This week Peter Nencini, who shared his found-made collection with us in issue #4, has selected his top five books from his bookshelf. As an illustrator and educator at Camberwell College of Arts his selection are informed and are a credit to his canny knack with reference material, his picks come from every which way – birds and bauhaus, occasional work and Wisconsin, the indomitable Yves Klein – with a customary way with words.
Reader’s Digest / AA Book of British Birds Colour plates by Raymond Harris Ching (1977 revised edition)
I was given this as a 10 year-old, at the age when one copies to learn. This book has a sort of restrained, pastoral aspect to the design which was common but forgotten as a minor key at the 70s-end junction between Prog and Punk visual culture. The revelation here was Raymond Harris Ching and his 250-or-so colour illustrations. I was so accustomed to feeding off stock, stuffed, side-ons of native species. Here, depicted was the true oddness of living things, the unfamiliar familiar and the pictorial guts to deny the obvious. A Mallard sleeping, with its bill stuffed back, on one leg. Apparently he painted these in one year at the expense of his health. I’ ve since seen them published, recycled illicitly here and there, never credited. I think they are such definitives that there is an assumption no-one made them.
Wisconsin Death Trip Michael Lesy (1973)
The kind of book that emanates its innards, even when shut. A collection of photographs by Charles Van Schaick of (extra)ordinary life, madness, death in Black River Falls, Wisconsin towards the end of the 19th century, with local news stories of the time. I pulled this book from the RCA library shelves. In its patchy, accidental depth, this library was the pre-Google site for visually motivated mining. I serially renewed this, along with a Ballardian 1980s municipal street furniture catalogue. A frame of mind book, like the right music, to release a making of the right work. Unforgettable images therein: ‘ Horse with Long Mane’ ; a fifteen hands-high nightmare warping of My Little Pony.
The ABC’s of Triangle Circle Square: The Bauhaus and Design Theory Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller (1993)
There are some hefty tomes on the Bauhaus. This thin volume stratches the itch so many feel for the school by focusing on the binding language over the products. For anyone who is concurrently a maker and an educator, it’s essential to find and hold portions of logic that make sense as a single process, where action for one nourishes the other. There is a chapter in here on Friedrich Froebel’ s c. 1850 ‘ Gifts and Occupations’ kindergarten exercises, catalysing my attitude to workshops planned and work made. In the way, too, that this book acknowledges a wonky modernist legacy, it gives courage to those who want to slip Specialism.
Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture Lisa Robertson (2003)
A small book of big ideas. A section of this ‘ shelf’ could be occupied by a number of books which consider objects and spaces as language. This one chosen because it’ s the most recently read, really the find of Marie O’ Connor, who recommended it a few years back. Written by Canadian poet Lisa Robertson; I’ve just heard of another book of her poems based on the BBC shipping forecasts. I’ m not a writer but like to write; and like it when words behave as things; or work in parallel to things in order to explain what things might mean; without suffocating things. She discusses, for example, furniture as a preposition. The Shack as Speech.
Yves Peintures Yves Klein (1954)
This is cheating. The only way I ‘ own’ this book is as a downloaded pdf. But it is treasured all the same, maybe in the way we do-don’t iOwn nowaday publications. I saw the physical (unaffordable, inaccessible) ‘Yves Peintures’ for the first time at Liverpool Tate’ s show on colour a couple of years ago. For me, it’s the perfect artist’s book. Up there with Sol Lewitt. Typographically, formally it’s immaculate. It’ s funny and serious. The colour plates represent nothing except themselves, taking the role of artwork reproductions but actually just tipped-in cheap commercial papers. The wrongness of the colour is the colour. Sidra Stitch called it his ‘ spirit of nothingness’ .