Wudewasa: Matthew Cowan is a solo artist publication based on a project artist Matthew Cowan worked on in Braunschweig, Germany. The artist was interested in incorporating a slightly pop/folk aesthetic into the design, while allowing enough space to let the images speak for themselves. A challenge of the project was to acknowledge the historical references in the work while creating a contemporary design. This publication is aimed at a contemporary art audience.
A Wudewasa is a European mythical wild man. Cowan’s work is based in European folk ritual and is aesthetically reminiscent of 1960s-1970s medievalist folk revival. The typeface Columbus (Hermann Ihlenburg, 1892) immediately suggested itself as an iconic typeface associated with this aesthetic. The very human, playful form of Columbus echoes the quirky humour inherent in Cowan’s work. Cowan’s Flowerbeard images have a significant presence in the book, therefore when selecting a display face a slightly ‘flowery’ typeface was a strong conceptual fit.
Initially the versions of Columbus available commercially were disappointing. However research revealed that Thomas Phinney had been developing a gorgeous revival of Columbus called Cristoforo. He kindly allowed the licensing of a pre-release version of Cristoforo for this publication.
The whimsicality and historicism of Cristoforo is balanced by setting body text in Calibre by KLIM, a contemporary sans serif that complements the clean layout and anchors the design in the present.
As the Flowerbeard cover image is strong, the removal of extraneous elements allows for a clear uncluttered cover, the image speaking for itself. The title is set large on the back cover, acting almost as a second cover and allowing the detail of the type to shine.
The Flowerbeard series of images presented a challenge – how to place landscape format images with a central figure on a portrait format spread. To resolve this, figures are aligned centrally on pages, with images at full bleed. Images often flow over the gutter onto the opposite page, the crop structured by an underlying grid. This gives images equal weight while allowing a sense of pace and variety as the reader moves through the book. Costume works are presented as studio portraits, each on it’s own page. Figures that form a paired artwork sit on double page spreads. These works, along with film and installation images, are printed on LuxoArt Samt, a paper that allows a flat matte finish without sacrificing intensity of colour or detail.
The German and English texts were run on tactile Munken Print White with a sunny Pantone yellow base. The essay and conversation were differentiated using typographic layout. Examples of Cowan’s previous work are situated in this section as contextual images.
The vibrant diagonally striped endpapers are details drawn from the work Equinox Men (Spring and Autumn), figures that in the costume section stand mirrored across double pages. The placement on front and back endpapers echoes the relational placement of the figures on these pages. In a subtle playful detail the headband of the binding is also in the same red/yellow stripe.