The Written Image: Contemplation Bowls

From the January/February 2023 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Books have been at the center of Swedish artist Cecilia Levy’s practice for nearly twenty years. After training as a graphic designer, Levy studied bookbinding in the early 2000s, crafting handmade notebooks and other products to sell. She also drew and painted directly onto the “canvas” of old book covers. By 2009 the pages inside those covers called to her as a medium, and she began experimenting with a papier-mâché technique to forge the delicate sculptures for which she is now known. Levy works primarily with “old books,” those published before 1960, which she inherits from friends and family or purchases at flea markets or antiquarian shops. “Old book paper...carries several histories simultaneously,” she says. “In the content itself, through traces left by previous owners and by the passing of time, where the sun has turned the book edges yellow or brown.” The idea for a sculptural form typically occurs to Levy first. “I then search for the right paper quality,” she says. “Third comes the content of the book, which I take into account in the piece somehow. Any genre works.” To make Contemplation Bowls (2013), pictured above, Levy used the pages of a Swedish spiritual book, whose title she translated as Contemplations for Each Day of the Year, which contained 365 short texts. “The bowl symbolizes the female primordial form and is found everywhere in nature,” she says. Levy’s work is in the permanent collection of Sweden’s National Museum and can be purchased through the Konsthantverkarna gallery, both in Stockholm.

Contemplation Bowls (2013) by Cecilia Levy (Credit: Hans Bjurling)