Category Archives: Books

Delightful Grotesque: Katie McCann’s collages

Italy-iconKatie McCann‘s collages portray gracefully odd creatures that could easily fit in a forgotten Victorian fairy tale. They evoke Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Jules Verne‘s sci-fi adventures and Frankenstein all at once.

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The main inspiration behind Katie McCann‘s collages is summarized by a quote from Charles Altamont Doyle (who was the less known father of Arthur Conan Doyle): ‘I have known such a creature…’ In fact McCann‘s art originates from her imaginative – but no less real – response to the natural world. The artist has managed to keep alive her childhood ability to see the extraordinary in apparently ordinary objects and natural elements like butterlies’ and insects’ wings, shells, bones and leaves. As a result, her collages are populated by hybrid figures reminiscent of the fantastical creatures animating children’s literature in the Victorian era. 04a050602
Katie McCann assembles her bizarre characters with fragments cut out from vintage photos and illustrations that she finds in medical, scientific and natural history old books. She meticulously cuts tiny wings from insects, leaves and petals from plants, bones and other anatomical parts from animals and humans, so that her collection of collages resembles a personal and subjective cabinet of curiosities, as if it was a record of her imaginative entomological and anatomical discoveries. 07a09a

McCann‘s fantastical Frankenstein-like animals become specimens collected in a scientific catalogue while her elegant paper dolls stand on bird legs and have lobster claws. The artist often incorporates lace, beads and fabric into her collages. The intricately delicate effect has a tactile three-dimensional quality that makes her figures more ‘grotesque beauties’ than ‘monstrous freaks’. 0809101107
In our contemporary times ‘to be contemporary’ sounds too often like a constraining creative imperative. Luckily, Katie McCann is not afraid of defining herself as old fashioned and of reinterpreting the sense of the grotesque so typical in Victorian art. A ideally contemporary heir of those times, she mixes heterogeneous visual sources, such as nature and fashion, triggering that feeling of sudden surprise arising when the boundaries between strange and beautiful cease to exist. 1213Similarly to Tim Burton‘s films and Edward Carey‘s novels, Katie McCann‘s art retains a timeless poetic quality that comes out of its being dark and hunting and for that same mysterious reason delicate and tender. 1516To discover more of her collages, visit Katie McCann‘s website Beetle Blossom and check her portfolio on Flickr.

Thanks to Katie McCann for the use of the images.

via e MORFES

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In the Land of Punctuation – Tara Books (2)

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For aspiring writers the land of punctuation is often a metaphorical minefield. Recently Indian publishing house Tara Books has released an amazing visual translation of Christian Morgenstern‘s poem In the Land of Punctuation, turning it into a visually compelling tale that restitutes more than the literal meaning. Punctuation_1Beautifully designed by Rathna Ramanathan, the images through which the verses develop are all ‘assembled’ typographically, using only punctuation marks as both independent characters and visual signs forming the elements of the landscape. landofpunctuation_02Written in 1905 by German poet Christian Morgenstern, apparently In the Land of Punctuation is a cute non-sensical nursery rhyme that plays with punctuation marks. They become the living characters engaging in a violent fight against each other and for supremacy. trrops

Defined by its author as a linguistic caprice, the poem is actually a dark satire on the absurdity of intolerance and the pointless but unavoidable violence that comes out of it. Since its beginnings committed with a strong socio-political vision, Tara Books could not miss the occasion for rediscovering this literary gem, translating it into a book to be read both textually and visually. dashesThe making of In the Land of Punctuation has involved a double translation. First Sirish Rao came up with a brand new translation from German to English. Then, designer and illustrator Rathna Ramanathan provided the translation from written language to visual typography. Each page is masterfully animated by the aggressively dynamic actions of the characters. corpsesThe spiral of violence, which is the central thread running through the poem, starts when stops and commas form a belligerent alliance against the semi-colons, seen as parasite owning their existence to them. All the semi-colons are left dead on a bloody battlefield. But violence only results in more violence and the aggressor easily become the aggressed. So, when the blade-like dashes join this civil war in the land of punctuation they direct their hatred against the commas, beheading them. The once commas are reduced to semi-colons corpses adding up to the death field. killerdashesThe design of the book perfectly restitutes the war atmosphere. With its red and black rendition and the dynamism of lines and marks, it is clearly reminiscent of the visual language used by Russian avant-garde in the 1920’s that had in Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky its most famous propaganda work of art. But the original reinterpretation of art does not stop here. There is also a homage to Alexander Calder‘s mobiles in the image presenting the main characters of the story, with the lightly suspended semi-colons still unaware of the lurking tragedy embodied by stops and commas. calder

