Looking back on things: New art books

A selection of books for your new year reading, these books reflect on the role of art; in its classical halls and chapels, in our reflections upon childhood and on the very streets we walk. Also included are some practical books for those ready to make a mark or stich that should help point you in the right direction.

Picturing joy : stories of connection / Lange, George
“Whether he was shooting a movie star or a family member, he saw his own search for joy reflected in the images. While growing up in Pittsburgh, Lange cherished his happy childhood, and he found himself unconsciously yearning for that feeling in his adult life. Through intimate stories and more than eighty photos, Picturing Joy invites readers to appreciate life with all their senses and to change their perspective by being open to new things.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All things move : learning to look in the Sistine Chapel / Marshall, Jeannie
“A writer studies a famous work of art and finds herself and her own cultural moment revealed at its heart. Jeannie Marshall lived in Rome for ten years without visiting the Sistine Chapel: she didn’t want to have a superficial experience of the frescos, but she wasn’t sure how, amidst the crowds of tour groups and the noise of pop culture allusions, she could have anything but. All Things Move is a quietly sublime meditation on how art, once invested with the power to save our souls, can enlarge our lives if only we learn how to look.”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Street art’s rising stars : 24 artists you should know / Mattanza, Alessandra
“Making their statements on the walls of the world’s major cities, these emerging artists are also making their way to the forefront of an increasingly crowded genre. As street artists move from the fringe to the mainstream, it’s hard to know who is a true talent and who’s just a flash in the pan. Whether rebelling against the establishment or bringing communities together; highlighting important issues or expressing a unique creative vision; these artists are living proof of street art’s lasting influence, infinite adaptability, and remarkable diversity” — Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The printmaking bible : the complete guide to materials and techniques / D’Arcy Hughes, Ann
“With its stunning array of full-color images, The Printmaking Bible is the ultimate guide to the ins and outs of every variety of printmaking practiced today-from intaglio to monotype.  Originally published in 2008, this comprehensive handbook has been revised and updated for this edition, which incorporates new artists, methods, and technologies from all over the world”– Provided by publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Seeing it all women photographers expose our planet / Rubinstein, Rhonda
“Eleven visionary photographers–who happen to be women–focus upon moments of profound beauty and peril on our planet. These intrepid individuals use photography to expose how we–humans, animals, nature–are living together in these precipitous times. Each photographer provides a concise manifesto arising from their commitment to life on the planet, which is accompanied by a short profile and behind-the scenes insights into their activities.”–Publisher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The untamed thread : slow stitch to soothe the soul & ignite creativity / Woods, Fleur
“The Untamed Thread takes you inside Fleur Woods’ contemporary fibre art studio in rural Aotearoa New Zealand, where her practice is as untamed as the natural landscape that inspires her. Taking you on a journey through colour, texture, flora, textiles and stitch, alongside the magical moments, happy accidents, perfect coincidences and ridiculous randomness of the artistic process, this is a book for anyone wanting to connect with their inner creative self”–Provided by publisher.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

The artist, the studio & the myth: New art books

There’s a slew of new books to hit our shelves that explore both art history and the contemporary art world. Begin your reading with Possessions, a book that examines the contentious processes of cultural appropriation through the art-historical lens of settler societies Australia and New Zealand, raising important questions and discussions around decolonising our arts practices, collections and institutions.

The glorified and inaccurate dualities and myths surrounding the artists studio are deconstructed in The Artist’s Studio. This book delves back into the Western art history canon to explore where popular stereotypes such as the ‘starving’ and ‘bohemian’ artist arose, and how these cultural constructions are played out and intensified in the art studio setting.

This Dark Country shines a light on the long list of forgotten female artists working in still life painting, as does the book Adelaide Perry, that focuses on one of Australia’s preeminent Modernist printmakers. Weather Paintings features a new collection of work by Tamaki Makaurau-based painter Ammon Ngakuru. And for a wonderfully odd read, check out The Madman’s Gallery for all things eccentric, strange, and utterly ridiculous in the worlds of painting, sculpture and “other artistic oddities”.

