Three new books

by Helen Barker

I recently ordered three new books from Amazon and was delighted to hear the third and final land safely on my doormat this morning. Research is currently like a spider’s web in my world. Every time I see a name, or pick up a notion, another spins itself off into a new loop and I chase after it, like Alice running after the White Rabbit. Which brings me to my first book – the Penguin Classic edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I’ve become quite obsessed with this book – not having read it through – and am determined to spend some time getting to know it. I suspect we have a lot in common. I am specifically interested in the amusement that Carroll seems to derive from making non-sense out of logic, and then trying to pin it down again, as though it were a hat blowing through a leafy park on an autumn day. It seems there is a lot of running involved, and I can identify with this. Spending as I do so much time chasing down my own ideas.

The second book is Painting as Model by Yve-Alain Bois. This book has a wonderful feel to it, quite literally. The pages sit weighty in my hand yet are flexible, and they turn like a swinging pendulum from one side to the other. Including chapters on abstraction, archaeology and totems of modernity, this book beckons me in with a large cup of tea and an empty notebook. I can’t wait to scribble down the thoughts it provokes. I recently read in an interview with R.H. Quaytman, conducted by Paulina Pobocha of Museo Magazine, that this book was her companion for quite some time. And as I sympathise with the concerns behind much of Quaytman’s own practice, I am intrigued to know her theoretical interests. Additionally, this book challenges my ongoing interest in the models that modernism has left contemporary painting to inherit.

My third book, What I loved by Siri Hustvedt, was recommended to me by a friend. As my work plays more and more into the curatorial practice of someone attempting to amass a “collection”, I find myself obsessed by the idea of objects and image as the site of historical, factual and fictional narrative. In this book, so I’m told, the character looks at his life through a collection of items kept in a drawer. Their arrangement provokes various feelings and responses and recalls incidents in his life. It is a conversation about art and ideas, a thriller, a romance…?. Well I’m looking forward to reading it. I chose this book to take me away from the dry sensibility of the animated inanimate – to move me from the realms of the imagined absurdity of Carroll, or the cog-turning criticality of Bois, and into the tender reality of a cast of characters left in the grip of emotion.

So, here’s to three new books, and several new looks….