On an earlier book, the eccentric graphic designer and artist (and ‘master forever’) Swip Stolk gave us a picture of himself as Rembrandt. Now he presents himself within an overview of fifty years’ work. However, in this monograph his work in colour appears exclusively in monochrome, because this time he wanted to place the emphasis on his sketches and the design process. The resulting fat sketchbook is beautifully made and the technical execution excellent, with numerous different sorts of paper, some sharp cutout work and a nicely rounded spine. The panel were full of praise for the way the book had been made, judging it a browser’s delight and something anyone would love to own, revealing Stolk’s world and in so doing shedding new light on his highly individual and unique oeuvre.
Over the past ten years Stolk has concentrated largely on ornaments, symbols, characters and a secret alphabet. These are all presented here for our delectation in a range of forms and applications, from jewellery to table bases and cars. The book is intended not as a serious monograph so much as a picture book with a brief introduction and at the back a series of ‘narrative captions’. On the one hand it is still a sketchbook with all the cursory and provisional nature of the genre, on the other its bound form and sheer size endow it with a weightiness appropriate to a celebration of a career spanning half a century. In the detail it is playful and contrary; as a statement it speaks largely of the enjoyment of designing and printing. Even so, at least one member of the panel thought the chosen form too heavy for the sketch-like and light-footed character of the work presented.