We Wonder

Marian Bantjes’ first monograph is a refreshingly honest visual history of the last ten years of her work as a graphic artist

Marian Bantjes’ first monograph is a refreshingly honest visual history of the last ten years of her work as a graphic artist…

It’s a bold decision to title a collection of your life’s work to date with what could be taken as a dismissive criticism of it.

But calling her new book Pretty Pictures, as suggested by the designer Rick Valicenti, captures perfectly the character of Marian Bantjes, who has both the confidence and wit to confront the slight head on – in shiny mirrored silver cover stock.

While Bantjes’ last book, I Wonder, was a treatise on the subjects of wonderment, ornamentation and memory, via her own design philosophy, this new publication contains just about all the work she has made during 2003-2012.

It is chock-full of it – set out chronologically, covering everything from posters, magazines, installations, lettering, patterns and personal projects, even sketch work and rejected designs.

And rather than label simple captions to each project, bolstered with a brief chapter opener here and there, Bantjes has instead written in detail about each and every piece in the book; as if turning them over again to rediscover what they meant when they were first created, and what they might mean now.

Bantjes touches on her early creative years, starting out as a typesetter in 1983 before becoming a graphic designer a decade later, but it’s her most recent body of work, where she looks out for projects that she really wants to do as a graphic artist, which shows her distinctive approach to pattern, colour, lettering and wordplay really taking off.

As Rick Poynor suggests in his foreword, her career has been unique because of these two stages – and it is the later years of making work in everything from Illustrator, to pen and pencil; or ‘illuminating’ projects with gerbera petals, feathers, coral, even sugar, that gets its due here.

Just as the metallic cover reveals a surprise underneath, Bantjes’ book offers up plenty of her thinking behind how and why she does what she does. She has said the book is partly a way of explaining the processes that led to the work she is often asked about; so that she can move on.

While she does that, it would be wise to enjoy the fruits of her last ten years in the pages of this beautifully produced, highly personal book.

Pretty Pictures is published by Thames & Hudson; £42, thamesandhudson.com. More of Bantjes’ work at bantjes.com, @bantjes.

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