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Words and paint and nightmares – finding new purpose in old books.

Posted in Life & Love, Relationships, Things We Love, and Uncategorized

12My mother is a huge fan of second-hand bookstores. Disappearing into them for hours and hunting down something she’s been wanting to read for ages. She replaced many of my Modesty Blaise books that way – digging through the piles of crispy flour-smelling books, mildewed here and there: to find the titles a cheap friend had pinched from my collection.

I don’t read books on paper any more. My Kindle has replaced them – and it’s been an easy move. Recipe books, yes – I like the textural involvement then. But for the rest: it is a visit to Amazon, a download and a screen. Book, paper, ink, printing techniques – replaced by ‘one click’ purchases.


I’ve been spending some time in the attic recently – seeing what furniture and bits we have to move to McGregor – and found boxes of my favourite books. They’ve been sitting there since I culled my collection when I left NYC.

They’re unlikely to ever be displayed again – but I want to hang onto them – just in case. But the sight of piles and piles of browning books make me a bit blue. Someone told me the other day that in 125 years time no-one alive will remember me. So why bother? That’s a different post. But books do endure … which made me wonder …. “what will become of old books now they have been replaced by pixel?”

book-paintings-4Russian artist Ekaterina Panikanova found an answer. She creates large-scale paintings using open books as her medium.  Manipulating them to explore childhood memory: creating disquieting, almost nightmarish images of her early years, apparently fractured by mental illness (though we don’t know in whom).

book-paintings-1She breaks the images down into pieces, then puts them all back together again – on old books, notebooks and prints from different eras, arranged into an irregular grid of interrupted surfaces. And, though the pieces seem to be interchangeable – they are heavily reliant on one another to create a whole. Much like the experiences and memories that piece together a lifetime.

Then there is the other facet – the book itself is changed, the words have a new and dark dimension. A reinvention – just

(All images copyright Ekaterina Panikanov)

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  1. fransiweinstein

    Incredible! Although there’s nothing I like more than the sight of a well-filled bookcase. :)’

    August 10, 2013
  2. Thanks for sharing this, what an amazing set of images.
    I know kindles mean less dusting, but I can’t imagine myself randomly flicking through pixels in the way I can the pages of books off a shelf.

    August 9, 2013
  3. Beautiful! I’m going to reblog this. I have a page on my blog “Book Art” of some other amazing art made from books. Personally, I prefer bound books to e-readers although I do use them sometimes. Terrific when you’re traveling. I hope we always have the option of choosing from both types of media.

    August 9, 2013
  4. It looks really nice… but poor books! I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Oh yes, I am one of those hopeless romantics that believes books are magical. However, I think the artist manages to transmit some of that magic through her work… thanks for sharing!

    August 9, 2013
  5. silvia

    Sorry darling but I simply can’t give up buying books. It must be this old habit that roots back to Gutenberg days but the charme they hold is impossible to cope with any electronic device (I know I sound like a mummy!)
    Nonetheless Panikanov idea is brilliant. Thanks for sharing

    August 9, 2013
  6. I love the idea of this. When I arrived at the farm I had to sort through a few rooms full of old things that no else had bothered to deal with over the years. Most of it could be classified as junk but there were a few boxes of books dating back to Quentin’s grandparents. The oldest book was from 1908! I didn’t know what to do with them so I made a pile of special ones to keep, mostly children’s classics, and gave a huge box of novels to the old age home in town but the books would even be outdated for them! There were some that I just couldn’t see anyone using again so they went to the compost… It made me sad though.

    August 9, 2013
  7. Doesn`t a collection of bookshelves aligned on a shelf tell so much about it`s owner? I, for one, will be sorry to see that go.
    Thank you for a thought provoking post.

    August 9, 2013
  8. Janet Rörschåch
    Janet Rörschåch

    This is fantastic.

    August 8, 2013

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