Our hands keep us in touch – quite literally – with the world. They enable so much of that which makes us human: communication, creativity, comfort and self-care. Think of how we ‘handle’ others, issues, dilemmas and ourselves. Yet our hands in many ways are anonymous. They can be decorated or neglected, but as adjuncts to the rest of the body, mere accessories to the face.
In this remarkable and original book, artist Cally Trench seeks to redress the balance.
105 Artists’ Hands is a series of portraits of the hands of artists, not only demonstrating the palms, backs and fingers for what they are intrinsically, but also for what they represent.
The 105 sets of hands photographed in the book range from those at work to those on display, hands that are at rest to hands engaged in action. Some of the portraits are of hands which are holding objects that might relate to the artist’s purpose or personality – echoing perhaps the use of coded imagery often found in Renaissance painting. Other hands seem as though they are found objects in themselves, without connection to any specific body. They are full of personality but at times almost devoid of movement.
With each photograph comes a text written by its subject, exploring ideas around their hands: what use they are, how well they behave.
Spread throughout the book are poems and short stories, snatches of prose and additional art by the artists whose hands are represented. These, too, explore the power of hands – their reach and identity.
Cally Trench spent two years taking the photographs - visiting artists at their homes and studios, using the opportunity to engage with artists whose work covers a wide range of practice and subject matter. The book itself was brought together in lockdown, and the final set of hands are those of the book’s designer Jane Glennie, a fitting coda.
105 Artists’ Hands is a vivid, thought-provoking work, which challenges us to look at the world anew and to reassess how much our hands are part of us (or we just the extension of them). A book to hold on to.
Victoria Lambert, Education and Careers Editor for the Daily Telegraph and award-winning journalist
105 Artists’ Hands is due for publication in July. Pre-order now.