NEW DELHI

Following Dickens’ footprints in Italy

Tara Books’ publisher Gita Wolf (left), Head of Italian Cultural Institute Angela Trezzi, and Adam Pushkin of the British Council of India during the launch of ‘Journeys’, an illustrated tribute to a Charles Dickens’ book, by Italian artist Livia Signorini in New Delhi over the weekend.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Tara Books’ publisher Gita Wolf (left), Head of Italian Cultural Institute Angela Trezzi, and Adam Pushkin of the British Council of India during the launch of ‘Journeys’, an illustrated tribute to a Charles Dickens’ book, by Italian artist Livia Signorini in New Delhi over the weekend.- Photo: Shanker Chakravarty  

A contemporary tribute to the great master in his 200{+t}{+h}year of birth

Contemporary Italian artist Livia Signorini recently went on a very special journey around her country – one which took her to every possible place – antique book sellers, collectors and attics where she took down dusty books, maps, postcards and old photographs.

As an artist who uses collage as a medium, this journey was a search for elements to assemble a piece of work, retracing a similar voyage undertaken by Charles Dickens in 1844 to several parts of Italy and recorded in a little known work of his, “Pictures From Italy”. Livia’s journey was meant to be a “dialogue with the text of Charles Dickens, a contemporary Italian artist’s engagement with the places and themes he touches on”.

The culmination of this journey is a contemporary tribute to the great master in his 200{+t}{+h}year of birth as an illustrated edition of “Pictures From Italy” launched here over the weekend by Tara Books in collaboration with British Council and Instituto Italiana di Cultura. “The entire period in Venice he describes as a dream,” said Tara Books’ publisher Gita Wolf, adding the book was published in a series called ‘Journeys’. The book thus retains those passages that express the dream-like, elegiac and fanciful quality of Dickens’ travelogue, writes V. Geetha, the editor, and it leaves out sections that appear tediously familiar today.

“Dickens presents a layered world. So a collage artist was apt, presenting layered images and metaphors that respond to the text,” said Ms. Wolf. To keep up with the time, the book is historically reconstructed, with gate folds that open up to Livia’s illustrations. The artist’s work, which is nothing short of a brilliant recapturing of Dickens’ descriptions, is definitely intriguing to the viewer.

So when Dickens writes about the colosseum – “To see it crumbling there… its walls and arches overgrown with green… young trees of yesterday, springing up on its ragged parapets, and bearing fruit: chance produce of the seeds dropped there by the birds who build their nests within its chinks and crannies…”-- Livia’s interpretation with leaves, birds and old pictures of the Roman amphitheatre meshed together beautifully recreates the scene. For Dickens his trip to Italy was “time off” and Pictures from Italy was a collection of letters he had written to friends back home. For Livia, the journey was that of engagement with the great novelist’s work. The original prints of the artist’s work are on display at the British Council till September 24.

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