4 May 2020

5 new art books to inspire you at home

Without museums and art galleries to visit, a void of art and culture may be opening up in your life. Where do you derive inspiration and creativity from, even peace of mind, when you are confined to your home? To assist, I’ve compiled some of my favourite new art books to gain inspiration from in this disorientating age of social distancing. Even if you don’t plan on taking to the canvas or picking up a camera, these delightful editions might be just what you need to take your mind off things.

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing 
While not technically an art book in the sense that it isn’t illustrated, Olivia Laing’s new book of essays offers a timely understanding of art in times of crisis. Collecting essays, think pieces, profiles and her Frieze column of the same name on everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to David Bowie, Sally Rooney to Georgia O’Keefe, Funny Weather is the perfect read in a moment as unprecedented and befuddling as this. In particular, Laing’s thoughts on the function of art during great upheaval is a balm: “What it can do is serve as an antidote to times of chaos. It can be a route to clarity, and it can be a force of resistance and repair, providing new registers, new languages in which to think.”

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency is out now from PanMacmillan.
From Handbook of the Spontaneous Other, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and MACK

Edward Hopper: A Fresh Look at Landscape
It’s unsurprising that American painter Edward Hopper became the unofficial artist of coronavirus-induced social distancing. Hopper, after all, has long been admired for his empty scenes of modern isolation: a woman sits upright in her bed and stares outwards, her face anguish-stricken; a man tends to the petrol pumps at a deserted filling station; a loner in a sad cloche hat stares into her coffee cup, and of course: a handful of strangers in a bar are observed through the glass from the blank darkness of a city street. Published in conjunction with an exhibition at Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, this catalogue gathers Hopper’s paintings, watercolours and drawings from the 1910s to the 1960s, with a focus on his singular depiction of landscape. 

Edward Hopper: A Fresh Look at Landscape is out now from Hatje Cantz.

Handbook of the Spontaneous Other by Aikaterini Gegisian
With this time indoors, the objects at our disposal can be a source of infinite comfort and even creativity. And without a world to explore outdoors—to photograph or paint from—collage might just be the ultimate art form for the self-isolating age. Handbook of the Spontaneous Other by Aikaterini Gegisian, out now from Mack Books, is a gorgeous catalogue of 59 collages craftily compiled from nature magazines, holiday brochures and vintage pornography. These research-driven collages put the consumerist world under the microscope by taking its pieces apart and reassembling them into strange and magnificent montages.

Handbook of the Spontaneous Other is now from Mack Books. 


Hilma af Klint: Artist, Researcher, Medium 
In these surreal times, the meditative nature of art can offer some much needed solace. Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s proto-abstractions in a beguiling palette of pink-tinged mauves, pale lemons and cloudy blues are the ideal art works to escape into now. Since a recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, af Klint (1862-1944) has experienced renewed interest, largely on account of the intriguing spiritual aspect of her work. This exhibition catalogue (which was made in conjunction with a new exhibition of af Klint’s work that was set to open at Moderna Museet Malmö, but is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus), explores from a myriad of perspectives how this abstract art pioneer connected with a higher level of consciousness through her painting. 

Hilma af Klint: Artist, Researcher, Medium is out now from Hatje Cantz

Paul Mpagi Sepuya by Paul Mpagi Sepuya
As we navigate our physical as well as our mental interior worlds, American artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s studio-based portraits feel especially apt. Sepuya is known for his selfie-style photographs orchestrated in front of mirrors that call attention to the act of photographing and in doing so, the construction of subjectivity. Through his innovative use of mirrors, fragmentation and montage-style techniques, as well as the foregrounding of a black queer gaze, Sepuya deconstructs image-making as we know it. As many of his photographs feature his friends and collaborators, they are also poignant talismans of community and friendship, particularly at a time when we need it most. 

Paul Mpagi Sepuya is out now from Aperture.