We are pleased to present ‘Bookworks’, an exhibition of contemporary artworks inspired by the world of books and publishing featuring seven contemporary artists: El Gato Chimney, Guy Laramee, Guillermo Martin Bermejo, Claire Partington, Cheri Smith, Russell Webb, and Aron Wiesenfeld.
El Gato Chimney’s new paintings delve into the Japanese Hyakki Yagyō, the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, a Bosch-like world of fantastical animals unleashing pandemonium. He paints his scenes into concertina books both as a nod to antique Asian woodcut albums, and also as a means of articulating the parade in book format, opening and expanding to reveal a riot of colourful fauna in a procession of mischief and chaos.
Guy Laramee’s sculptures reshape old dictionaries and encyclopedias to create magical dreamlike mountain scenes. Pages echo sedimentary layers; cuts into the book transform the compact objects into a giant crevasse. Guy’s interventions in the book as an object and the landscapes he creates articulate how these publications, their sense of order and their knowledge, are a kind of terraforming for the mind, and underline how such knowledge underpins imagination.
Guillermo Martin Bermejo’s drawings depict characters from literary and art history as if they were part of the artist’s own romantic story. He draws onto pages and covers of old books as if to salvage the stories within, creating sensitive scenes in pencil as a form of autobiographical fiction to describe the emotional worlds that literature engenders for its readers. Amongst a group of drawings, this exhibition features three book works inspired by the French writer Patrick Modiano.
Claire Partington’s ceramic figures use imagery from the past to articulate the present. Here a woman wields a machete after decapitating the artist and publisher Lucas Cranach. Cranach worked with Martin Luther in the publication of early bibles, making his paintings of naked women even more jarring by contemporary standards. Claire taps the long tradition of female violence in art to wrestle the power away from the male artist and publisher.
Cheri Smith’s paintings are inspired by the eccentricity of the natural world and of how animals are classified in natural history catalogues. Often painting onto old book covers, her paintings present animals as both curious specimens and imaginative motifs with which she interacts in fantastical scenes. Animals become dreamlike companions – ghostlike dogs an inflatable crocodile – cut free of their formal classification to become guides in an imaginary otherworld.
Russell Webb’s sculptures look at the book as an object and present it in unexpected humorous ways. One reworks Erasmus’s ‘Praise of Folly’ as a sculpture that is also a self portrait. Another recreates a vintage self-help manual ‘I wish I could paint’ in marble, while a third presents a mystical religious publication as an empty simulacrum. All use humour to touch on the grand aspirations of books, tempered by a strong dose of pathos.
Aron Wiesenfeld’s paintings describe the introspective experience of reading, an imaginative space at the same time private and expansive. One work here depicts a figure reading in an autumnal forest as if under diverse imaginative spells, while the accompanying painting sees a floating figure approach a version of itself above a forest in the rain. Both capture the magic of the fictional space as articulated through stories.
‘Bookworks’ opens on Thursday 5 May, 6:30-8:30pm. For more details and to register for the PDF preview catalogue please contact the gallery.