• Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

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A collection of extraordinary books inspires brand new art exhibition

A rare collection of unique books at Newcastle’s City Library has inspired a new exhibition produced by twenty-two established and up-and-coming North-East artists.

“Love Big Books” is a series of diverse work that has evolved over the past seven-months from ideas generated by interaction with the library’s Fifth Size Books. The showcase opens on 2nd November 2017 and has been funded by Arts Council England.

The artistic responses to the Fifth Size Books has come from visual artists, writers, performers, dancers and musicians. The majestic artworks will complement their urban cultural setting.

The Fifth Size Books are outsized volumes that few library users know exist. They cover a variety of subject matters and their size alone is what brings them together in their own small corner of the building. These wonderful objects deserve wider appreciation and have provided the inspiration and the context for the artists to make new work.

The contents of the books vary from technical line drawings of Chinese architecture and road bridges, detailed anatomical drawing of horses through to a beautifully illustrated version of Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic masterpiece ‘The Raven’ and colourful plates of Asian carpets that are bursting with colour and life.

And so “Love Big Books” was born!

The emerging artists have been given the chance to work alongside some of the region’s most established practitioners as part of the project’s legacy of learning. The named artists involved were Jo Coupe (artist / sculpture); Alice Fox (artist); Liv Lorent (choreographer and founder of BalletLorent); and Steve Messam (environmental artist).

Councillor Kim McGuinness, Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities, said: “Books are a brilliant source of creativity and when they are combined with a superb modern library space and some of the best artistic talent the region has to offer – you know you’re in for something special!

“Love Big Books cements Newcastle as being a leading player in the art world with a kaleidoscope of work that puts out there a clear message that our artists and venues are competing with the very best.  It’s also refreshing to see how our reference and literary heritage can be put to good use with the creation of a whole new catalogue of work.”

Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “This is a really exciting partnership project with Newcastle City Council that we’re delighted to support through our National Lottery funded Grants for the Arts programme. It shows an innovative and very inspirational way that artists can adapt their creative practice and work in a library space.

“The Love Big Books exhibition gives existing library users the opportunity to rediscover aspects of the building and its collection and will also draw in new visitors to the library.”

Also, environmental artist Steve Messam produced three illuminated inflatables positioned in the library’s plant room and in the general fiction and science fiction sections of the building’s 3rd floor. He then took a series of photographs that will be made into their very own Fifth Size Book.

“Love Big Books” is a free exhibition that runs from 2nd November – 17th November 2017 at City Library, Newcastle [NE1 8AX].

Showcasing visual art, dance, music, textiles, storytelling, film, writing, and lots, lots more!

“Love Big Books” (Fifth Size Books) has its own dedicated website www.fsbaexhibition.wordpress.com

You can learn about the work of Newcastle Libraries and see opening times by visiting the “Leisure, Libraries and Tourism” section of www.newcastle.gov.uk

Two case studies of artists from “Love Big Books”:

Rebecca Rose / Writer and illustrator:

Writer and illustrator Rebecca Rose of Durham has a background in newspaper journalism and feature writing. Rebecca has penned and inked a children’s book for the Fifth Size Book project entitled “The big book Adventure”. The story starts with the characters experiencing a very grey day in Newcastle, then the book introduces colour gradually until it builds up to a rainbow of inspiration in the library.

Rebecca, aged 42, has two children Kate (aged 11) and Hannah (aged 8). Rebecca’s favourite books when growing up were the Brambley Hedge series that she loved for their celebration of the natural environment and changes of the seasons.

Rebecca talks about what first inspired her work for “Love Big Books”. She said: “When I first saw the books [fifth size] I was really inspired by the fact they were hidden away and obviously hadn’t been looked at or used for some time. I’ve always liked the idea that books are a doorway into another world they take us to another space.

“I have been a writer all of my life so my first instinct was to write a children’s picture book, which I’ve produced in rhyme. I’d not painted for a really long time but I felt really motivated by the images I’d seen to pick up a paint brush again. The City Library is such a lovely space so light and airy. I love the fact when you come here you see all of the families using the library and I really wanted to capture that in my book.”

The fourteen illustrations from the book will be on show during the exhibition and the children’s picture book can also be borrowed from the library or purchased as an eBook.

Alice Fox / Artist:

Artist Alice Fox talks about the visual artwork that she has produced for the exhibition. “The Unknown Book” is an installation piece that looks at textures and marks. It consists of a series of small books that come together exploring the qualities of the Fifth Size Books.

The Unknown Book is made of paper – both new paper and discarded books, magazines and papers from the library. These have been formed into the book structures and then stained, printed, stamped, crumpled, folded and marked.

Alice, aged 41 lives in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. She said: “There was a particular book amongst the Fifth Size collection that grabbed me. It’s a really old book that is falling apart with its spine exposed showing the stitching.  The most amazing object! It’s tied up with string so I’ve no idea what its contents are. But it was its physical qualities that interested me. My work has explored the mismatched sections of book, which are all bound together.

“The small book forms that I’ve made will come together in a block that sits on the library shelves being intriguing and full of detail.”

Alice talks about the importance of people’s local libraries. Alice added: “It is clear there is so much potential for people from all parts of the community to learn, be inspired and gain support through the libraries and all that goes on in them.”

By Emily