The Use of Gold in Contemporary Artists' Books
: Continuing the Traditions of using Gold or Golden Materials in the Book

  • Jane Savage

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This practice-based research project asks, what happens when we take the tradition of using gold or golden material as a powerfully communicative material in the book, and continue its use in the contemporary artist’s book?
The research draws together two contextual lenses. The first will explore and explain the definitions of contemporary artists’ books and focus on areas of current artist’s book practice within which my work is situated. The second will identify the qualities of gold appropriate for the making of book artefacts, and explore the use of gold in historical illuminated manuscripts examining how this tradition can be revisited in the contemporary context of artists’ books. In so doing, this study recommends a broadening of the term ‘artist’s book’ to make connections with and include historical illuminated manuscripts.
This research is presented as a connective exegesis which can benefit future practice researchers by providing a detailed example, as well as an explanation of how a range of modes of practice constitute research and contribute to the development of new knowledge. Interacting methods such as reflective journaling, iterative making, the writing of artist’s statements and exhibiting are used to address three central questions within artist’s book practice. These research questions concern materials, volume, and process, for the purpose of developing the auratic qualities of book-work towards creating a response of wonder.
First, the research aims to discover whether different gold-like materials create equal effects in an artist’s book, or whether actual gold is necessary to achieve a greater response, as in historical illuminated manuscripts. Second, the research asks whether the response is affected by the volume of gold used in an artist’s book. Third, the research investigates the different effects of digital and hand-made processes and considers the notion that traditional materials that are applied by hand, such as gold leaf, can affect the aura of an artist’s book.
The practice presented in part-fulfilment of the research includes both experimental and resolved pieces as well as three ‘exemplar book-works’ which demonstrate a range of findings including the communicative potential of gold to surprise and arrest, invite contemplation, dazzle with reflected light, and develop auratic qualities in a contemporary artist’s book. This study takes gold forward from its historical traditions and explores it in new ways in the contemporary artist’s book.
Date of Award9 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJac Batey (Supervisor), Elaine Igoe (Supervisor) & Simone Gumtau (Supervisor)

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