Book Shopping

I don’t get enough visits the city book stores and I really do make the most of the occasion when I do. Today was one of those occasions. In reality a kid-related event, my two boys were due a reward for a big effort at school this last term, so it was off to the Big Smoke for a couple of country kids. I excused myself from the cinema part of the day – since Transformers really isn’t my cup of tea – and headed off to browse books for nearly 3 hours. Bliss. The result was expensive but like I said this doesn’t happen that often (not including mail order…) so I was splurging. Once I get stuck into school again in ten days time there’ll be time for nothing.

So what came home?

Odd Nerdrum

The big one was a copy of Odd Nerdrum: Paintings, Sketches and Drawings by Richard Vine. I’ve been wanting this book since I read the little book On Kitsch, of which Odd himself was one of the authors.

On Kitsch is a collection of essays and speeches looking at the history of kitsch as well as Odd’s insistence on calling his own work kitsch. Possibly he’s right if the original meaning of “kitsch” is used – a work that’s beautiful or academic in a world that doesn’t value those things. (Unfortunately I can’t review this more completely with quotes and stuff because I’ve loaned my book to a friend. I’ll come back to this when the book comes back because I think it’s important.) I was drawn to the book because some of my work had been criticised as kitsch by a teacher – after reading I can add that I’d be proud if it were!

So on that positive note, I was curious to see what Odd’s paintings were like. I looked around online to get an overview but was left wanting more. So was pleased, when I saw a copy of Odd Nerdrum: Painting, Sketches and Drawings at Borders. I say saw because that was two months ago. I spent an enjoyable hour with it then but didn’t buy on account of the Aus$140 price tag. Books are expensive here but that was extra ouch. Yesterday I went again with the intent of bringing it home if was still there. I just about ran down that elevator…

So what can I say about it. It’s heavy and hardcover with over 400 pages. It is beautifully reproduced. Many of the images flow right to the edge of the page making it feel like it’s all image. And images are what it’s about. There’s not a lot of text and what’s there is readable rather than academic, admitting here that I haven’t read it all yet. Each time I sit with it I start reading and am then drawn to the pictures. Fascinated. I can’t say that I love his subject matter so much as the way he paints. Some pages I turn quickly because I really don’t like what is shown. Obviously that didn’t put me off entirely. I ended up wanting this book so badly because there’s just so much there that is worth looking at.

So is his work kitsch? He can paint that’s for sure. In a manner more akin to the old masters than the modern. There’s narrative too, which could also date it. Narrative, realistic and well crafted. Odd’s premise was that these things are what make a work kitsch. He does all of them well.

Virtual Pose 2

Virtual Pose 2 is a book and CD set promising to be a “virtual life drawing studio”. I have to admit it was an impulse buy at Borders, again ridiculously expensive at $76. I was really hopeful that it would help with life drawing and anatomy – study areas that I’m spending a lot of time on this year. Not the book, I could see that the pictures were too small to work from. Are there any books in the genre that are a decent size? I was hopeful that the CD would be good. In the pages at the back of the book describing installation, the screenshots look promising.

Virtual Pose book

Virtual Pose book pic

And yes, the screen really does look like that – except that’s been cropped – in reality it’s about 14cm (4″) high… and on my screen looks like the screenshot below.

Virtual Pose screenshot

Virtual Pose screenshot

What did I learn? Don’t impulse buy something I can’t look at properly. If I had my time again on this one I’d treat it like an online, sight-unseen, purchase. Read reviews. Get opinions. Gather as much information as possible before committing.

On Shrinkwrapped Books

Strangely, I did apply the “get more info” rule a few hours later at Dymocks bookshop. There, I saw Studio: Australian Painters and Creativity. The cover looked interesting but I couldn’t look at it properly because it was wrapped in plastic. I found a store clerk and asked if it could be opened. Unsure she found someone else to ask. He then checked their computer to see if there was another copy already open. No, this was it. More delay as he then goes to find someone else to ask, clearly I’m being a nuisance… at that point I saw red. With gritted teeth politeness, I said, “Don’t worry about it. There’s another bookshop at the Art Gallery. I’ll go see if they have it.”

The next thing I’ll no doubt get some bookshop emailing me to complain about not being able to return books to the publisher that have been opened and that the internet is killing their trade. To which I’m unsympathetic. One of the advantages that bricks and mortar shops have over the internet for this customer is that I can see more than the cover and make impulse buys based on what I see. There’s no opportunity for me to read reviews and do my research, so I have to base my decision on what I see by looking. I do pay for that privilege – the prices are higher.

Australian Impressionism

My last buy of the day was Australian Impressionism written by Terence Lance. It is brand new on the bookshop shelf and is actually the catalogue for an exhibition recently held at the National Gallery of Victoria.

I saw this book a couple of days ago but didn’t buy then because I wanted to take another look at a book I have called Golden Summers, Heidelberg and Beyond to make sure that I wasn’t doubling up too much. After all, the Heidelberg School pretty much is Australian Impressionism, yes? Alright, I have more to learn. Anyway the decision was that the new book would add something to my library, so it was on my shopping list should I come across a copy.

I had to chuckle to myself when reading the Director’s Foreword:

More than twenty years have passed since the National Gallery of Victoria’s hugely successful Golden Summers exhibition, which delighted audiences around the country through the panoramic view it offered of the art of the Australian Impressionists, justly celebrated as the first truly national School of Art.

Australian Impressionism has been conceived to take up the story again, but this time concentrating on the five key initiators of the movement and limiting the timescale…

So what’s it like? Soft cover, 352 pages, lots of pictures and fairly readable essays. Keeping in mind that I haven’t had a chance to read it properly and I do have a habit of starting to read and getting distracted by the pictures… all I can say is that I’m looking forward to spending some hours with it.


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