Splash 12 – celebrating artistic vision || ed. Rachel Rubin Wolf

This is one of those books that North Light put out once in a while, ostensibly to showcase new talent but which, being a cynic, I suspect of being a way to re-use material they already own the rights to.

As a concept, it’s a good idea because you get to see what current trends are and also to have a look at the work of a wide range of (American) artists you wouldn’t necessarily be buying books by. It’s also not subject specific, so you get landscapes, people, buildings, animals, townscapes. Each picture has a caption which very briefly explains it and there’s also a selection of short quotes, sometimes by the artist, sometimes by a critic and sometimes by someone completely irrelevant. It’s a bit like a lucky dip and definitely has a whiff of sawdust about it, but whether that’s from the tombola or the hasty construction, I’m not quite sure.

From all of which, you can probably gather that I’m not going to recommend that you buy it. However, I am going to suggest that you track down a copy in your local library, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to find at least one interesting painting here and maybe get a few ideas you didn’t even know you were looking for, into the bargain. That’s assuming you still have a local library. With the demise of the independent bookshop and the marketing of books as commodities, browsing serendipitously is a thing of the past. Go into any bookshop you can find and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to see the same old stuff, even on the back shelves.

Yes, I know you can go online and find anything but, when you can see it all, you can actually see nothing. The point of the sidestreet bookshop was that the stock reflected the owner’s preoccupations and there’d always be something you hadn’t even considered and the surprise of the new guaranteed a sale. Back in the days when I ran an architectural bookshop, one of my favourite customers used that phrase to me, “surprise the reader” – show them something they, as an expert, didn’t know about. It’s a tall order for a non-specialist, but it made the research fun, and it worked too.

Now we’re killing off libraries as well and they were the last bastion of quiet browsing over random subjects. We only care about information, not knowledge, and it’s not something you can teach in schools, however much you tinker with the exam system. The trouble with books is they’re written by writers and writers tend to have liberal minds and we really must stamp liberal thought out at all costs.

Rant over, but don’t forget to have a look at this book. They’re up to number 12 in the series, so it must be working.

North Light

  1. #1 by mnminnyc on Jul 14, 2011 - 3:54 pm

    Splash is a competition, so they don’t already own the rights to the work…the artists submit new work each year…just check it out – here’s the homepage:http://www.splashwatercolor.com/ The submissions are already closed for this year, but they've posted the list of winners: http://www.splashwatercolor.com/2011/03/25/splash-13-winners-list

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