An exhibition that explores storytelling and a shared fascination with books and the literary world in contemporary art, Telling Tales opens at the Glen Eira City Council Gallery on Friday 11 June as part of the 2021 Storytelling Festival.
Each artist plays with a range of associations intrinsic to books – reading, knowledge, libraries, transformation, history, personal and collective memory, through painting, book sculptures, photography, video, collage and altered books.
Curated by Diane Soumilas, Artists featured in Telling Tales include Chris Bond; Penelope Davis; Prudence Flint; Nicholas Jones; Victoria Reichelt; Tai Snaith; Charlie Sofo; and Deborah Walker.
Chris Bond’s fascination with the book form is evident in his meticulous paintings where he uses fiction and illusion in order to explore knowledge, meaning, language, authenticity, perception and authorship. Challenging existing systems of meaning, Bond creates a new language with his detailed replicas of imagined library books, magazines and exhibition catalogues.
The Fiction-non-fiction series by artist Penelope Davis are luminous, richly coloured photographic images of book spines produced without a camera. Focusing on cloth or leather-bound embossed books, Davis explores diverse associations common to books and photography, highlighting collective and personal memory.
Through a process of moulding and casting book spines in clear resin, the transparent copies are placed on photographic paper, then exposed to coloured light to create photograms.
Award winning artist, Prudence Flint paints mainly female figures in psychologically charged environments, surrounded by expanses of light and colour. The paintings in this exhibition are embedded with references to literature, reading and storytelling.
She says of her work, “My paintings do tell a story. Like in a dream, the significance of the story can take time to reveal itself. Sometimes I look back on an older painting and suddenly understand the story and why I was compelled to make the painting as it was. Reading fiction and writing a journal are important parts of my work to coax my inner life into a conversation.”
Book sculptor, Nicholas Jones is celebrated for transforming discarded books into poetic works of art, exploring ideas around literature, history, storytelling, recycling and collecting. Jones is intrigued by the history of the books, their covers, written content and the way they are read.
He invests a new life for these books through a transformative process of carefully carving intricate layers into the book covers, and cutting, tearing, and sewing book leaves, resulting in altered books and sculptures where new stories and histories emerge.
Gold Coast-based artist Victoria Reichelt is renowned for her impressive photo-realistic paintings, where books, libraries and archives are a source of fascination. The paintings in the exhibition reference the impact or threat of 21st century digital technology on books, magazines and printed matter and how books are in danger of becoming obsolete or redundant.
Reichelt places animals within library environments in order to address concerns around the uncertain future of printed books and changing role of libraries in this digital world.
Tai Snaith is an artist and writer with a broad practice ranging from painting and ceramics to curating, conducting conversations and broadcasting. Books are a rich source of inspiration for her work.
She incorporates books or book covers about women’s art, history, feminism, cinema history, old art magazines, and natural history into her creative practice, playfully combining collage elements and fragments of porcelain, gouache or watercolour onto hard cover and soft cover books.
This act of making is combined with a passion for telling stories, a long-term love of books, libraries and the nature of collecting. Through this assemblage process, Snaith creates works which are embedded with personal meaning, and symbols, often paying homage to female artists and writers.
Charlie Sofo is a Melbourne based artist who works across a range of mediums – video, sculpture, drawing and performance. His video, Library 2019 draws the viewer into a playful and hypnotic scene, where in each frame, the repetitive action of a hand removes a volume from a different bookshelf in the University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library.
Our focus is on the space left behind on the bookshelf as the books are removed and the repetitive action or movements of the books alludes to a greater poetic significance.
Deborah Walker’s paintings contain references to reading and literature and a dreamlike undercurrent, invoking an enigmatic presence that offers a truth beyond simple language. Walker’s imagery is framed around a personal narrative, one that examines the female experience, but it is important to recognise that she does not envision people and events as fixed entities in a measurable world.
Rather that these figures can be seen as things entwined in mysteries, ones that are seemingly resistant to be fully understood. While the ultimate truth of these chronicles may be unknowable, her enigmatic imagery offers a unifying vision of enduring solace.
Glen Eira City Council Gallery, Corner Glen Eira and Hawthorn Roads, Caulfield
Exhibition: 11 June – 18 July 2021
For more information, visit: www.gleneira.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Charlie Sofo, Library, 2019. Digital video 0:53 mins – courtesy of the artist and Darren Knight Gallery