Art | The Bespokesperson

Ingenious sculptures, created from vintage books

The artist who sculpts books into fantastical, custom-made shapes

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Ingenious sculptures, created from vintage books

November 17 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty

Sculptor Nicholas Jones creates beautiful and fantastical objects that are the stuff of bibliophile dreams. The Melbourne-based artist fashions the most ingenious one-off pieces of work by stacking, folding, cutting, tearing and sewing vintage hardback books. The results are complex and compelling, whether abstract or in tune with the narrative of the source material: if you want to turn that rare first edition of Moby-Dick into whale-shaped objet d’art, Jones is your man.

There are obvious elements of origami within Jones’s technique, but what he does in his studio goes far beyond artful creasing and figurative forms in paper. There’s poetry in the work (metaphorically and, of course, sometimes literally), but there’s also a dramatic, surgical quality to it (Jones’s father is a doctor, which nods towards familial skill with a scalpel). It’s as much the way he painstakingly dissects the layers of a book, and in his choice of silhouette and pattern, as it is the way he pleats and folds so delicately that makes his work so clever and so powerful. These are wonderful objects to wall mount, or rest on a credenza. In a room already furnished by a substantial library, they add the perfect visual flourish.

Jones has worked on a wide variety of commercial projects and installations but he devotes most of his time to small-scale, one-off commissions. He can work on just about any book that a client can provide (starting at A$500, about £315, for a folded work), and each sculpture is customarily informed by theme or the formal qualities of the book. A weighty blue-covered tome may have a wave chiselled out of it, or a hardback copy of The Other Side of the Hill will have a single hill cut through with kaleidoscopic perspective from cover to the last few pages. Images of special significance (even the silhouette of a profile portrait) are a speciality.

First picture shows Jones’s work on a book of textiles. Second picture: Such Holy Song. Third picture: Argus Law Reports. Fourth picture: Der Frosch (The Frog).