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.
The artist Raymond Hains plays an interesting game with us in his artwork Valises; an installation which comprises a utilitarian metal shelving system stacked with box files, metal Airbus cases and plastic packing crates filled with books and index cards.
British conceptual artist John Latham (1921-2006) is an intriguing artist who frequently worked with books, producing provocative sculptural artworks, works that are attractive from a distance, but uncomfortable and brutal up close.