Limited Edition Created: FALL 2016
Medium: 71 wood engravings hand printed on 250 gm Rising Stonehenge
100% rag archival paper and comes fully bound in Asahi silk cloth
with a clamshell protective box in Black and Turquoise Asahi cloth.
The book feaatures hand marbled end leaves and bevelled cover boards with
a wood engraving print counter sunk into the cover.
Book size: 6.25" X 7.5" X 1.75" (160 pages printed recto)
Edition size: 28 copies signed and numbered
Price: $1,000.00 USD limited edition
This edition of Images From the Neocerebellum was hand printed in a limited edition of 28 signed and numbered copies. This number is half my age as of Septemeber 16, 2016. Each copy was made by impressing an engraved and inked maple wood block into a sheet of rag paper. I designed and printed the text on my Vandercook SP15 proof press with lead type and polymer plates made by Boxcar Press. The work was completed in the year 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The typefaces employed are Janson for the text body and headings. The paper is 100% archival rag Folio Rising Stonehenge 250 gm.
As you can see in the picture below the black Asahi Bookcloth has a natural moire pattern that is difficult to photograph. The moire pattern moves slightly in the raking light. This cloth was chosen because it is reminiscent of a twlight dream state.
Above: Assembling the title page form for printing.
Above: Maple wood blocks are numbered and arrange in boxes.
Above: Engraving the block with hand tools.
Price: $22.95 CAN trade edition
The Porcupine's Quill edition is typeset in Adobe Jenson. Printed on acid-free Zephyr Antique laid. Smyth sewn into sixteen page signatures with hand-tipped endleaves, front and back.
Dreams Are the Bones of the Psyche
The notion of creating artwork to explore and interpret the unconscious dream state is hardly a novel idea. Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung explored his own unconscious by painting pictures of his dreams in a journal titled The Red Book. Jung believed that the creative imagination materialized through drawing and painting and serving as an excellent medium to record his dream discoveries. “The ‘manifest’ dream picture is the dream itself and contains the whole meaning of the dream”; wrote Jung in The Practical Use of Dream Analysis.
The images I have selected for this book are wood engravings inspired by my own dreams. The engravings created here are part of a much larger collection of dream images I have made over the years from my dream diaries. I first developed an interest in dream imagery as a student in Dr. John M. MacGregor’s lnscape Psychology courses at the Ontario College of Art in the 1980s. An essential part of the course requirement insisted each student keep a daily dream diary. The methodology was simple enough: set an alarm clock in the evening primed to startle you to sudden wakefulness in the morning, then commit to paper immediately whatever dream fragments could be salvaged before they dissipated into the ethers of your mind. For a time I became obsessed with the practice.
Many artists have explored the realms of dream imagery. Visionary artist William Blake, noted the connection between his dreams and his art and believed that he learned how to paint from a series of dreams. The Tate Gallery in London has a pencil sketch by Blake titled The Man Who Taught Blake Painting in His Dreams: The printed image in the Tate is actually a counterproof (a reversed image made by rubbing a clean sheet of paper over the original print). It is a mirror reflection of Blake’s dream. Salvador Dali’s fascination with dreams was inspired by Sigmund Freud’s seminal book The Interpretation of Dreams. Dali deliberately set about trying to create dream photographs, a literal picture of the subconscious. Andre Breton, in his book Manifestoes of Surrealism, suggests that surrealism is an attempt to blend these two contradictory states of being — the dream and reality — into a new, absolute reality called surreality. If indeed dreams are to be understood as a direct link to our unconscious, perhaps it is to be expected that artists will be inclined to analyze and exploit the rich landscapes of the mysterious world of their own dreams.
Above: Engraving on end grain Canadian maple wood.
Jung has said, “My situation is mirrored in my dreams.” this statement summarizes exactly what this book attempts to be — an exploration of my subconscious through my art; my situation through my dreams. When I wake from a dream I first try to order the events and then to distill them into a single image that might represent the characteristics, mood or feeling of the event. These images reflect my search for meaning found through dreams and their symbols in the form of archetypes arising from both the collective unconscious and my own conscious experiences. Since I started to document my dreams I find I often experience a type of lucid dream in which I am uncertain at first if I am awake or asleep. When I am convinced I am dreaming I begin to explore my unconscious world, unwrapping old recurring dreams and working to resolve conflicts between characters representing my foils and foes. I believe that the greatest form of self-discovery is enabled through dreams. Freud remarked that the desires which shape our dreams are not the sort of desires one openly acknowledges, but rather are wanes that are repressed, either because of some painful nature or because they are habitually excluded from conscious reflection while we are awake.