Tara Books has produced yet another gem to its catalogue, confirming the passion and commitment that has made it a favourite of mine (see my previous post here).

To check more gems from Tara Books please visit their website here.

Thanks to Tara Books for the images.

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Livres en Vie by Jean Marc Godès

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It is not uncommon for art lovers to be also book lovers. This makes artist Jean Marc Godès, who devotes his practice to books, a favourite of mine. With his evocative photographic mises en scène Godès celebrates books not as mere objects but as lively entities organically interacting with the world. His series of poetic images is called Livres en vie (Living Books).

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dryingBorn in Guadalupe but citizen of the world, Godès has focused on the universe of books as a form of homage to both his father – who was a writer – and poet Jacques Prévert. He describes himself as ‘director of still images’. In fact, each scene depicting the living books in action is carefully staged before taking the picture so that no photo-manipulation is involved in the final result. The artist’s tireless work is inspired by the passionate belief in the power of books intended as living organism carrying personal and collective histories.

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waiting meditatingLivres en vie offers us Godès’ many imaginative answers to the question ‘what a book can be and do’…

Books challenge and push us:

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Books hook us:

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Books urge us to slow down against the contemporary myth of a fast-paced life:

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Books uplift our lives while keeping us grounded:

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Books are powerful tools of freedom….escape…because they open up unforeseen new horizons…horizons1

new horizonsnew horizonsa…thus becoming the bricks forming our inner personal paths…bricks new path

bricks…the necessary equipment for our variously adventurous existences…equipment

…and the vital oxygen for imagination. hoxygen1

hoxygenAll of Godès’ mises en scène are pervaded by a sort of magic realism. His photo-poetic celebration of books calls for interpretation. At times they trigger the need to ‘decode’ the situation behind them. shoes

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Other times, they work as the starting point for imaginative associations. And when art meets books, it should not come as surprise if a specific book come to mind. So, the mouse protagonist of some of Godès‘s images reminded me of Firmin, the rat whose life writer Sam Savage has recounted in the eponymous book. Just like for Firmin books became the very things keeping him alive, Godès little mouse can rely on books as shelter, lifesaving tool and ideal nourishment.mouse2mouse3mouse1

To explore more of Jean Marc Godès‘ poetic homages to books, please visit his website here.

All images ©Jean Marc Godès courtesy of the artist

(via Memo Grandi Magazzini Culturali)

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Of leaves, marker drawings and paper dolls: Tang Chiew Ling

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To stumble upon Tang Chiew Ling graceful art is almost a case of serendipity for me, because a few things that recently attracted me combine harmoniously in her work – specifically what an artist can do with leaves (see the work by Hillary Fayle), make up with a few marks on a white background (see the work by Rafael Mantesso)  and some miniaturized paper dolls (see the work by Jorge Miranda).

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I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail – Tara Books (1)

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The illustrated book I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail is an illustrated gem published in 2010 by the amazing Tara Books. To have it on my bookshelves is a powerful reminder of the incredible richness that experiencing a book can offer.

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I am here to stay

here to stayItaly-iconI am aware it does not look like, considering how little I posted in the last year, but I am here – in this blog – to stay. Even if. Even if I need to remind it to myself. Even if I need a big paper installation by Yenn Ang for doing so. Alas, luckily I can always trust the inspirational power of art for going back to my basics!

Of course, meanwhile a few things have happened. Continue reading

Paper and other media: Kristi Malakoff

As an artistic medium, paper is doing very well. Canadian Kristi Malakoff stands out among the artists that have chosen it, thanks to the versatility of her skills. IMG_3272-filteredIMG_3331-filtered Continue reading