Artists have a long and interesting history with books and the written word, from illuminated manuscripts to those who made books as an artistic endeavor, such as William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. More recently conceptual practices took the form of books with artists choosing the format to create work. The Reading Room however does not look at artists books as a medium – though some of the artists in the exhibition create artists books – rather it brings together a group of artists who are engaged with books, magazines and printed material as sites of research and source material.
Current recipient of the BMW Art Journey, Abigail Reynolds has recently completed a journey, which traced sixteen sites of lost libraries along the route of the Silk Road. A devoted and methodical collector of books the artist utilizes them to make connections; searching for patterns, rhythms and networks of association and meaning. In an ongoing body of work Reynolds brings together particular photographs and plates that are taken from their original context and utilized to new ends.
The Reading Room will include The Wonderful Story of London Editions 1 & 2 1936|1950 from the Universal Now series in which Reynolds splices together photographs of the same London monument taken from the same place by different photographers at different times. Here are 24 works that are taken from the first and second edition of the same book. The intervening years between editions are the years of World War II. The cuts preserve both papers entirely so that there is a complete doubling of two images and times into one new surface. The exhibition will also include new collages which reference libraries.
Gideon Rubin has been painting directly onto newspapers and historical magazine pages, sourced whilst working in Israel and China. More recently he has worked with German magazines from the Weimar Republic and Nazi period. Painting over some photographs and leaving others untouched; blotting out text and leaving some passages intact, Rubin tries to find some general internal code or make sense of the material. Through this work the artist presents a challenge to the viewer – an invitation to view with uncertainty the presumed objectivity of photography and the media. His painterly intrusions serve to undermine their journalistic veracity and bring into question society’s acceptance of their claims to truth.
Sam Dargan is a voracious reader, most notably of important historical moments and political episodes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Imagery for his paintings and drawings are often sourced from newspapers and contemporary accounts of events, as well as from the history of art. Included in the exhibition is a new painting entitled Revolutionary Sweetheart. The painting references the front cover of The Münchner magazine, a German magazine published in the Süddeutsche Verlag since 1950, which featured an illustration of Monika Ertl. Ertl was a radicalised member of the leftist National Liberation Army in Bolivia who is purported to be responsible for the murder of Bolivian colonel Roberto Quintanilla Pereira which was meant to avenge Quintanilla’s involvement in the execution of Che Guevara.
New paintings by young artist Lara Davies are included in the exhibition. The starting point for the paintings are digital images of reproductions of other artist’s work within books. In transplanting the photograph - in an explicitly painterly manner - onto canvas, the artist exaggerates the sense of removal from the original well-known painting, whilst exploring the medium of paint and the process of mark making. As translations of digital images the paintings revere, reinterpret and abstract the original paintings and their authors.
from a distance, by EJ Major is another form of quotation; it uses the artist’s own copy of William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying which she had read and heavily annotated at age seventeen. At this point in her life the artist often found herself unable to articulate and returned repeatedly to Faulkner’s novel. The piece is an attempt to articulate this struggle with language and experience, whilst simultaneously celebrating the power of language to translate experience through narrative. Images from Brownie annuals – both manipulated and restaged – are interspersed so that relationships between image and text play poetically upon the page.
Sam Dargan lives and works in Kent. Dargan graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2002. He was nominated for the John Moores 25 Contemporary Painting Prize and in 2006 won The 16th Mostyn Open, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Wales.
Lara Davies Born in Maesteg, Wales, Davies currently lives and works in Cardiff. In 2010 she was awarded a First Class BSc (Hons) in Mathematics, Operational Research and Statistics from Cardiff University, Wales. Between 2005 - 2006 she attended the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, England.
EJ Major lives and works in Malvern, UK. A recent retrospective spanning the last ten years of work was held at the Forum fur Fotografie in Cologne. Major has also self-published a number of books and has been a member of Artists Book Co-operative since 2011.
Gideon Rubin lives and works in London, he was awarded a Shifting Foundation Grant in 2014. Recent residencies include the Da Wang Centre in China and a Bialik Residency supported by Outset Israel. His first monograph was published in 2015 to coincide with the exhibition at the gallery and his first solo museum show at the Herzliya Museum for Contemporary Art, Israel, touring to the US and China.
Abigail Reynolds gradated from Goldsmiths in 2002 after degrees at Chelsea College of Art and Design and an English Literature degree at Oxford University. She is the current recipient of the Art Basel, BMW Art Journey. Work from the exhibition was included in the Yinchuan Biennial last year.