Anne Graaff, a South African artist, art historian and poet, lives in Paris. She is a painter and maker of artist’s books.  An art historian specializing in outsider art, she has written two books published by Penguin in South Africa under the name Anne Emslie. Her poetry is published in various publications, most recently in an anthology of African poetry, Africa, My Africa (Sun Publishers). Graaff’s collaborative work with musician and composer Christopher Culpo was shown at La Porte Peinte’s Be:e exhibition, and her Fan Books are being shown currently.


Anne Graaff explores the genre of the artist’s book in The Fan Books. As an artist, she likes to alternate between working with the book format and oil painting on canvas. Her books have taken many forms over the years. Sometimes the books are handmade and sometimes she reworks ready-made books. In this recent series, The Fan Books, she has adopted the traditional Asian sketchbook format. Folding out into long horizontal paper-paths, this format presents a progression that can be viewed without interruption, like a continuously flowing river. The idea of art as a form of text is important to her. The book format provides a reminder that the visual artist creates a text to convey relational meaning, much as the writer or the composer does. Some of the current books have a close connection with music. They are created in collaboration with musician Christopher Culpo, providing a visual equivalent to his musical compositions. Others are visual compositions in their own right, visual equivalents of musical scores that could become an impetus for musical interpretation. Other of  The Fan Books have a different origin. They are a form of diary or poem. They are borne of an attempt to capture mood, atmosphere and place through visual mark-making, which is akin to writing but more direct and visceral than conventional language using alphabetic signs. Some of  The Fan Books have written notations on the back, expressing in words as well as in visual mark-making. But the two streams — the visual and the verbal, are kept separate, understood as different but parallel forms of evocation.

Invalid Displayed Gallery

THE BOOK OF POLLEN, a collaboration with Christopher Culpo
In this work, the theme of pollination is explored in a visual and musical dialogue. Allusion is made to the cyclic patterns of nature. The music and the visuals both loop and return to where they start. Real pollen, collected from stamens, is used as a stain in the construction of the art-work. This gives the work a shamanistic element — providing, in the materials employed, an evocation of seasonal fertility. The smearing of the pollen creates movements across the pages reminiscent of the paths of bees in their annual gatherings of the pollens of flowers. The orchestral composition, Chemins Rebroussés, is performed by the Longwood Symphony Orchestra.

FAME IS A BEE, a collaboration with Christopher Culpo
The famous words of the Emily Dickinson poem, here set for soprano and seven instruments, is counterpoised against a collage of mixed-media visuals by artist Anne Graaff. The artwork takes the music and the poem as a loose starting point for the exploration of ideas and mythologies associated with the bee.

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