Books have universally been used to represent knowledge and learning, so we explore artists in the exhibition who have chosen to depict subjects reading.

Kayoon Anderson Studio Scene Oil 88 x 63 cm £2,000

Firstly, in Studio Scene by Kayoon Anderson, she has created a self-portrait in which she is engrossed in a book. Kayoon writes:

"This is a self-portrait in my previous studio - a painting in which to remember the space. The earthy palette reflects how grounded I felt in this small space during the winter months I spent there. The room has an interesting history, having been used by the Adams crime family of Islington. The tape on the window shows where a bullet hole has been covered up."

The earthy tones and the way she describes feeling grounded suggest how comfortable and at ease she felt in the space, a perfect spot to relax into a book!

Norman Long Bookish and Splayed Oil 65 x 65 cm £1,850

Next, we look at Bookish and Splayed by Norman Long. Long explains, ‘Working on this painting over an extended period allowed me to develop a wide range of surfaces through thick applications and glazes. For me, the invented image of the spade in a bucket is symbolic of the man's thoughts, wandering from his book. Or perhaps the hidden lady's thoughts?’

The thick glazes and the textured surface reflects a dreamy, hazy atmosphere that can be felt on the beach during a sunny day, where you escape into the fantasy realm of a book.

Eve Pettitt Lockdown Reading Oil 77 x 57 cm £1,050

Eve Pettitt’s painting Lockdown Reading has an interesting composition. The subject is pictured on a chair directly placed in front of the wall, where the building curves create an unusual alcove. The shape is almost tunnelling and could be reflective of the trapped feeling many of us experienced during the lockdown, where at times, there was little else to do except sit and read a book. Still, the subject’s small smile suggests the enjoyment many felt when we realised we were granted the free time to spend with a book.

Jeannie Kinsler Laura Reading - Tuscan Series Oil 92 x 102 cm £2,700

Next is Jeannie Kinsler’s painting Laura Reading, which is part of her Tuscan series. Kinsler explains ‘This is one of a series of paintings made from a memorable summer family holiday in Tuscany. The late afternoon and evening light was wonderful. I did many sketches and took photographs, working from one of them through last year for this piece which depicts my daughter Laura at the end of a day lying on the floor reading, light flooding through the open door.’

The shadowy patterns and angles of refractive light coming from the open door create quite a fantastical image. The light focuses explicitly on Laura’s eye, showing her single-minded focus on the book, and these magical elements of light could reflect the escapist realm the book has sent Laura to. 

Paul Handley NEAC Victoria Line, Warren Street Oil 45 x 61 cm £1,100

Lastly, Victoria Line, Warren Street, one of Paul Handley’s paintings from the London Underground, shows a collection of people on the tube, finding different ways to occupy their time during their journey. A familiar scene to many of us, whilst some individuals are using their phones; others are looking at newspapers or reading books.

The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition runs from 25 June to 3 July 2021

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Written by Hannah Martin