It is broadly accepted wisdom that judging books by their covers is to be avoided if you want to be the kind of person who gets invited to dinner parties. Adages are made to be broken however as firmly demonstrated in the case of Canadian Hyperrealist artist Paul Beliveau; who over the course of his four decades of work has claimed cover jackets as his central muse and model. His works are monumental in size: each artwork displaying several titanic book spines resting against each other; a glimpse of a giant’s library. Whilst there is a certain quality reminiscent of Pop Art to Beliveau’s approach, the execution is pure Hyperrealism. The books seem to practically curve out of the wall, with each tear in the paper or scuff of flaking leather painted with the kind of depth and clarity that is almost slightly shocking to witness in the flesh. Hyperrealist art uses the possibilities created by digital photography and editing software to accentuate reality rather than simply reproducing it (like Hypperealism’s artistic ancestor Photorealism) and this is particularly true for Beliveau: rendered through his eyes, the exterior of a book has just as much to say as the interior.
Whilst Beliveau does paint books from his own collection, he also designs fictional titles which fit indistinguishably into the literary jigsaws of his works. As a result he can create dream sums where Marylin Munroe and Einstein can be laid side by side, establishing un-thought of connections and themes between historical figures, the arts and celebrity simply by virtue of their placement next to each other. Beliveau is very specific about each book’s subject and placement within the artwork in order to achieve a perfect balance with its fellows along with the mix of aesthetics and ideas he wants to engender. He is represented exclusively by Plus One Gallery in London, which has many of his most evocative works which, particularly considering Beliveau’s focus on size, deserve to be seen in the flesh. In an increasingly digital world, Beliveau must be commended for managing to return books to their pride of place.
Plus One Gallery is located in the Piper Building, Peterborough Road SW6 3EF
Open Monday-Friday: 10am-6pm by appointment only