Les Bicknell: Biographical Notes
Les Bicknell is best known as one of the country's leading Book Artists, bringing a refreshingly unorthodox twist to the paradigm of 'the book' and the related activities of papermaking, printing, typography, folding, binding and rubberstamping. Crafts magazine called his work "an extraordinary and monumental statement about the nature of bookness". Sculptural and tactile, using his own handmade textured paper bound in unorthodox found materials, his book objects explore and celebrate the artist's own environment, "commenting on the interface between art and nature". In recent years Bicknell has also embraced the possibilities offered by computer design and the Internet, but brings to it the same implicit deconstructive criticism he brings to the concept of the handmade book.
Bicknell (b.1963) studied graphic design at the London College of Printing (1982-85), since which time he has consistently exhibited and distributed his book works, both in group exhibitions of contemporary artists' books (including the Bodleian Library, the Barbican, Arnolfini, V & A, the Tate Gallery, the London Institute, Crafts Council and National Touring Exhibitions, and abroad in Germany, Holland, and New York), and in twenty one-person exhibitions including the Nigel Greenwood Gallery (1987), the V & A (1990), Hardware Gallery, London (1995), and the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (1999). In East Anglia , where he lives and works, Bicknell has displayed his work in public art galleries, a youth club, an antenatal clinic, a National Trust house, and a shop window. His book works have been acquired by numerous public and private collections, including the V & A, the Bodleian, the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, New York Public Library, MOMA New York, the Yale Centre for British Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris . Bicknell has equally consistently undertaken residencies in a wide range of contexts, including a household waste disposal site, schools, prisons, libraries, and he has even been artist in residence during the Year of the Artist in his home village of Sibton near Saxmundham in Suffolk.
Over the last fifteen years Bicknell has also moved his practice into the environmental sphere, working in collaboration with other artists and with local communities. This aspect of his work manifests itself in a range of materials and approaches, but always attempts ‘to connect the public to their understanding of place’. In 2000 Bicknell, in collaboration with sculptor Laurence Edwards, and with local residents, was commissioned to make work for the Louth Art Trail to celebrate the fact that the Lincolnshire town finds itself positioned on the Meridian Line. He was also lead artist on the Marriott's Way section of the National Cycle Network in Norfolk, as part of which he designed a large footbridge in Norwich.
"An exploration of the ideas around a sense of place has been at the core of my practice. This could be a personal mapping of my surroundings, working with a Parish Council to celebrate its specialness, or researching the history of a specific space to create appropriate and meaningful pieces of public art. The use of the book form has developed my connection to and understanding of the idea of communication. Current relationships with County Councils on the development of spaces for the public have strengthened my interest in the role of the artist in society."