An avid nature lover, book artist, printmaker and writer, Monica Oppen was awarded a Certificate in Visual Arts from East Sydney Technical College in 1987. The previous year she established her own publishing house, Ant Press, in Redfern. Since graduating from the College of Fine Arts, Sydney, in 1990 Oppen has trained and worked at hand binding, both for her own works of her own as well as other artists’. Although based in Sydney, she willingly works with other artists over long distances within Australia. Her own books and collections can be found in both private and public collections in Australia and overseas.
As well as working as a publisher and bookbinder, Oppen also has experience in producing etchings, lithographs and relief prints (her grandmother, Margaret Arnott also worked in this area, producing print makes, illustrations and original paintings). In 2007 Oppen passion for collecting artists books saw her establish a library called the Bibliotheca Librorum Apud Artificem (The Library for the Artist’s Books). It is open to the public by appointment via the website (www.bibliotheca.org.au).
As for her own art, Oppen often produces works reflecting her interest in ecology, environment and conservation. She often calls upon her readers and viewers to remember life’s roots to the natural world, such as in her highly acclaimed 2007 work, ‘Botanikos’. She has also created many works reflecting her opinions on political, social and gender issues. Her work motivates her readers and viewers to think outside the often limiting framework of the conscious mind, controlled by the ideologies of the past and present society.
In 2011 with Peter Lyssiotis, Oppen curated an exhibition of works selected from her collection. The catalogue to this exhibition The Silent Scream; Political and Social Comment in Books by Artists, features a collection of over 70 artist’s books. Among these are several of her own works and collaborations - including How to Spot a Terrorist (2007), When The Soldiers… (2009), Stabat Mater (2009), and Eyewitness (a 2008 collaboration with Theo Strasser and Lyssiotis). The intention of the exhibition was to look at how artists have engaged with the political and social dramas since the beginning of the 20th century.