Virus Classics (2020) Spines Sculpture

Jolyon Fenwick (1971-)

Sculpture of the spines of 21 volumes. 30 editions. Signed, dated and numbered by the artist
Framed in tulip wood with museum glass

31cm x 69cm in the frame



Sculpture of the spines of 21 spoof volumes mimicking the size, production values and design style of the paperbacks of The Penguin English Library designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. The artwork is encased in an acrylic box.

Covid19 pandemic introduced us all to a new reality. New restrictions to our daily existence had to be got used to; new codes of behaviour learnt. We all returned to our normal lives and treasured freedoms in the end but the time of the virus, with all its undreamt-of peculiarities and hardships, will be an historic experience that none of us will ever forget.

Here photographer and historian, Jolyon Fenwick has created, in three dimensions, a lightly-satirical, black-humoured, nostalgic graphic record of those strange times.

‘Artists and non-artists alike have valiantly drawn and painted their impressions of the last few frightful months. But I can’t draw or paint so like so many talentless, creative souls I turned to that time-honoured medium of spoofery – Penguin book design – in this case basing the art direction of this imaginary collection of literary classics on the supremely elegant designs by Coralie Bickford-Smith for The Penguin English Library. My efforts are not half as handsome as hers but the format of her designs did allow one or two extra black jokes – a great tradition of the British in a crisis but one, it seems, hardly observed at all in this one – about the more egregious aspects (lockdown, quarantine, social distancing, school closure, regional hostility, panic buying, enforced leisure, dubious recorded causes of death, epidemic alcoholism, government wrong-headedness and individual and national bankruptcy) of this awful period. I think my favourite is probably LORD EDGWARE DIES AFTER TESTING POSITIVE as, one imagines, even if he’d been bludgeoned to death in the library with the lead piping the powers that be would still hungrily add him to the Covid figures.’

Educated at Eton and Bristol University, Jolyon is the author of three books: Einstein’s Watch (Profile Books November 2010), It Could Have Been Yours (Profile Books November 2011) and Zero Hour: Views from the Parapet of the Somme (Profile Books June 2016). Zero hour accompanied Jolyon’s much acclaimed The Zero Hour Panoramas photography exhibition at the Sladmore Gallery in the summer of 1916. ‘What Owen, Sassoon and the other war poets put into words, Fenwick has captured visually with his photographs. Among the many books and artworks produced in honour of the centenary of World War 1, Fenwick’s is perhaps the most unusual and the most moving.’ DAILY MAIL 23 June 2016.

Jolyon lives in the Cotswolds.

If you would like to buy this picture (or see some more photographs), arrange a viewing or if you would just like to get in touch, then please call 01608-658003 or email [email protected]