As we start the New Year some of us may or may not have fresh ambitions and initiatives we would like to achieve and often this can include the books we aim to read for the year and as an avid art book reader this is usually on my list of to do’s. This year I am also proud to announce the release of my book ‘Sculpting Colour’ written by Alex Leith,
featuring my sculptures and paintings created over the last 30 years. This is ultimately a biography of my life journey so far, highlighting, how positivity through luck and fortune, can indeed arise out of adversity and is dedicated to my dearest friend Paul Tay.
Having loved art from a child it became an important part of my life and even though when I wanted to study art for A level my teacher said, ‘We’ve humoured you so far, but we are not going to any further. You’ve got to understand that art is for people who are not very clever.’ of course the love was never lost, and even though I eventually trained as a lawyer, art has been a passion from photography, through architecture, sculpture and paintings I am fortunate enough to admit has dominated my life.
The first art book I bought was David Hockney’s, Cameraworks. A spectacularly illustrated book devoted to Hockney’s fascination with photography as well as including details of insightful interviews with Hockney. Hockney said to author Lawrence Weschler,’ All you can do with most ordinary photographs is stare at them—they stare back, blankly—and presently your concentration begins to fade. They stare you down.’ But of course, Hockney’s work is never ordinary, he is more intent in depicting how events capture your eye, using the camera as his ‘drawing tool’. The constant discussions between photographers and artists and their influence upon each other impacts on all artists and the power of photography cannot be denied. When I first left home for university one of the first items, I packed was my camera, which became my very important and continual companion. The recent finalists in ‘Portrait of Britain 2024’ highlighted some very moving works from a selection of our best British photographers where no doubt the power of capturing those instant moments has depicted many stories in these portraits and as Hockney said ‘the best portrait photographs are those that capture in a fraction of a second a period of time that looked as though it had been longer.’
Naturally my bookcase includes artists and sculptors that I love and have influenced my appreciation of art, sculpture and architecture from Hockney and Miotte to Rodin, Bacon, Richter and Alison Wilding. The well thumbed Miotte,’ La Difference’ holds a special place on the shelf but the largest collection probably belongs to Bacon. A favourite being ‘A Retrospective’, where Bacon’s private life and his working methods are passionately highlighted. Even though he was particularly secretive about his private life ‘A Retrospective’ shares much about the genius and as with most artists our understanding of their works can be very much influenced by our knowledge of their private lives. This book gives a great insight into the man whose theory of ‘deeply ordered chaos’ appeals to me and no doubt in my mind, is one of the greatest masters of 20th Century art. So although these are some of my favourites the list for this year of great new art books is strong and will definitely be tempting me.
If you are so inclined, it’s a great time to find new books for 2024 and maybe some of these suggestions may inspire you too.