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Meet an Artist Who Paints on Books

Have you seen the amazing, somewhat mind-bending work of the artist Ekaterina Panikanova? The Russian-born artist, currently living in Rome, creates textured, segmented paintings by painting on old books. The effect is glorious, rich, and deep—somehow both strange and comforting. Here are a couple of my favorites, to give you a taste.

This one really plays up the strange/familiar tension, where the hybrid of painting and book is echoed in the hybrid of tricycle and animal. I love the scale, and the way she uses what’s on the pages to change and balance her composition (the figure in the top row, the blank endpapers in the bottom):

By Ekaterina Panikanova. From a show at Z20 Galleria.
By Ekaterina Panikanova. From a show at Z20 Galleria.

I’m not sure what I love about this one, but I do love it. The cakes are so wonderfully rendered, and the addition of a closed book, handwritten journals, and a splashily-colorful comic book add something really amazing to the mix:

Panikanova Cake Painting
By Ekaterina Panikanova. From a show at Z20 Galleria.

And finally, here’s one where the idea of using books as a surface really does something new. Freezing some of the books with their pages open, Panikanova creates a surprisingly textured painting. The way the pages furl and create ridges reminds me of the ridges and valleys in heavily-brushed oil paintings, on a larger scale and rendered in paper:

By Ekaterina Panikanova. From a show at Z20 Galleria.
By Ekaterina Panikanova. From a show at Z20 Galleria.

You can make what you will of the fact that the three I chose included antlers, cakes, or cakes and antlers. But aren’t they incredible? You can see more at Colossal, which drew my attention to Panikanova’s work, or at her website.

About

Derek Attig writes and teaches about book culture, technology, and history. In addition to writing a book about bookmobiles in American life, he blogs at Bookmobility.org. Follow Derek on Twitter: @bookmobility