‘You are what you read’ said Oscar Wilde.
I don’t read much at the moment but at certain periods in my life I have read and read. There are four authors in my library that stand out as being influential over time:
- Fay Weldon (in the 70s and 80s)
- Margaret Atwood (90s and 00s)
- David Mitchell (00s)
- Haruki Murakami (90s to now)
Here’s a short thought about why I have read and read these particular authors. Apart from the fact that each author employs unique narrative structures and appeals to me visually, even filmically—many of their works are dystopian [definition: fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world.’] Their surreal spin on the world sparks my imagination.
I’m not reading at the moment—sadly, no need—dystopian society no longer needs to be imagined, just negotiated and somehow lived.
Gems in my reference library
But this post is really about the heroes of my library that I have used for inspiration for art, design and art direction since college days—the art and reference books that I return to again and again. The books that offer up something new at every glimpse. The books that soothe my scanner’s itch.
Here are four of my favourites:
J.G. Heck The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration 1851 (Plate 7 Various Planetary systems)
This treasured tome has engravings illustrating mathematical, scientific, botanical, geographic, architectural and technological features known and recorded pre-modernism.
Japanese Design Motifs 1972 (front cover)
I love the abstraction of (predominantly) natural forms and the roundel in these family crests. I adopted the kikyōmon as part of my signature on art and craft works after our Japanese friend and guide, Ota-San said it would be OK to use it. The kikyō or balloon flower has personal significance for me.
Barbara Radice Memphis 1985
Memphis ideas, style and design was the 80s for me. What was not to love about the practice of using sign systems, styles, colours and decorative surfaces without concern for coherence or function? Apparently Memphis is having a bit of a resurgence.
Alexander Wied Bruegel 1980
The enigma that is Pieter Bruegel continues to fascinate me. His paintings are loaded with movement, fine detail and quirky surprises. Look into the crowded landscapes; read the genre narrative with allegorical meaning; acknowledge the minutiae of his time and culture, and be suspicious of the representation of utopia.
Which brings us back to dystopia. While Rome burns I’m making pretty pictures.
My SPIN exhibition opens 2 May 2019 at Creative Space Curl Curl. This is a joint exhibition with ICONIC by Michelle Arnott.