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About mePainter, writer and bookseller. The painting shown is titled 'The Glass Bead Game' and it's typical of my work. I do exhibitions and commissions. Books are often the subjects of my paintings. My current projects include a large painting based upon the Cormac McCarthy character 'The Judge, the dominant malign spirit in Blood Meridian. This character manages to dominate a book that has so many reasons to become dominated, and he carries with him a journal, which is the object I intend to focus upon. The hope is that this will be issued as a giclee limited edition on canvas. Another picture that's moving into place is a bogambo snuff box, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut. These pictures illustrate things that don't exist, and that's why I call my work 'Fictional Realism' because - like any fiction writer - I make up the pictures from my imagination, partly because I'm not too excited about copying things. Please get in touch if you'd like to see any more jpegs or ask for printed samples. AND PLEASE LOOK AT MY PAINTING WEBSITE!- www.peterkettle.com As a writer, I recently got my novel, 'THE DRIFTWOOD GIRAFFE' shortlisted for the Lightship Award for novels, sponsored by Hilary Mantel and judged by Maria Hyland. This novel is available on Amazon Kindle. I also won an Anthony Burgess Arts Journalism Award, judged by Jonathan Meade.
About my libraryI'll write about the books I admire most and reserve a few spaces for those I dislike. Mostly I'll be positive, so that means a lot of five star stuff. I also sell books and if anyone is interested I sell only on the internet - no bricks and mortar shop. All books are listed on abebooks.com, abebooks.co.uk, and Biblio.com. I use the name 'The Booksniffer'. Here's how I got started with books:
Confessions of a Booksniffer
At three years old I discovered Montaigne. It was a blinding revelation to one so young. At first, naturally, I read him in translation. But I found this acted like a gauze between the author’s essential meaning and the reader. So I taught myself French, which was easy after mastering English, and soon found I could gain even more from him. Before I started at primary school I had read my first Dickens and this was soon followed by Jane Austen and George Eliot. At nine I was given the Nonesuch Shakespeare, the first folio text, in four volumes, and they became my constant companions. My entire childhood was spent in the heady pursuit of intellectual excitement. Science, music, and art became more exciting each day. I was a prodigy...
Which is, of course, totally untrue. The facts are a lot more ordinary. My parents described me as having my head "always stuck in a book". But the book was certainly not Montaigne and company, not until much later anyway. Enid Blyton would be closer to the mark.
I read indiscriminately, mostly via the public library, and Boots lending library. There were presents of books at birthdays and Christmas; and books of my own, which I bought with money earned from doing chores for many aunts. There were dad’s books, too, but they were not mine. I loved owning books, and enjoyed making unstructured choices, and these ranged from the aforesaid Enid Blyton - who seemed to be read by every one of my friends - to Dickens, and I wasn’t interested in who was the finer writer, because fine writing didn’t interest me. Stories were the thing.
One summer, after a mysterious illness left me in need of convalescence, I went to stay on a small farm with an aunt and uncle. In the farmhouse was a room full of books. It’s probably the distortions of memory, but I remember opening the door of that room. I was nine. It was a hot summer day, and I recollect clearly the way the strong sunlight streamed in. On shelves around the walls, on boxes piled on a table, were thousands of books. I smelt the dust of long unopened volumes, and can still conjure up the shafts of light picking out the floating dust particles, but that may be just romantic nonsense.
If only I could go back to that day with my present knowledge of books. Many were bound in leather, with tipped in colour plates, and thick textured pages. The smell of the books, mixed with the undisturbed dust of the room, mixed with the bodies of flies and moths I seem to remember, is locked in my olfactory memory.
My regard for books as objects must date from then. For I confess to being a bit of a book sniffer. To step into a bookshop and handle a well made book, to open it and experience the aromatic smell of paper, to turn a heavy rag page with its texture of letterpress, and sometimes even smell the trace of ink. At such times I can almost understand the person who buys books by the metre for decorative purposes.
Almost, because, of course, the book transcends such fetishism. It exists to tell us something. For centuries it has become the most convenient way to do this. With no need for outside power sources or special apparatus it can make the loudest noise. That noise can rumble through your entire life. It can change that life, educate you, and it can do all this within a format that is portable, and often aesthetic. It may well be that the book is being supplanted by the computer, and that the volume waiting passively on the shelf is going to change into a disk, waiting just as patiently for someone to open it on screen, but the book itself will always be admired for it’s structural aesthetics.
As a painter, I have expressed this love of books by painting pictures that celebrate these aesthetics. A look at my book paintings may give the impression that I work in a studio surrounded by vellum bound works in various states of decay or restoration; that every shelf groans under the weight of pagodas of books. But I own no incunables, no rare folios; all my subjects are invented. They are, truly, works of fiction.
One such is Janus Revisited. It came about partly through a short stay in Venice. During my five days there it barely stopped raining. This haze of watery mist only served to enhance the mood of the City. I had expected Venice to be shimmering and chimerical, romantically misty. But although it was certainly misty when I was there I found it to be a much tougher, more realistic, place than that implies. I could see Monteverdi and Vivaldi living there; I could imagine Giorgione and Titian learning all they could from their great teacher, Bellini. The city made me look at Bellini’s great portrait of the Doge with a fresh eye, when I got back to London. Bellini, for me at any rate, has always seemed like the fulcrum of modern painting. Now, after visiting his city, I could catch just a glimpse - a tiny part - of the reason for that greatness.
Passing through the narrow streets, shafts of light would spill out from the various shops and studios. Within one of them I could see a craftsman at work. He was making the traditional masks for the approaching carnival period. They were the same designs one sees in Giambattista Tiepolo’s marvellous silvery drawings. Many of Tiepolo’s masks are like the two in my paintíng, with long noses. But whereas, in his time - the eighteenth century - the masks would have been made from leather, wood, or lacquered pulp, now - the Janus factor - they were being formed in fibre glass. The finishing still involves traditional skills like gilding, but modern tools like the airbrush are also used. There was a pleasing complementary nature to this blend of the old with the new, the sole criterion being that the result should be the best that was possible..
In other shops, bookbinders were at work. There would be a pile of beautifully produced volumes, covered in traditional cloth and leather, some of them in that warm, pale, blonde calf binding, the sort of surface that isn’t quite polished, but that has a soft, deep, lustrous sheen of its own. But - the Janus factor again, looking forward as well as backward - the signatures of the books were sewn with a modern rot proof nylon thread. It somehow epitomised the city, this blend of old and new. The city is crumbling, but undergoing extensive repairs, using modern as well as traditional materials. A mason will carve some details in stone; another will be using acrylic resins with marble dust. Chisels, precisely similar to those used at any time over the last millennium, would be alternated with power tools.
I have painted around this theme twice, hence the title, "Janus Revisited". I have often thought it would make a nice trompe l´oil for a library door. In fact, I was once asked to produce a library door for an American’s yacht. However, the project never got off the drawing board ( and it never got on to mine ) so it was cancelled. My painting " The Second Pillar of Literature" is an indication of what I had intended.
If anyone reading this wants me to paint their library door - and it doesn´t have to be on a yacht - please get in touch.
GroupsBBC Radio 3 Listeners
Favorite authorsW. H. Auden, Robertson Davies, Richard Dawkins, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, James Joyce, Robert Lowell, John Cowper Powys, Annie Proulx, William Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Shared favorites)
Membership LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway
Real namePeter Kettle
Location18 The Nurseries, Lewes, East Sussex
Account typepublic, lifetime
Member sinceSep 29, 2007