c.c. What were the first pieces that you made?
g.d. The MAPPEMONDE. I had found out that the seperate bits of marbled paper were not individually stuck down but had been arrived at by the paper being masked out in stages and the patterns built up, all lying flat and integral to the support sheet of paper. Coming from a background of printmaking I could immediately see ways of doing it. Image-wise I came up with the globe image because it was made up from lots of facets that would demonstrate the technique well, and because one of the earliest images of marbled paper to arrive in England was of a globe in an Album Amicoram 39 presumably brought back by a 17th century european traveller from Istanbul. A side reason was because I had always admired Uccello’s analytical drawing of a chalice in the Ufficci museum in Florence, I chose that for the same reasons, the revealing facets. Because it was a loaded image and very pretty everybody liked it. I gave it to Rose Issa who, more than anybody understood my work and has been a fantastic encouragement.
c.c. So are the beginings of marbling to be found in the Ottoman Empire?
g.d. No, for a show that I did in a museum in France in 1990 40. I commissioned a history of marbling to be written for the catalogue 41. According to Professor Yuan K. Yeoung, the origins of marbling can be traced back to 8th century China where it was known as liu sha chien – floating sand paper. From there it spread west like so many other important skills such as papermaking, ink and printing, the compass, gunpowder. And to Japan where it got stuck and didn’t develop. So if you look into the history of the subject you see that it has lingered and been influenced by so many fascinating cultures. Chinese, Japanese, Central Asian, Persian, Indian, Turkish, the whole gamut of places that had always interested me.
c.c. Did these different cultures use marbling differently, what was it’s function?
g.d. The technique spread westwards, picking up a varied history en route.. Also like other crafts that were the province of families and guilds it was shrouded in mystery through fear of the secret, the method, being imitated and the patronage lost. It was an adaptable technique its basic function was to package something, present its contents to its public?. The malleability of the technique allowed it to be used in a wide variety of applications and a diverse range of styles. In Japan it underlay official edicts and poems to deter tampering with a specific text, just like in modern day cheques. In India, Southern India, with her textile printing tradition and trading links with other countries it was presented as a technical curiousity. In Persia it was pretty, in Turkey it became associated with the flower motif, possibly because of the anagram link lalah – allah.
c.c. Lalah meaning?
c.c. And from Turkey how did it come to Europe?
g.d. Via Venice, also along North Africa. Expolding once it got under way in Europe, decorating the volumes of the fabulous libraries of competing colonial monarchs. Sombre during the French revolution, lurid for the Romantics; eventually becoming mechanised by the Germans and, each sheet no longer being unique, it lost its allure and became the cliche that you know it by.
c.c. But revived by you. And others?
g.d. There have been many resurrections, but there is a problem. If you are interested in technique the big danger is that you can hide behind it and let it take any flak directed towards your work, set up a mystique about it that inhibits criticism.
c.c. I have never thought of you as a craftsman.
g.d. Neither have I, but it has been a problem, how my work has been perceived.
c.c. How come?
g.d. Well, it is an unhappy mixture of craftsmanship and scholarship; it doesn’t stun the craft world because I try out lots of different techniques and consequently never become a living treasure at one of them and the scholars wince because the research is half-cocked.
39 Now at the British Library. Olga Hirsch coll. B3
40 Marbrure Integral. Bibliotheque Municipale, Rennes, France. Feb 1990
41 Histoire de la Marbrure M-A Doizy 1996