Having said that I know that nothing can compare to standing in front of a work of art. For example, until I stood in front of Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles as it filled my field of vision, exposing a hand print and cigarette butts and broken glass as remnants of the physical act of creating it, I had no concept of it's physical presence. These signifiers of the work's making, drawing me into it's vast layered pictorial space. This was not an experience that could be conveyed by the limited scale and flat surface of a printed image.
Despite the obvious limitations as described above, when appreciated on their own terms, art books feed and nourish a hungry curiosity for great works of art. My thick monographs on the likes of Ernst, Picasso, Magritte and Gauguin along with beautifully photographed books of Egyptian Murals are among my most treasued possessions. Many of those murals are out of bounds to visitors and the books are the only means by which one can witness the magnificent imagery painted thousands of years ago.
Each artist's or movement's story leads to other artists and to roads that lead to even more previously unheard of names. It was while reading about Nolan and the Angry Penguins in 1987 that the name Joy Hester first came to my attention. Since then, I am aware that a new book will lead to new names and paintings that will make me have to reassess the things I thought I knew. That is such an excitingly endless process to embrace.
Some books are not taken of the shelf for years until one day something draws one back to them again. It is then that long forgotten words and images are seen in a new light with a fresh perception, a perception influenced by all the things you now know ( or think you know) since you last turned the pages.