The Past Lives of Old Books





“I like working on old books: I like the way the wear and tear, underlinings, notes and scribblings enable me to perceive the personalities of the people who have read them. In Russia, there is a difference between a icon which has been ‘prayed to’ and one which has not; a book which has been read has the same kind of energy as an icon which has been worshiped.”

Art student Ekaterina Panikanova was walking through a flea market when she discovered a voluminous old book, faded and disintegrating. She was “struck by the difference between its original purpose and how it had ended up.” Soon she began using old books as the basis for her art, which combines painting, collage and installation. Born in St. Petersburg in 1975, she now lives in Rome, where she’s had several solo shows. I am transfixed by her compositions; the worn books hinting at anonymous memories, the vibrant ink drawings given dimension and puzzle-like context by the decaying texts. I suppose it helps that I’m a book lover, but I think these atmospheric and highly evocative artworks are very special indeed.


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