Les Coleman: An Exhibition of Artist’s Books

Les Coleman: Artists’ Books

7 June – 4 October 2013

Vernon Street Library, Leeds College of Art, Leeds LS2 8PH

Les Coleman 2006. Image copyright/courtesy Charlie Holmes

Les Coleman, who sadly died earlier this year, studied at Leeds College of Art, later teaching there and at Newcastle College of Arts and Technology as well as many universities and art colleges throughout the UK. The breadth of his creative interests is reflected in his studies of comic art, aphorisms, graphic postcards, sculptural interventions and occasional journeys into Dada and Surrealism. He also organised regular exhibitions throughout Europe and North America, frequently collaborating with friends, fellow artists and poets such as Anthony Earnshaw, Pete Ellis, Patrick Hughes, Paul Gravett and Glen Baxter.

In a recent letter, artist Charlie Holmes described his friend and colleague:

“Les was generous both as an artist and as a man.

He gave freely, literally, of his work. Some works were exchanged, some were given gratis, and some lent on a more or less permanent informal arrangement.

This Largesse encompassed a diverse mix of recipients from fellow artists and intimates, to a wider body of friends and acquaintances.

In time these works will all have acquired a personal and unique history, one that Les was the unknowing author of. Drawing a selection of these disparate works and individuals together unearths a single narrative that is unknown, until all the constituent pieces are seen as one.

Many of the Gallery works that Les made involved an inventive and bricoleur approach that was appropriate to his acute eye, his incisive wit.”

Gallery of Books, Les Coleman 2001. Image courtesy/copyright Charlie Holmes 2013

Les’s ephemeral gallery works should be recreated in a future exhibition where space and context will do them justice. The display at Leeds College of Art Library will, meanwhile, focus on his book works. Many of the threads and ideas in Les’s work came together in his artists’ books and related publications, the more recent of which were often self-published through In House Publishing, the imprint he shared with Charlie Holmes.

They include Foo Zap Yow and Now, a catalogue co-produced by Les with his friend and collaborator Paul Gravett for a survey of North American underground and alternative comics. This survey formed part of the pilot version of Comica Festival at the ICA in 2003 and Les’s enthusiasm for cartoons and comic art led to a further exhibition for Comica Festival the following year. A Mini-History of Off-the-Cuff, Handmade Mini-Comics took place at the BookArtBookshop in Shoreditch and for this he produced a catalogue with a blank front cover, inviting artists and cartoonists to fill each copy with their original drawings.

Les’s collections of aphorisms include the series Unthoughts (1991), Unthinking (1993), Unthunk (2002), Thunks (2007) and Afterthunks (2011). His most recent book, aptly titled Another Book, was published shortly before his death in January.

Another Book, Les Coleman 2012. Image courtesy/copyright Charlie Holmes

Through his regular and joyful visits to Leeds College of Art Library, with suggestions of titles that we may like for our collection, we have gained a sub-collection of over 40 of his books, exhibition catalogues, artist’s postcards and journals. Many of these, exhibiting his economical, mischievous and subversive humour, will be on show in the Vernon Street Library.

With very grateful thanks to Charlie Holmes for his kind, sensitive and invaluable help with this exhibition.

Image courtesy/copyright Charlie Holmes

All the titles held in Leeds College of Art’s collection can be found in the Library’s online catalogue.

During August and September there may be times when the exhibition is not accessible. Please call 0113 2028094 for opening times during this period.


    1. Hello Honor,

      Thank you for citing my blog “Artists’ Books: Reading Room” in your interesting piece about comic books and the Les Coleman Collection at LCC. To avoid confusion I should mention that my blog refers to the special collection of artists’ books at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University), which also holds a large collection of Les Coleman’s work including the titles you mention. Les was a student and lecturer at Leeds and the library enjoyed a close relationship with him. On his death in 2013 his family kindly bequeathed a collection of approximately 180 publications to the library. https://rebeccalowe.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/the-les-coleman-bequest


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