Dr. Robert J. Wallis introductory essay published in new artist monograph, ‘Galdrastafabók’, by Jesse Bransford


Brooklyn-based artist Jesse Bransford’s work has been involved with belief and the visual systems it creates since the 1990s. His monograph ‘A Book of Staves: Galdrastafabók’, has just been published by Fulgur press fine editions. In a series of striking pencil and watercolour drawings, the artist draws upon the Icelandic landscape, mythology, folk magic and magical texts as sources and inspiration.

In his introductory essay to the volume, published in English with a parallel Icelandic translation, ‘I know those spells: Staves for The Sayings of The High One’, Dr. Robert J. Wallis writes:

‘With their clean black lines, unpretentious symmetry of composition and restrained colour palette, the aesthetic effect in the pictures is entrancing, the arithmology sophisticated, the array of possible meanings giddying… One might become lost in their complexity, in a myriad of potential correspondences. And then it is too late, one is ensnared by the magical trap. In his work on the anthropology of art, Alfred Gell proposes that artworks are like traps, their technical sophistication capturing our attention. In turn, traps are like artworks, wonderful in their manufacture yet deadly to caught prey. Furthermore, both artworks and traps have agency beyond their makers, are able to act independently in the world. Bransford’s stave-works unite art and magic to agentic affect’.

The images are further augmented with liberal quotations from Carolyne Larrington’s much lauded translation of the Hávamál from the Poetic Edda.

Bransford’s work is exhibited internationally at venues including The Carnegie Museum of Art, the UCLA Hammer Museum, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center and the CCA Wattis Museum among others. He holds degrees from the New School for Social Research (BA), Parsons School of Design (BFA) and Columbia University (MFA). He is an Associate Professor of Art at New York University and the Chair of the Department of Art and Art Professions.

Artist’s website

Dr. Robert J. Wallis is Professor of Visual Culture and Associate Dean in the School of Communications, Arts and Social Sciences at Richmond. He has published widely on the archaeology and anthropology of art and religion.

Dr. Wallis’ website

A Book of Staves on the Fulgur website.

Citation for Wallis’ introductory essay:

Wallis, R. J. 2018. ‘I know those spells’: Staves for ‘Sayings of the High One’. Introductory essay to artist’s monograph by Jesse Bransford, ‘A Book of Staves: Galdrastafabók’: xv-xxiii. London: Fulgur.