive clearance sale. They had just been taken over by W.H. Smith who were selling off surplus stock. For someone who likes books the store was a nightmare. Books were everywhere, in enormous piles all over the floor, without any order. Chaos, unimaginable. I had made a painting in the 70’s based on a Borges story THE LIBRARY OF BABEL, which contains all of the possible combinations of the letters of the alphabet, which are not infinite but might as well be.
Anyway, I stood dumbfounded in the shop reached out and picked up the first volume that looked interesting. From dumbfounded I went straight to ecstatic as I flicked through page after page of geometric forms, a stupendous compendium of late mannerist etchings of the five Platonic solids 46, where even the facets of the facets had facets. I rushed out of the store clutching my prize, to have to queue up and pay would have demeaned the miraculous discovery. Funnily, I met Tim Waterstone at a party last year and knowing that he had already sold the chain, (he was now into baby clothes) I told him the story, thinking it would amuse him; it didn’t, he took a very dim view and told me that the most common book thieves were priests, which I can believe, you feel you have a right to it. I spent two years working in the old Diorama building by Regent’s Park 47 re-drawing the twenty pages, six shapes to a page in thin violet crayon on beautiful paper that had come from the sale of materials after the death of Cockerell48 the most famous English marbler. It has a cockerel watermark and was especially made for marbling.
44 See’ De la Dominoterie a la Marbrure’. M -A Doizy. Art & Metiers du Livre. France 1996
45 The main shopping street of Bath, U.K.
46 The ‘Perspectiva Corporum Regularium’. Vienna 1568
47 Built by Daguerre in the 1830’s to display his spectacular panaramas and scientiffic demonstrations.
48 The sale was on March 27 1990. The business is still in operation