watch now

Keir Smith 'Ceres' 1980
Video credit: © the Estate of Keir Smith. Film produced by the Henry Moore Institute Research Library

Ceres (fifteen burnt images) was self-published by Keir Smith (1950-2007) in August 1980 ahead of his 1981 exhibition at the Spectro Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. This artist's book consists of fifteen prints in a cloth covered board folder.

The research for this work took place during an artist residency at Grizedale Arts in 1979-80, where Smith explored the ways in which humans have modified and cultivated the landscape. The title of the work, Ceres, refers to the Roman Goddess of agriculture and the celestial body named after her.

The work opens with a poem, followed by five prints depicting the constellations of the Plough, Leo, Orion, Taurus and Aries. A further ten depict the tools and animals used in early farming: a knife, axe, sickle, hammer, stag, hind, cow, calf, ewe and lamb. Linking astronomy and farming, the book evokes early cultures where the planting, sowing and harvesting of crops was guided by observations of the constellations.

The fifteen images were burnt into thick watercolour paper using a steel stencil pressed onto the paper and are accompanied by two statements: ‘burnt with the fire of distant suns’ and ‘burnt like ancient forests, burnt like stubble in the fields’.

Twenty five copies were produced, of which the Henry Moore Research Library owns number nine. The book forms part of the Library’s Special Collections and can be consulted in the Research Library.