The Universal Now and further episodes is a mid-career survey of work by Abigail Reynolds presented at PEER, Shoreditch Library and Bookartbookshop in the artist’s largest solo exhibition to date, and her first in a public space. The three-way exhibition features a new film installation drawing on the artist’s recent journey in search of the lost libraries of the Silk Road, a new large- scale sculptural commission for PEER plus collage, sculpture and print works made over the past decade.
At the core of The Universal Now and further episodes, is Reynolds’ lifelong passion for books as material, and the narratives and histories they build, interweaving and erasing to form new layers of meaning over time. At PEER, Reynolds exhibits works from her ongoing series, The Universal Now in which photographic bookplates of identical locations taken at different times are spliced together, to partially but simultaneously reveal both moments Images, for example, of the British Museum Reading Room taken in 1964 and 2005 are conjoined to create a three-dimensional kaleidoscopic layering, fusing time with place. In another series, Library Displacements, Reynolds optically distorts images of library sites taking the pages of books used to research the Silk Road journey and double printing them as solar etchings, in intense orange and black inks.
In a new commission for PEER, Reynolds has created When Words are Forgotten; a delicate, leaning metal framework containing a ‘library of glass’, that spans the width of the first gallery window. Sheets of tinted and textured glass rest on shelves, producing a taxonomy of transparency and opacity that acts as two-way filter between street and gallery. In the second gallery space another large metal and glass sculpture, Tol (2016), draws on the artist’s physical and creative immersion in Penwith, the place where she lives in Cornwall. The structure of Tol is based on Barbara Hepworth’s print Itea, and directly references the literature and landscape of the local area; a Bronze Age site, the Godrevy lighthouse and writings by Daphne Du Maurier and Virginia Woolf.
At Shoreditch Library, across the street from PEER, Reynolds is showing a new two-screen film installation, Lost Libraries (2018) that draws on her extraordinary five-month journey undertaken as the recipient of BMW’s Art Journey Prize between 2016 and 2017. She travelled from China through Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey, Italy and Egypt to visit the sites of libraries lost over the past two thousand years to political conflicts, natural catastrophes, revolution and wars. The film is composed of the artist’s own 16mm film footage of the sites, sequenced with archival material. It is situated with maps, still images and books specially selected from Shoreditch Library’s own collection and accompanied by Reynolds’ book, also called Lost Libraries, which was published in December 2017 by Hatje Cantz. Melding travelogue, journal and reflective texts with photography and artwork by Reynolds, the book is also interactive with film clips and the artist’s spoken words, which can be accessed via the CP Clicker app on the reader’s Smartphone.
The concluding element in the three-way collaboration is a window display at nearby Bookartbookshop, London's only bookshop specialising in artists' books and small press publications. From 18 April to 3 May, Reynolds presents her artists' books and other materials in a broad interrogation of the conceptual and material form of the book. The books are available to view and for purchase.
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Shoreditch Library, 80 Hoxton St, London N1 6LP. Opening hours: Monday to Thursdy, 10:00am – 8:00pm, Friday, 10:00am – 6:00pm, Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm and Sunday, closed. Telephone 020 8356 3000. www.hackney.gov.uk/shoreditch-library
Bookartbookshop, 17 Pitfield Street, London N16HB. Opening hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12:00pm – 6:00pm and Wednesday by appointment only. Telephone 020 7608 1333. www.bookartbookshop.com
ABIGAIL REYNOLDS Editions
To mark her exhibition The Universal Now and further episodes at PEER, Abigail Reynolds has generously produced two artworks in limited editions of five each to raise money for PEER’s programme. Both images have been taken from The Face of England, a 1952 publication, which the artist has chosen for the quality of colour achieved by this early printing technology. They are available to purchase individually (£600 / £575 for Friends of PEER) or as a set (£1000 / £975 for Friends of PEER). More information.
The Lost Libraries publication is available for a special exhibition price of £25.00 from PEER and Bookartbookshop.
Abigail Reynolds’ artistic work is closely linked to books and libraries. She frequently draws from literature and book forms, which she uses both as sites of research and as source material. These interests led her to conceive a BMW Art Journey, which involved a series of visits to former libraries along the path of the ancient Silk Road. Her 2016–17 journey took her on a five-month-long exploration into the complex religious and secular narratives of Europe and Asia through visits to historic or fabled repositories of books.
Reynolds frequently draws inspiration from literary essays and figures, to imagine places and moments from the past, present, and future. In particular, photographs and book plates are taken from their original context and utilized to new ends. Working within the British landscape tradition, Reynolds mines the cultural remains of our recent past, searching for patterns, rhythms, and networks of association and meaning. Her sculptural assemblages and three-dimensional collages splice disparate images together, releasing them from the time of their capture and opening them to more nuanced meaning and association.
Abigail Reynolds lives in St. Just, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, and has a studio at Porthmeor, in St. Ives. She studied English Literature at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, before pursuing an MFA at Goldsmiths University, London. Her works can be found in the UK Government Art Collection, the Yale University Art Gallery, the New York Public Library, and many private collections. www.abigailreynolds.com