Elize de Beer

artist, print maker, book binder
Cork, Ireland

AS A LOVER of books, I was delighted to come across the work of Cork-based, South African artist Elize de Beer, who centers her art around words and language.
Yet there is a deeper thread that underlies Elize’s art and work. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, the way Elize views words and language have been central to her art practice. 

As she developed her visual language around her dyslexia, we get an intimate look at how she has learnt to make sense of words and language. I love how her nuanced search for answers has resulted in abstract works of art that combine letters and layers, and how she challenges the notion of readability and the way words are understood. 

“To me, words read like images or layered shapes. I wanted to let others have a glimpse at how I view the world.” 

Elize plays with words in so many different ways in her art. From using Letraset sheets to aquatint etching, she explores the ways in which words overlap and become something totally different from what we would come to expect. 
A book sculpture she created as part of her final exhibition is a strong example of how she has sought to represent her dyslexic experience. With 3200 pages in total, the sculpture contains screenprinted paper with pages of the dictionary where the word dyslexia should exist. The piece titled ‘Words I Don’t Understand’ is a visually striking reminder of the difficulties faced by dyslexics in a mainstream schooling system. 

“I know that I am creating a book that is not only well-designed, but will also stand the test of time.”

As a book lover, Elize taught herself bookbinding, jumping at the chance to do apprenticeships at conservation binderies where she learnt ways to how to repair and care for books. She now runs Bookward Bound Bindery, where she collaborates with fellow artists to create small publications using traditional bookbinding techniques with a contemporary sensibility. 

I love how Elize’s work bears witness to how art can be a way of expressing what we might otherwise struggle to put into words. The intimate nature of her art pieces provides a glimpse into what is it like as she has learnt, and is still learning, to navigate this world. 

Elize de Beer


Visited May 2022, published April 2023.