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.
On canvas and in sculptural form Latham layers materials; wires, mesh, plaster, paint all wrestle on canvas – into this mix are thrown books. Latham’s books are hacked at, carved up, coloured (reds, yellows, brown/black) and splayed open, held by the wires which curl round them like tendrills. These rounded, chopped up, tinged pieces of book are meat-like.
These organic colours and shapes look intriguing from a distance, from across the room, but close up, peering at the surface, a violence comes through. And this violence comes from the energy of the layered materials and particularly from the destruction of the books, objects that we are each familiar and intimate with. And this tension and discomfort make the artist’s work particularly powerful.