Bird Watching

Kylie Stillman's Bird Books  

I mostly work with found objects—specifically domestic objects. I like the stories that can be created with them and their own history they bring to the work. My materials are sourced from a variety of thrift shops, stationery and hardware stores; art-loving lawyers are my greatest source of outdated volumes, and digests are rescued from paper recyclers. Second-hand book dealers are always happy to be relieved of unwanted stock. My earliest memories of sourcing books would be visiting book dealers at their homes, loading a small VW Golf with dusty boxes and hoping for no steep hills on the way home.
I began working with books, in particular a series of bird books, after I graduated from art school. I treat the books as sculpting materials and as a means of supporting a three dimensional drawing. The books are selected for their size, as the carvings are true to scale (1:1) they need to accommodate the height and width of the carved form. Individual pages of books and paper stacks are carved with a scalpel to create a hollowed space reserved for a variety of carefully-rendered bird and plant species. The decorative paper stock of the inside page framed the life-sized silhouette and contour of a bird. The book’s text was no longer readable, but it took on a formal role in the work—creating tone that mimicked the absent creature’s marking and plumage.
Contrary to the illustrations in bird-watching manuals, the species in the artwork was not identifiable by its silhouette and size; the distinct shape along with any identifiable features were meticulously marked out; elongated bills, typical stances, length of tail features and crown shapes were represented to create a scale carving in the which the absent bird could fit. The artworks titled after the common name of the species represented, suggesting the name of the creature that was missing from the piece.
The ideas that I work with are not hard to come by, and no specific one is more important than any other. The resulting artwork is the best expression of as many thoughts as possible. In each instance my sculptures are presented with the intention of creating a multiplicity of readings both conceptual and personal. This prompts the viewer to entertain the significance of the absent form and fill the space with ideas from the profound to the pragmatic. Although the more literal definitions of the works do not interest me as much, it is important for the viewer to bring their own associations to the work and for it to hold a multiplicity of readings. The book, once transmitting its message through text, remains a book, now conveying a message visually and of itself. In interpretation the book as object, and no longer a bucket of contents, retains the associations of its former life.
Kylie Stillman is represented by Utopia Art in Sydney Australia. To view more of Kylie’s work, please visit



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