Possessions : indigenous art, colonial culture, decolonization / Thomas, Nicholas
“The arts of Africa, Oceania and Native America famously inspired twentieth-century Western modernist artists. The politics of such stimulus have long been highly contentious: was this a cross-cultural discovery to be celebrated, or just one more example of Western colonial appropriation? This revelatory book explores cross-cultural art through the lens of settler societies. The dynamic of dispossession and resistance, against an Indigenous claim to place, history and sovereignty –asking is cultural exchange a two-way process?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The artist’s studio : a cultural history / Hall, James
“An exciting narrative and visual history of the artist’s studio, examining the myth and reality of the creative space from early times to today. The artist’s workplace has always been an imaginary as well as an actual location, an idealized utopia as well as the domain of dirty, back-breaking work. This pioneering cultural history charts the myth and reality of the creative space from Ancient Greece to the present day, tracing a history that extends far beyond the bohemian, romantic and renaissance cults of the artist.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This dark country : women artists, still life and intimacy in the early twentieth century / Birrell, Rebecca
“For women artists in the early twentieth century Still Life painting was a conduit for their lives, their rebellions, their quiet loves for men and women. But for every artist we remember, there is one we have forgotten; whose remaining artworks lie dusty in archives or attics. In this boldly original blend of group biography and art criticism, Rebecca Birrell brings these shadowy figures into the light and conducts a dazzling investigation into the structures of intimacy that make – and dismantle – our worlds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Make it modern : a history of art in the 20th century / Taylor, Brandon
“Original thought, startling artistic techniques, and new attitudes to experimentation were required to produce exceptional and timely work. ‘Make It Modern’ guides the reader through the art of the modern world. Works of celebrated artists, from Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky to Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, and Yayoi Kusama, alongside a panoply of undervalued or less-known figures, populate this decade-by-decade narrative, telling an unforgettable story of how art was changed forever.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Adelaide Perry : artist & teacher / Oliver, J
“Adelaide Perry was part of the Modernist art movement in Australia and one of the innovative women printmakers between the wars. This biography explores her life and work over a period when the lives of women changed radically. The Adelaide Perry Gallery has been named in her honour and holds the prestigious Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing each year, continuing this remarkable Australian woman artist and teacher’s legacy.” (Catalogue)


Exposed : the Greek and Roman body / Vout, Caroline
“The Greek and Roman body is often seen as flawless, but this, of course, is a lie. Here, classicist Caroline Vout reaches beyond texts and galleries to expose Greek and Roman bodies for what they truly were: anxious, ailing, imperfect, diverse, and responsible for a legacy as lasting as their statues. Taking us on a gruesome, thrilling journey, she taps into the questions that those in the Greek and Roman worlds asked about their bodies. You’ve seen the paintings, read the philosophers and heard the myths – now here’s the classical body in all its flesh-and-blood glory.”(Adapted from Catalogue)

Get your shit together / Shrigley, David
“Get Your Sh*t Together features recent artwork in colour by beloved British artist David Shrigley. Celebrating Shrigley’s absurd, deadpan sensibility through both his signature drawing style and accompanying text. This collection is sure to delight die-hard Shrigley fans and new ones alike. Featuring not only artwork but also hand-written, humorous essays throughout.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The madman’s gallery : the strangest paintings, sculptures and other curiosities from the history of art / Brooke-Hitching, Edward
“Discover an eccentric exploration through the curious history of art, to find the strangest paintings, sculptures, drawings and other artistic oddities ever made. This unique exhibition gathers more than a hundred magnificent works, each chosen for their striking beauty, weirdness and captivating story behind their creation.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Weather paintings / Ngakuru, Ammon
“Featuring a new body of work by Tamaki Makaurau-based painter Ammon Ngakuru. This collection builds less towards a diaristic record than a series of questions about what gets sedimented upon the everyday: about how histories, climatic conditions, systems of naming and structures of power might inform how one looks, and what one sees. Here, as with elsewhere in his practice, Ammon negotiates where and how the artist is positioned within the production of meaning, resisting an easily parsable biographical reading of an artistic output, while asking what facets of an identity might find themselves untranslatable within the context of an exhibition or a book: what, that is, as a matter of subterfuge or reticence, might appear only as a trace or gesture.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Contemporary Masterpieces: new art books

For a fix of the latest contemporary New Zealand art, look no further than the Print Council of Aotearoa New Zealand’s recently released book Proof: Two Decades of Printmaking. We recently had the privilege of hosting the Wellington book launch at Karori Library, and visited the studios of local artists Basia Smolnicki, Kirsty White and Carrie Carey in the lead-up to the event. You can take a sneak peek into their printmaking processes by watching their recorded interviews on our YouTube channel. The book is a visual delight that celebrates 20 years of homegrown printmaking. This stunning complication displays the vast array of talented artists practicing and living right here on our shores.

