An open book. London artist Mali turns up the volume with a new chapter in his Book series,
By James Brewer
For the London-based conceptual artist Mali, the book is the thing, the great symbol of communication in an incoherent world. It remains a solid reference point in this electronic age.
Mumbai-born Mali has worked and reworked his Book theme over many years, used every trick in the book through his installations to make us love and appreciate one of man’s most powerful products. His latest exhibition, in early April at Gallery Different in London’s Fitzrovia, once again stored up a veritable library of emotions. It was indeed one for the books.
A series of beautiful women are photographed reading books, and all kinds of mixed media are used to transform the physical shapes of books and pages into innovative new art forms. There is nothing off the shelf here – everything is lovingly crafted for poetic purpose.
He says: “There have been so many books written all over the world, and we are the only creatures – human beings – in this galaxy, who read and write, and still we cannot understand each other. There is still confusion. So many people try to educate us to understand, and that is the theme of my work.”
It all hangs together well. Beyond the book maquettes and images is a work that recalls one of the motifs of Tracey Emin. Mali adorns a row of neon-illuminated clothes hangers with books and flowers. It has more impact than you might think, as was the case in the neon baring of Tracey Emin’s soul.
Mali has long had his nose in his book series. Since 1962, he has participated in 150 group shows in the UK, and had 19 solo shows.
His imprint was drawn recently to the London 2012 Olympics. He added to his collection a moving photo of a four-year-old girl keen on sport perusing a book about the Games and wearing a headpiece based on the Olympic theme. He is proud too of an exhibit entitled My Book on Puneri Pagadi, a reference to the headgear characteristic of educated people –equivalent to those who have studied at Oxford or Cambridge – from Pune in India. The head covering had been adopted by the freedom fighter Lokmanya as a symbol of the cultural heritage of the region.
Mali is in the good books of many enthusiasts on the London art scene, for among other activities he tirelessly promotes Asian and other artists, combining and co-ordinating shows for them.
Gallery Different is making its own distinctive mark on the London scene through its new art club designed to help inexperienced buyers benefit from investment, and to help develop a secondary market in contemporary art. Karina Phillips, co-owner and director of the gallery, says that one of the biggest blocks for people coming into the art world is worrying about what their exit strategy might be.
The art club is seen as an opportunity to give buyers more confidence as they tap into an expert inside track about artists, the value of their works, and trends. Ms Phillips advises people to “buy what you like because if you do that you are never going to lose, and people will start to feel the passion.”
She said: “The Different Art Buyers’ Club will be run as a collective but members will individually own the art they purchase. They will be advised on the comparative investment value of various artists and likely future performance in order to better assess risk.”
Ms Phillips added: “One of our key objectives is to overcome the knowledge barrier and enable wealth managers to offer art investments to their art loving clients with a clearer idea of risk and potential.”