From pages to poster

Books fully transform into posters at a unique exhibition of book-posters in Mumbai

While looking for an inventive last-minute Christmas present for his mother in 2003, Carl Pappenheim, a web designer at the time, stumbled upon an idea that would change his profession, and also Christmas-gifts for many people in the years to come.

The idea was quite simply of a poster of his mom's favourite classic novel, but with a unique hook. The book, with its entire text, would transform into a poster; its tiny fonts shaping around a carefully etched-out image from the novel. The poster became popular, as a personal collection and creative present, and realising its business potential, the British artist turned it into his full-time enterprise known as Spineless Classics in 2010. A collection of 25 such posters are on display at an exhibition at the Anemos, Lower Parel, for sale, in collaboration with Mumbai-based literary organisation, The Narrators.

The germ of this novel idea, however, had emerged from his friends' dry architectural drawing sketches ó large sheets and tiny fonts had set him contemplating. "It made me wonder: how many words would fit on one sheet? The answer I got was 1,00,000 ó about the length of a novel," he says. Taking up one classic novel after the other, it isn't easy to make the posters riding on that just one idea. Every book comes up with its own challenge, creative and clerical.

Artistically, Pappenheim is in constant search of that one distinctive image that would best represent a book. While Bram Stoker's Dracula transforms into a large, clean heart bearing blood-marks of vampire fangs, Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram has a sprawling Taj Mahal swarmed by a crowd of words. The attempt is to be simple, yet universal. "I like to strike a balance between being obvious, so that people in shops will understand the design, and being subtle, so that only those who have read the book will truly understand what the design is about," he says.

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