Over across the pond, Tracey Emin, one of Britian’s preeminent living artists, continues to leave an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene. Her creative output has ranged from controversial bedsheets to neon-light exposés, that often polarise audiences and critics alike. Emin’s works exhibit scathingly raw and honest reflections in both visual and text form, on deeply personal issues such as sexuality and ageing, and in more recent years her battle overcoming cancer. Pick up a copy of Tracey Emin: Art into Life to read a selection of essays on Emin’s significant contributions to not only the British art scene, but also the global contemporary art world. 

Dive hundreds of years back into art history with Making a Masterpiece and Botticelli’s Secret, to discover the age-old tales and modern revelations behind the worlds most infamous artworks. These newly released books uncover the often scandalous lives of the artists who epitomised the Renaissance, and created the artworks that are cemented into the history books.

Proof: Two Decades of Printmaking
“A superb showcase of some of the best examples of contemporary fine art printmaking in Aotearoa New Zealand today. With 180 works by 127 artists, Proof covers a huge breadth of printmaking processes and display the incredible diversity of this artform, from traditional woodcuts and etchings to those pushing the boundaries of print. This is the first book on fine art printmaking ever to be published in New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tracey Emin : art into life
“Tracey Emin has undergone an extraordinary metamorphosis from a young, unknown artist into the ‘bad girl’ of the Young British Art (YBA) movement, challenging the complacency of the art establishment in both her work and her life. Today she is arguably the doyenne of the British art scene and attracts more acclaim than controversy. In Tracey Emin: Art Into Life, writers from a range of art historical, artistic and curatorial perspectives examine how Emin’s art, life and celebrity status have become inextricably intertwined.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Making a masterpiece : the stories behind iconic artworks / Mancoff, Debra N.
“There are many great works of art, but what makes a genuine masterpiece? Find the answers in this captivating book, which looks at the fascinating stories behind the world’s most famous artworks — the ones that can truly claim that label. Each work reveals that making a masterpiece involves much more than just artistic skill: their paths to fame are filled with stories of theft, scandal, artistic reputation, politics and power.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


David Smith : the art and life of a transformational sculptor / Brenson, Michael
“The landmark biography of the inscrutable and brilliant David Smith, the greatest American sculptor of the twentieth century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)




Botticelli’s secret : the lost drawings and the rediscovery of the Renaissance / Luzzi, Joseph
“Some 500 years ago, Sandro Botticelli, a painter of humble origin, created works of unearthly beauty. A combination of artistic detective story and rich intellectual history, Botticelli’s Secret shows not only how the Renaissance came to life, but also how Botticelli’s art helped bring it about-and, most important, why we need the Renaissance and all that it stands for today.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Art is life : icons and iconoclasts, visionaries and vigilantes, and flashes of hope in the night / Saltz, Jerry
“Sotheby’s Institute of Art has called him, simply, “the art critic”, now, in Art Is Life, Jerry Saltz draws on two decades of work to offer a real-time survey of contemporary art as a barometer of our times. Art Is Life offers Saltz’s eye-opening appraisals of trailblazers like Kara Walker, Hilma af Klint, Jasper Johns, Richard Prince, Marina Abramović and Willem de Kooning. The result is an openhearted and irresistibly readable appraisal by one of our most important cultural observers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dance vision : dance through the eyes of today’s artists / Teal, Joshua
Dance Vision showcases a kaleidoscope of contemporary artwork–from photography and sculpture to illustration and design–by world-renowned artists who find inspiration in dance. For some, the movement of bodies in space is a gateway into the human experience of beauty. For others, dance has become a way to engage with individuals and communities that exist beyond our singular experiences.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The grand affair : John Singer Sargent in his world / Fisher, Paul
“A bold new biography of the abiding enigma that is John Singer Sargent, the American expatriate painter. This book details the unruly emotions and furtive desires of Singer Sargent, that drove his innovative and groundbreaking paintings.” (Adapted from Catalogue)