Book art at World Book Fair

Book art at World Book Fair

artistic bend

Artists have long been exploring the interplay between text and form: now, books – with their structure and form, rather than the text – are also drawn into art, expanding the utility of the printed tome.

The genre of art born of such an exploration, book art, is in the city for the first time.

Taking a leaf from international ‘book art’ fairs in Bologna in Italy, Seoul in South Korea, Satu-Mare in Romania and Maslow in Poland, the World Book Fair Feb 4-10 in New Delhi has laid out a book art exhibition to give to books that ‘imaginative edge’, with help from students of the Delhi College of Art.

Five installations designed around the themes of night schools in the capital, which use books as a source of light, recreating the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or as a source of wisdom or a nest to withdraw into, portray the utility of books in social, psychological and spiritual spaces.

“The concept is international. The idea was to make something startlingly different from books,” Kumar Vikram, project in-charge of innovation and research of the National Book Trust says. Kumar, who curated the project, says, “After the Trust decided to introduce the audience in the capital to book art last year, it went to the Delhi Art College to explain the idea.

We told them to loan us six of their best artists, who could conceive book installations on themes we had chosen,” he says.

The College of Art let out six young artists - Sugandha Gaur, Saroj Kumar Das, Daljeet Singh, Rinku Chauhan , Rahul Gautam and Abhijit Saikia.

He says, “The book art show marks the transition of the fair from a bi-annual event to an annual one.” An outdoor installation, ‘Light of Life’, measuring 6x6x17ft, has been attracting attention. A pyramid of books – shaped like a torchbearer – is an imposing feature on the landscape at the fair. Another installation, ‘The Imaginative School Bag’ – a textile and light installation - is an impression of a bag of dreams, which twinkle with glow worms and lights instead of books. The mediums are standard but the techniques vary.

Heavy books are often sculpted by scooping out pages into solid three dimensional forms, special art books with paintings and sketches compiled by artists are bound in designer covers, books are given life with laser projections of characters or arranged in sculptural forms.

Unlike in India, artists in the West are trained to treat books as objects of art. There is even a Centre for Book Art in New York. Since 1974, this institute has been training artists to improvise on books and facilitating communication between book artists and larger spheres of contemporary art through exhibition, literary presentation, classes, writing and collecting.