A rare collection of extraordinary books has inspired no less than 22 up-and-coming north-east artists to contribute to an exhibition at Newcastle City Library.

Love Big Books – which begins on 2nd November – will feature a diverse range of artworks based on the library’s fifth size books. Visual artists, dancers, storytellers, performers, textile artists, photographers, poets, filmmakers and musicians will all be getting involved.

Fifth size books are books which are too large to fit on normal library shelves. Though they cover a huge range of subjects, their size means they are grouped together in the same part of the building.

Newcastle City Library’s fifth size books include a tome of technical line drawings of Chinese architecture and bridges and a beautifully decorated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic poem The Raven. The collection also boasts a volume of dazzlingly colourful plates of Asian carpets and a book of detailed anatomical drawings of horses.

The emerging artists will work alongside some of the north east’s more established practitioners, including Jo Coupe (artist/sculptor), Alice Fox (artist), Liv Lorent (choreographer and founder of BalletLorent) and Steve Messam (environmental artist).

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One of Steve Messam’s inflatable artworks

Love Big Books will see three illuminated inflatable artworks by Steve Messam decorating the library’s plant room and general fiction and science fiction sections. Pictures of these exhibits will be turned into their own fifth size book.

Also included in the exhibition will be a children’s book penned and inked by writer and illustrator Rebecca Rose. The book begins with children experiencing a grey day in Newcastle. Colour then gradually seeps into the book until it builds up to a rainbow of inspiration.

The 14 illustrations from the book will be on show and the book itself – entitled The Big Book Adventure – can be borrowed from the library or purchased as an ebook.

Rebecca said, “When I first saw the (fifth size) books, I was really inspired by the fact they were hidden away and obviously hadn’t been looked at or used for some time.”

“I’ve always liked the idea that books are doorways into another world. They take us into another space.”

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Rebecca Rose with The Big Book Adventure

Visual artist Alice Fox has produced a piece for the exhibition called The Unknown Book. The exhibit is made of discarded books, papers and magazines from the library. These have been formed into book structures and stained, printed, folded, crumpled and marked.

Alice said, “There was a particular book among the fifth size section that grabbed me. It’s a really old book that is falling apart with its spine exposed. The most amazing object!”

Alice Fox
Alice Fox with The Unknown Book

“It’s tied up with string so I’ve no idea what its contents are. But it was its physical qualities that interested me.”

“My work has explored the mismatched sections of books which are all bound together. The small book forms I’ve made will come together in a block that sits on the library shelves being intriguing and full of detail.”

Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for culture and communities, Cllr Kim McGuinness, said, “Books are a brilliant source of creativity and when they are combined with a superb modern library space and some of the best artistic talent the region has to offer, you know you’re in for something special.”

“Love Big Books cements Newcastle as being a leading player in the art world with a kaleidoscope of work that puts out a clear message that our artists and venues are competing with the very best.”

The director north of the Arts Council England, Jane Tarr, said, “This is a really exciting partnership project with Newcastle City Council that we’re delighted to support through our National-Lottery-funded Grants for the Arts programme.”

“The Love Big Books exhibition gives existing library users the opportunity to rediscover aspects of the building and its collection and will also draw in new visitors to the library.”

Love Big Books will be on from 2nd to 17th November at Newcastle City Library. Entry is free of charge.

You can learn more about the exhibition by going to www.fsbaexhibition.wordpress.com. To find out more about Newcastle’s libraries, go to www.newcastle.gov.org and look under the Leisure, Libraries and Tourism section.

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