Why do I bother with the effort required to engrave my images onto the endgrain of maple? For me wood is a natural choice for exploring my inner dream world because the technique is so process-oriented that I am provided ample time to reflect on the frozen moment in dream-time I am attempting to capture. Then there is also the metaphoric relationship between the qualities of trees and the dream state and the conscious world. Trees have two distinctly different features: the beautiful foliage and branches that appear above ground, and the tangled searching roots that are hidden underground. The tree, therefore, can be seen as a metaphor for our own experience in the world — the conscious world above ground and the unconscious dream root hidden beneath the soil that is so essential to the prosperity of what flourishes above.
The neocerebellum is the part of the brain that controls fine motor movements such as those required to create the fine white lines I incise into wood with my engraving tools. I engrave my images on the endgrain of planed maple wood blocks. This process is known as wood engraving, as distinct from wood cut, in that the images are carved into the endgrain of the block instead of along the plank. Engraving on the endgrain allows for much finer detail without risking the negative effects of the wood splintering as it is being cut. When the images are printed they appear reversed from what was drawn onto the block. This reminds me of the dream imagery found in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. Alice falls through a mirror into a world of dreams and enchantment. I relish the parallels that I find between my brain’s inner process and the practice of creating original wood engravings. Consider, for example, the way the brain reverses imagery through the lens of our eyes, or, similarly, the way in which our dreams are reflections of our unconscious. Hamlet says, “A dream itself is but a shadow.” These images I’ve engraved are shadows of my past dreams.
The metaphor of the dream and the tree is not a new concept. Other cultures have also used wood as a portal to the dream world. The Cuna, for example, who live on the San Bias Islands off the Atlantic coast of Panama use wooden objects to help eliminate bad dreams. The Cuna believe there are eight levels of reality beneath the surface of the land they inhabit, and that one can descend through the layers (kalus) beneath the ground to discover the meaning of certain dreams. It is interesting to compare the Cuna’s understanding of the steps to the unconscious with our own limited knowledge in which we continue to grapple with such questions as whether meditation is the same as daydreaming and whether a hypnotic trance is the same as sleepwalking. It was this search for the unconscious world within the mind that led to experiments with mind-altering drugs that defined a generation in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a feeble attempt by Western pop culture to appropriate the hallucinogens of indigenous peoples to discover a new reality and perhaps a clearer undemanding of the eternal question ... what is God? Wade Davis in his book One River describes how the people of a South American tribe can speak to God directly when the need arises. They must first ask the shaman to guide them on the journey. The shaman provides a drug concoction that is very potent and causes the subject to become violently ill before being overcome with visions and an epiphany. The question is: are these more correctly to be characterized as dreams or hallucinations, and is there a difference?
The Iroquois believed that dreams contained encrypted messages from one’s soul that must be resolved. The meaning of a dream was carefully analyzed. Each member of the community would be asked for an interpretation or acting out of the dream so that members could comment. The dream-sharing ritual of the Iroquois was a part of their mid-winter dream festival and underscored the importance of dreams to their cultural health. To ignore a dream for an Iroquois was to court bad luck and misfortune.
It is my personal belief that dreams are the bones of the psyche, because it is within dreams that all our understanding of self begins and ends. My own dream diary is a record of the most surreal and visually absurd sequential inner narratives distilled into single images without any annotations. Although the mystery of lucid dream imagery and the more pedestrian waking life may seem not to be related; it is the dreamer himself that is the conscious story in front of the dreaming mind that ties these two aspects of being into a single concept of self. The dream skeleton underpins our waking life as roots anchor and nourish the tree.
George A. Walker
“And since all the same thoughts and conceptions which we have while awake may also come to us in sleep, without any of them being at that time true, I resolve to assume that everything that ever entered into my mind was no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I noticed that whilst I thus wished to think all things false, it was absolutely essential that the ‘I’ who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that this truth “I think therefore I am” was so certain and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that I could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the Philosophy for which I was seeking.”
Rene Descartes (1596–1650) – Discourse on Method (1637)