Before the Beginning, After the End

When does a beginning begin and an ending end? At what point does an ending become a beginning? This artist book explores that in-between space where identity is constantly shifting and all that seemed certain loses form.

”Before the Beginning, After the End” was inspired by the poem “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot and a series of diptychs I created in 2019 and 2020.

The left side of the diptych is made with hand-drawn lines with pen and ink on 24” x 32” paper. The right side is a monoprint on 24” x 32” paper.

Where does each of us begin and end? Are the drops of water in the ocean distinct? In the diptychs I was exploring, abstractly, the paradox of individuality within a united oneness, and the continuum of beginnings and endings. Although my diptychs present two distinct images – presence and absence, beginning and end – they transcend “either/or” to convey “and/both.”

Front cover of the artist book "Before the Beginning and After the End" by Wendy Fernstrum
Cover 1 of ”Before the Beginning, After the End”

In “Before the Beginning, After the End” the line that appears in much of my work takes different forms, with different methods of mark-making. However, it continues to represent the thread that connects us all and the unique strand that we are or the distinct mark we make in the world.

The production of this artist book, like my others, combines multiple printmaking techniques: offset lithography, intaglio and letterpress. I completed most of the printmaking during an artist residency at KKV Grafik in Malmo, Sweden. [During the residency I posted almost daily on my blog about the process. View blog posts > ]

“Before the Beginning, After the End” is a dos-a-dos (two books in one) with the pages folded in a spiral accordion. The paradoxical, twisty-turvy nature of the text and the poem’s exploration of unitive consciousness inspired the book structure.

On one side of the first page is the printed imagery.

The images on this page were printed using an offset lithography press. I hand-rolled the ink onto the plate for each of these circular images, for a total of six layers of ink. The blue-green line connecting each of the circular images was the first layer.

The other side of the page reveals an excerpt from ”Four Quartets.”

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

The text is printed intaglio from a piece of polycarbonate, into which I carved the text.

Here is a view of the dos-a-dos structure, with the two books sharing a back cover. This view exposes the text side of the pages.

This view of the dos-a-dos exposes the image side of the pages.

Back cover of the artist book "Before the Beginning and After the End" by Wendy Fernstrum
Cover 2 of ”Before the Beginning and After the End”

The imagery on the page of the second book is essentially the reverse of the imagery on the page of the first book, with negative space in place of the circular objects. The blue-green line repeats on this page.

For the imagery on this page I combined offset lithography with intaglio. The thin brown lines were all carved by hand into a sheet of polycarbonate.

On the reverse side of the page is another excerpt from ”Four Quartets.”

Or say that the end precedes the beginning and the end and the beginning were always the same before the beginning and after the end.

Offset lithography, intaglio, letterpress printed in an edition of 20
Spiral accordion in a dos-a-dos structure

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