I am currently making a series of paintings based on bookshelves. Some paintings are portraits of Australian artists and some are random shelves and collections of books, often particularly worn, their tattered jackets reflect their long years and multiple readings. These works are a paradox to paint, as once the books are an image on canvas they are shut forever and can never be read. In a painting they serve a very different purpose from their intended function – they are purely objects like any others, that have histories and narratives of their own, quite separate from the text inside them. Yet we are still drawn to that text and narrative as represented by the painting and underscored by the book jacket illustrations, titles and authors’ names.
When discussing bookshelves in modern day houses, Alan Powers suggests that ‘they represent the extension of a personal world, whether their purpose is the active research of the scholar, the pride possession of the collector or the random acquisitiveness of the curious mind’. (Powers, A. 1999, Living With Books, Octopus Publishing Group, London).