Stuart’s beautiful sculptures look as if they have been excavated from the ground. The folded concrete from some building site, the stacked dusty-brown layers from a desert floor.
‘Life in the Folds’ is an installation that seems to be filled with objects from an alien culture. Comprised of video, sculptural objects, works on paper and a publication, the common thread that links these pieces are strange glyphs, which appear to be a form of language.
The installation seems to be a hybrid between a traditional contemporary art exhibition and a museological display, as if we are seeing artefacts from a very different culture than our own.
The glyphs are represented in sculpture, as works on paper and in a newspaper-like publication. Without the newspaper, we might assume that the shapes are pictorial, but the conventions of the publication (from its structure, to its materials and layout), would lead us to believe that they are characters and a form of language.
An artwork like this needs time to sink in, and the pile of publications lying at the entrance to the gallery may be an invitation for us to sit down, paper in hand and immerse ourselves in the work.
If Lai’s work weren’t safely behind glass, one might expect the aroma of baking to fill the gallery. ‘Bread Encyclopedia’, as the name would suggest, is comprised of a series of books, bound in bread. Each volume is lettered and tied with a string, as if ready to carry. And although the work itself dates back to 2008, the books look freshly made.
From a distance Anthony Cairns’ photographs look like small paper negatives suspended between thick panes of glass. The black and white images feature glimpses of cityscapes; fluorescent lights, architectural lines, empty urban spaces. These anonymous-looking places could be backwaters of any major city. The washed-out tones give a hazy feel, as if we are experiencing the city through a dream and image by image we build a picture of a sprawling place.
The scene is like some strange mini-market stacked with objects, that through blurred vision at least, could resemble familiar, everyday goods. Shelves are filled with wrapped packages, bundled objects, rolls tied with strings. Among them are mini footballs, old containers, parts of machinery and even a book.
The Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan uses books as a resource, sketching a copy of every image in a particular book on to one sheet of paper. His source material comprises seemingly image-laden artists monographs or studies.
A couple of years back I came across this beautiful artwork by Brooklyn-based artist Carol Bove as part of an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute. Bove’s artwork was presented alongside that of Italian architect/sculptor Carlo Scarpa (who’s garden was home to Lee Mingwei’s artwork When Beauty Visits).
Liu Ye’s small, flat photo-realistic paintings are of books collected by the artists’ parents during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The books are often theory, text-books or works of literature – some of which (such as Nabokov’s Lolita) have political connotations.
The British Library is a large and colourful artwork by Yinka Shonibare which comprises a huge collection of specially bound reclaimed books covered in vibrant Dutchwax fabric and embossed in gold with the names of notable British figures who were born outside the UK or have non-British ancestry.
Let me start with a caveat: the object of exchange in Lee Mingwei’s artwork isn’t strictly a book, it’s an envelope containing a story. I wanted to discuss it though because the artwork itself is irresistible.