Title: Songs of Innocence and of Experience: a Study Guide

Author: Rick Pushinsky

Publisher: Sternthal Books, Inc.

Date of publication: 2016

Number of pages: 72 pages

Dimensions: 23.8 x 22.3 cm

Graphic design: Bernd Grether

Cover/binding: Hardback

ISBN: 978-0-9921337-9-5

Price: £28

I've been waiting since last year to check out Rick Pushinsky's new body of work Songs of Innocence and of Experience: a Study Guide as a finished book. And finally this week I found it in my letterbox. 

Since I first became aware of his work, I felt there was something really enticing about it. I think it could simply be its way of existing. I did not fall in love with any one particular image, but rather with the full body of work and its construction. The work is neat and clean, and the idea behind it pretty simple. Songs of Innocence and of Experience: a Study Guide is a response to William Blake’s 1789 illustrated collection of poems. Taking as a starting point Francis Gilbert’s study guide on Blake’s work, Rick constructs an imaginary visualisation that refers directly to excerpts from the text. 

But there is nothing didactic in it; Rick keeps his mind free from direct allusions, and shoots images that keep us bound to a British scenario, but with a delicate and a sensitive way of looking at it. I appreciate the honesty of this work – ordinary things, common people – which, just as with Blake’s poetry, speaks about spiritual and political ideas.

The visual language ranges between staged portraits, still life and landscapes; everything in square format. That, perhaps, is the only decision that does not convince me completely, but it does help to keep the eye of the observer focused on the book as a whole. Pastel and calm colours give a dreamy effect overall. Even the cover, a sage green shade, introduces us to this quiet journey.

I asked Rick what is his personal connection to Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he answered: “I attended a lecture when I was 18 by a lady called Kathleen Raine who was a poet, critic and Blake scholar. It was about Blake’s idea that London could become the new Jerusalem, that it could be transformed through the imagination of the people living there. I was fascinated by his idea that paradise could be created in the mind. As a response I wanted to make pictures of ordinary things transformed through photography and the imagination.”

For once, I think that the choice of not putting any introductory text inside is the best option; all we have to do is flick through the book looking at the writing by William Blake, and illustrated by Rick Pushinsky.

Buy the book here