Book People | February 2009 | Michael Lieberman

Cliff Eyland : The 'Librarian Painter'

Bookshelf File Card LK 21 -The Large Bookshelf, 2009
Illustrator Drawing on Paper, 3" x 5"

At times Cliff Eyland thinks of himself as a "librarian painter." A longtime bibliophile, Eyland has been painting on 3" x 5" index cards for 30 years.

In his latest exhibition Bookshelf File Cards, at the Leo Kamen Gallery in Toronto, Cliff Eyland "reengages his lifelong obsession with books and art by painting abstract images of books on shelves."

"Since his art school days Eyland has not only remained consistent in the size of his work but he has also come to believe that the library is the most important of all art institutions."

In 1981, while at a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Eyland created N.S.C.A.D Library File Card Intervention. Eyland cut up a copy of H.H. Arneson's History of Modern Art into 3" x 5" pieces and inserted them into the card catalog at the library. It took him a month and a half to finish. Picasso was well represented, his images turned into 55 file cards that were filed behind 'Guernica'.

Another one of his biblio works, "File Card Hidden in Books", is still alive at the Raymond Fogelman Library at the New School in New York City. Since 1997 Eyland has been inserting original file card size drawings into books at the library.

The current exhibit is the first in which Eyland has actually painted books. That alone, given his bookish history, is a good reason to go.

Bookshelf File Card LK 17, 2009
Illustrator Drawing on Paper, 3" x 5"

Gallery of the Bookshelf File Cards

Piece on the Bookshelf File Cards by Katherine Laidlaw, in Things of Desire Canada's Alternative Art Weekly