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There is something magical about books if you are a book lover. They have the power to teleport you to other places, to other eras, and even to others’ lives and experiences. For this reason, prior to meeting the Italian graphic designer turned book artist, Linda Toigo, to me books were a medium that allowed the reader to lose themselves through words, descriptions and feelings that a specific author could evoke and describe. It might be difficult to think of of a book as something visually engaging because of its unique qualities as much as its content. Linda gives old books a new life and another perspective. Under her expert hands, thanks to her tools and book carving techniques, she creates tridimensional, visually engaging and beautiful transpositions of written words.
Toigo, who back in Italy trained as an architect, moved to London in 2009 and enrolled on an MA in graphic design. During her studies, she discovered ‘book deconstruction’, an art technique that alters books by transforming them into tridimensional art pieces. Most of the time, what is carved out of the book is a physical transposition of its content. In other occasions, the book is just a starting point for conceiving something totally different. Her last exhibition titled Guide to elsewhere, which was showcased in London last spring, was the perfect example of this last process. Taking inspiration from Alberto Manuel and Gianni Guadalupi’s book, The dictionary of imaginary places which describes in details non-existent places through maps and illustrations, Toigo carved out on paper her personal take on fantastic worlds where her passion for travels, landscapes, and literature play a big part.
The starting point of this journey into Toigo’s imaginary world, was a set of discarded travel guides of places which were visited by the artist. By carving out excess paper, she created something completely new: tridimensional paper images with references to her travels’ memories, visual imageries and personal feelings about novels that she read in the past and which she associates to a specific country. For example, a guidebook of Brazil, was the white canvas on which Togo carved out a scene from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, One hundred years of solitude. In this scene of the novel, the main character Josė Arcadio Buendia, had trapped in cages different species of marvellous and colourful birds. Although the novel is originally based in Colombia, the colours of the Brazilian guidebook’s cover (green, blue and yellow), along with the artists’ feelings and sensations experienced while travelling in that country years before, have brought her to translate these feelings into different coloured birds trapped inside a golden cage.
Her other work, a German guidebook, was the starting point for her take on Borges’ The Immortals, which featured an agglomeration of buildings and skyscrapers.
This process of merging ideas, book inspirations and carving techniques was used for a group of guidebooks (nine in total) exhibited in London during her last show. However, travel, literature and imaginary worlds are just part of Linda’s interests. Prior to Guides to Elsewhere, the Italian artist used her book carving knowledge for a more down-to earth yet contemporary matter: using her art to start a reflexion on today’s perception of beauty for women. Using old fashion magazines, she singled out specific elements of each page, which, once overlapped, created a new and more disturbing image. Smiling lips, heavy dolled up eyes, translucent legs and disturbingly white smiles – outside their original context – gave voice to a more in-depth reflection of nowadays’ feminine beauty aesthetic.Currently Linda is in Taiwan for a 2-month artist residency where she “is discovering local habits and cultures” at the Soulangh Artist Village while preparing for her first Taiwanese exhibition which will open on the 23rd of November. The inspiration for her latest work, a two-meter tall set of paper cut illustrations, came from rituals that have stuck in her mind and that she first witnessed during the early days spent in the country. Among these, her new work will feature her interpretation of a ceremony that involves the Banyan tree and the Donggang King Boat Ceremony which occurs every three years in October.
Once back in London, she plans to carry on working with large scale paper cut illustrations.