Jimmy Turrell Rescued 1,000 Books and Turned Them into Art

03.19.18 | By
Jimmy Turrell Rescued 1,000 Books and Turned Them into Art

In 2016, Newcastle-based artist Jimmy Turrell spotted a job-lot of 1,000 books on eBay and bought them on a whim. They belonged to the late father of the person who was selling them, and he later found out that they were just a day away from being thrown into a skip.

“My girlfriend at the time wasn’t too impressed,” he jokes about the day the delivery van arrived with boxes and boxes of books. It took him over a year to sort through them and decide what to do with them – and he is no longer with the girlfriend in question.

Selecting the best of the books, which range from 1920s skiing manuals to vintage scrapbooks of the Norwegian royal family, the artist designed images and quotes to reference memory and rebirth and printed these over the books, combining what he printed and what he printed on fairly randomly.

The result is spectacular. Unforsaken Part 1 is the first exhibition of the work he has made from the books, and he describes it as very much a work in  progress – hence ‘Part 1’.

The randomness of his process created some poignant results, such as the wartime image overprinted with the quote “The only real freedom is freedom from fear.”

The work was exhibited as part of Newcastle’s Design Event in an installation created by the artist using a similar approach of montage and overlaying images to create a backdrop for the artworks.

“It’s about finding beauty in discarded things,” he says. The next phase of the project will involve collaborating with other artists who will add to what he has started.

Jimmy Turrell is a graphic artist and video director, who studied at Central St Martins School of Art in London. He was creative director on the latest Beck album (above) and has worked for the New York Times, Guardian and Adidas.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.