Jonathan Ellery’s latest publication sees the designer and artist tackle some big themes over five short books – but what’s the connection between garden birds, politics and sexual deviance in the church?
The five volumes have straightforward enough titles – Religious Symbols, London Garden Birds, Numbers, Sexual Predators and Political Symbols – and in each the contents is shown with minimal design intervention.
In the politics volume, for example, there are the logos of several political parties, such as the Christian Democratic Union, the US Republican party and the illustrated symbol for the Black Panther movement.
In Religious Symbols the cross of Saint Peter (an inverted Latin cross often considered an anti-Christian symbol) appears alongside a Buddhist lotus flower, the Mormons sit next the Satanists, and the book ends with the Westboro Baptist Church’s most infamous message of hate.
Two of the books feature photographs: beautiful ones of London Garden Birds in one volume, and Reuters/PA shots of various priests and bishops who complete the Sexual Predators edition. It’s a strange mix, to say the least.
But as in much of Ellery’s art work that he makes outside of the design studio, there is usually connective tissue between seemingly separate things. Here, the links are perhaps more subtle. Is the set a comment on the faith we attach to symbols and rituals, or that we place in things that embody our beliefs?
Symbols are graphic simplifications of much bigger things. Here, the green volume simply ticks through numbers 1-13. They’re just numbers, of course, but for some these, too, can become powerful symbols of both good and bad luck.
Published by Browns Editions, the set comes as a signed edition of 150 (£100). Each 40-page book is accompanied by a screen-printed coloured gel designed by Ellery. The set will launch at Printed Matter in New York on September 20 and will also be available at the New York Art Book Fair the following week (September 26-28). More at printedmatter.org and brownseditions.com.