After finishing my first series of drawing
of staircases, I knew that my next theme would be books and bookcases. Books
are the most beautiful and clever objects man has ever created. They have been
the very core of civilization, substantively and symbolically. Yet it seems
that the significance of books as the main tool of conveying knowledge and
thoughts is beginning to disintegrate. Perhaps because of the invention of
cyberspace, I do not know. But I knew then that I wanted to devote the next several
years of my life to books, to capture their essence, so to speak, before their
shape and presence are extinguished altogether.
Making drawings of books wasn’t so easy,
however. I visited several libraries I knew and liked, but something was
lacking. Was it because I was not seeing the “real” library? If so, where could
that “real” library be?
I went on a search, a kind of pilgrimage,
and finally arrived at the capital of learning, Oxford, the “City of Dreamy
Spires”. There, hundreds and even thousands of libraries, I thought, would
surely be found somewhere beyond the ancient stone walls and locked oak doors,
I became a diligent pupil during an academic year at Oxford spent studying the
secret of books, how they contain the conception of a person, the memories of a
whole tribe, the wisdom of millennia, all within that compact object that a
hand can hold----what wonders a single book enshrines!
I was as though I had been given a magic
wand allowing me to enter a secret garden at whose heart I discovered Oxford’s
libraries, like gems tucked away deep inside its cloisters of learning.
Here are my portraits of those libraries,
some of which are as old as the city itself.
Libraries are not only places where
knowledge and thoughts and stories have been preserved. They are also a record
of the countless people who studied in them----with their dreams, ambitions and
aspirations---over time, across the centuries, over the very stretch of