Jean Johnstone

28 August 1951 –


Jean Johnstone is a Scottish artist who uses etchings, pen & ink drawings, leaf and bark papers, beeswax, silk and linen, to create hand-made, hand-scripted artist’s books. She has made works with many Scottish poets including John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie, John Glenday and Gaelic poet Christopher Whyte as well as Irish poet Michael Longley, American poet Jane Hirshfield and Catalan poet Miquel Desclot. Her latest work is a commission from St Andrews University Library to create a single edition artist’s book as their contribution to the university’s 600 years celebrations.

She has exhibited widely, her etchings having been selected for Visual Arts Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 2001. Her artist's books have featured in exhibitions at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, The Crawford Arts Centre, St Andrews and Edinburgh Printmakers, and internationally at Scotland House, Brussels, and as part of Stavanger European City of Culture 2008.

Solo exhibitions include the StAnza Poetry Festival in 2003 and as the Scottish Poetry Library’s Edinburgh Festival Exhibition in 2004. She has given presentations of her work in Nicaragua at the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada, at the Södermalms Poetry Festival in Sweden and in Italy at the Poetry on the Lake Festival. All of Jean Johnstone's artist's books have been collected by the National Library of Scotland and St Andrews University Library. A selection of her work has also been acquired by The British Library.

"A visual and textual experience quite unlike the usual closed-off displays of books, slowly unfolding the poems to the viewer…allowing the etchings as well as the texts space to reveal their delicate yet suggestive power … behind her craftsmanship and response to the poetry." Robyn Marsack, Director, Scottish Poetry Library.

Jean is an artist taking a unique approach to the interpretation and manifestation of poetry whose work is exclusively created for acquisition by libraries in order to maximise public availability. Her works originate in a life-long fascination with the mystery of creation and complexity of form found in both poetry and the natural world. Through the creation of her books, she adds another resonance to the poets' words, which in turn complement her original images. Both elements work together to draw renewed attention, to add another layer of association; as a focus, ultimately, for meditation.

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