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Add to Queue: Anna Gormezano Marks’ art books for seeing

A selection of curated media lists from our global community
words – anna gormezano marks
location – edinburgh, united kingdom

To you from my wiggly coffee table, a mixture of research books, artists’ publications, historical collections and ideas. As a dyslexic, books for me are an intimidating place rarely ventured into in pursuit of relaxation or comfort. A tricky tool, as words and language are pillars to my visual art practice. However, books do provide me with a refuge of sorts; as an observer, I’m unequivocally drawn to image, technology, philosophy and capturing life in motion, in the hope we might understand it better later… So, books are a place for me to go, for a short time, to rummage in someone else’s thoughts, stories and lives, to reemerge with a new understanding of the world and of what I may make of it.

01_The Story of Art without men, Katy Hessel

History is littered with female sized gaps, and filling them is no small feat. Much of womxn’s history is yet to be written, and as a female artist, it is not lost on me that many of my creative influences have been glazed with the shiny efforts of celebrated male artists, philosophers and thinkers. Hessel’s thematically curated book flings its pages open to recalibrate your understanding of western and European art history, presenting narratives and experiences from the female perspective. Firmly on my coffee table, it’s a refreshing dip into recognising the injustices in the stories we know of art history and of the womxn who have observed, nurtured and illustrated our worlds despite the active attempts to stifle them.


02_The Great LIFE Photographers

This collection of photographers have contributed to LIFE magazine since 1883, showcasing playful practices and experimental techniques in often extreme environments, such as war zones. Flick through artists of our age and how they grappled with the rapid – and almost magical – advances in photographic technology, alongside its changing significance at a time when photojournalism was setting the foundation for the information sharing vehicle social media has become today. Telling a story with a single image. A brief description. Captured in real-time. It’s a good way to travel while seated.


03_Creative Britain, Chris Smith

This book, first published in 1998, reflects on the gritty real-life work, societal impacts and importance of cross-sector collaboration and creative activity on our culture and society more widely. If creativity is the currency, why are we perceived as being so dispensable? 

As designers, engineers, writers and artists, we operate in a system where we are encouraged to fall into antiquated, traditional industry structures which promise limited futures for us all. Smith provides us with a comprehensive understanding of the creative sector in the UK, near the turn of the century, evidencing its positive impact on the economy and how integral creativity is to both British culture and to the development of our society. Although it is obvious, this text has a lot of catching up to do – it provides an educational read for anyone leading a creative team or socially led creative project.


04_Ways of seeing, John Berger

“Seeing comes before words,” this book starts before you’ve even prized open the cover. 

Have you thought about the difference between seeing and knowing? I go to this text when I’m stuck, when my eyes are no longer bright with wonder at the world around me. Berger’s words take you on a voyage through our visual history. Debunking classic assumptions, poking your mind, presenting simple theories and practical exercises to shake up your understanding of what’s in front of you. What are you observing? And, most importantly, what can you learn from it?


05_100 Artists’ Manifestos From the Futurists to the Stuckists, Alex Danchev

A staple in my studio for the past 14 years, this book has too often been used as a paper weight. Creating a future, with words. Pinning you deep to the minds of some of the greatest thinkers, creative influencers and leaders. Occasionally taking you to extreme places, this is an example of when words can be revolutionary. Mind altering. Eye opening. And, in between the seriousness and abstraction of the subjects these artists are grappling with, you’ll see the human, the comedian, the performer, the sensitive soul of someone who wants to affect change, and bring the world with them. 


06_Speculatype, Barry Spencer

Beyond the traditional “art” landscape lies architecture, design and amongst other things,  typography. If you are interested in letterforms, language and technology, this book is for you. Spencer introduces us to “experimental typography” and how it distinguishes itself from the speculative design process. This book is full of Spencer’s personal observations on interpretation, perception and the importance of deconstructing our own thinking; taking us through established theories of letterform design, its history and influences as he investigates alternative approaches to creating visual language and ways to harness technology to create it.


07_Robert Longo, Museum of Contemporary Art Nice

One of my favourite catalogues, I picked this up in 2009 after visiting the collection while in Nice, France. It was my first time seeing Longo’s work in person; his drawings really are in a league of their own. Heavily influenced by music and media images, Longo is a producer of film alongside his two dimensional visual work. His powerful, dark, moody depictions induce a quiet stillness which contrasts with politically charged subject matter. Short of being physically in front of his work, the catalogue provides a second best – it is full of lush large scale images, characterised by the intensity of his technique and use of charcoal to depict both natural wonders and the macabre influences of capitalism.


08_Every Day I Pray For Love, Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Museum 

Brought back for me from Japan, this catalogue is one of a couple of Kusama’s works that I own. Bursting at the brim with joy and a euphoric application of colour, pattern and poetry, Kusama’s work has found new relevance in worlds of fashion and technologies today – but her work is far from a gimmick or simply a powerful visual. if you take time to understand her circumstances, you may find that the dots will find you. “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity.”

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