What does Marilyn Monroe have in common with Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley with Mao Zedong or Federico Fellini with Tintin, the Belgian cartoon character? Not much at a glance, but in fact they all have something in common with each other: they have been tainted, that is in the sense to say painted, by one very special Canadian brush. Indeed they all appear in the paintings by Paul Beliveau, a Canadian artist whose exclusive focus in art is to paint books - book spines especially – some from his own book collection, but most from his own extensive library of imagination.
Says Paul: “My interest in books goes beyond their content, I collect them, I pile them up, I photograph them, I paint them, I even invent them… In fact, it is the whole book itself – its essence – that I love. I consider this object to be exceedingly meaningful…”
Paul Beliveau links his passion for books to his early childhood during which his uncle would lend him books on the great artists to make up for occasionally missing their regular fly-fishing excursions. What truly fascinates, intrigues and charms one to fall in love with his paintings is the particular composition of the books he selects and invents for depiction. Each individual book is carefully chosen and placed to create balance in the painting, with equal consideration going to its visual qualities, its reference in time and to what it will evoke emotionally in imaginary content. The overall impression left is ones appreciation for beauty merging perfectly with ones intellect engaging.
For this show, Paul has produced eight new paintings, all but one in a series named Vanitas. This Latin word, meaning “emptiness”, refers to a particular category of allegorical still-life paintings. Works of this kind are full of skulls, hour glasses, musical instruments, scientific apparatus and books. With VanitasBéliveau updates the genre, he explains:
“Vanitas series is meant to be deeply humanistic. The books are gathered side by side and presented by their spine, allowing the images and titles to speak, thus showing that behind that front, words, sentences and chapters enter into dialogue. Vanitas is about a living culture one is unable to see but rather desire.”
Paul Beliveau lives and works in Quebec, Canada.