A few years ago I realised I owned too many books. I wanted to cull them but many had sentimental value. I remembered clearly the low-lit second-hand bookshop I’d picked this one up in, another had been given as a gift, and there was that one which travelled the length of Europe in my backpack (albeit unread). The covers themselves seemed to trigger the reminiscing, rather than any clear memory of the plot. I decided to start painting these books so that I’d have a permanent visual record, and then be able to haul them off to the op shop.
Two things happened. Firstly, I discovered I really loved painting the books and didn’t want to stop – it soon grew into a whole body of work. Secondly, painting the books gave them another layer of meaning and it was doubly hard to part with them.
Over the years I’ve made many ‘bookstack’ paintings. Most books I own myself but others I have borrowed to feature in a themed stack. I paint them from life – stacking the books in front of me to create the most pleasing placement and colour combination. I draw a pencil outline first before laying down watercolour glazes. I love capturing the signs of wear in an older book – the dog-earred corners, the creases along the spine, a tiny tear in the jacket. And the lettering is probably my favourite part – I either use a very small brush or a tiny felt-tip archival pen to replicate the words on the spine.
My bookstacks now appear larger than life as a mural on the facade of Blarney Books and Art in Port Fairy and my ‘Melbourne’ stack has been acquired by the City of Melbourne and hangs permanently in the City Library in Flinders Lane. I have had several exhibitions – the latest is my current online show ‘Long Live the Book’ through Banyule City Council. Originally slated to appear in gallery Loft275 in the new Ivanhoe Library and Cultural Hub, like almost everything this year it had to move online, with the happy consequence that I’ve had lovely feedback from people both in Banyule and beyond.
My exhibition finishes this Sunday 8th November. The work can be viewed at Long-Live-the-Book-Exhibition
And in case you were wondering, I still own too many books.
Artist website: jodiwiley.com
Photography by Maria Colaidis