I fell in love with the Nottebohmzaal in Antwerpen when I visited it for the first time.
The room belongs to the H. Conscience Heritage Library and host one of the oldest book collections.
In the 16th Century , Antwerp played an important role in the printing of books, with the Plantin press playing a central role.
I thought my prints of Heritage building of the harbour could be showed in this particular space and took an appointment with the Director, An Renard. I showed her my harbour views. I was aware I was entering by the back door - as they say in French - as the Nottebohmzaal had been named to thank my great - grand uncle Oscar Nottebohm for his generous gift to the Library.
An Renard was directly enthusiastic about my prints and of knowing that a Nottebohm lived in Antwerp. She was open to the idea and asked for a few days to think.
Back home, I started to look for ideas. Talking with my printmaking teacher, she advised me to have a story to tell.
I did some research to find out that a year and a half later they would celebrate the 75th birthday of the Nottebohmzaal, and also the 10th birthday of the Nottebohm lectures and the 200th birthday of my ancestors moving to Antwerp. An exhibition seemed a good way to celebrate these birthdays. It quickly became obvious that I would make an artist book with the printmaking techniques represented in the library and give one for the Library collection, to thank them for the opportunity.
I just needed a story. The theme - following the footsteps of my family in the town - came also quickly in my mind. And I went for a walk through the city following these steps. The book would be a testimony of this walk.
On the other hand I didn’t want it to be just about me and my family.
A library links stories. We take a book, look for an idea, search the bibliography that brings us to another book. This is what I also wanted. I invited two poet friends from Antwerp to walk in my prints and let them evoke a poem, a memory. I wanted to show how the same place brings different memories. They accepted. It was difficult for them though as it usually is the visual artist that illustrates a poem, and not the opposite. It took them time to understand what I wanted, but once they did, they wrote very different and beautiful poems.
This book is our journey, I chose to entitle Pérégrinations, as they were our wanderings in the city and in our inner world.
The book became the centre of the exhibition Nottebohm Revisited.
Visit the website of the library :
Here are the preparation sketches.
I invite you to follow our wanderings.
Better picture will follow