On a first superficial acquaintance this book gives the impression of being a photo book full of grainy black-and-white urban landscapes printed in deep black. Closer inspection reveals that the artist Joan van Barneveld paints with acrylic on canvas as well as being a screenprinter and photographer: here we have some series of paintings of shadows on pavements, a section of photographs of an abandoned attic room, a series of deep black paintings in which, when you look long enough, an after-image in blue appears, and some desolate landscape screenprints entitled Postcards from the Edge.
The book’s designer Geoffrey Brusatto has endowed it with the same kind of alienating atmosphere by placing the four series of works in sequences containing a great deal of unevenly distributed blank space, with no further captions, and by treating the explanatory texts as separate reading sections. Van Barneveld is interested in the culture of pop and grunge and according to the texts is working on amor vacui, i.e. the love of empty space, the sublime contrasted with the mundane, and the desire to disappear. Even without this explanation the book succeeds in expressing these uneasy concepts. The panel had difficulty deciding how to approach this contrary book and offered contradictory arguments in its assessment, but at the same time felt a sense of excitement when contemplating its idiosyncratic design, the intractable character of the work – consistently extended to the ordering, the decision to use uncoated paper, the beautiful grey and black-in-black printing, and the remarkable arrangement of text and image.