Bella Li, Theory of Colours
Shortlisted in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2022
Joint winner of the Tafeda Best Designed Independent Book in the 70th Australian Book Design Awards 2022
'Mesmerising and uncompromising, Bella Li’s Theory of Colours arrests readers with its strangeness. Through its collaging and arrangement of diverse textual and visual elements, Li’s book provides an extended meditation on the relationship between absence and presence, margin and centre, appearance and disappearance. This is a work of uncanny poetic framing, where the recombination of source materials — historic images, found texts, and Li’s own haunted words — generates a series of extraordinary and phantasmagorial new worlds.' NSW Premier's Literary Awards Read more
'There is beauty in the restraint of the design of Theory of Colours. Bella Li's sensitive use of colour has produced an elegant and intriguing book. This is a page-turned for any designer lucky enough to thumb their way through the pages. An accomplished designer at work.' Australian Book Design Awards 2022
The colours recorded by the spectroscope are the inverse of the true colours, which float in the pupil after the eye has closed.
Theory of Colours takes as its title and point of departure the influential nineteenth-century treatise on colour by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. In Li’s third full-length collection, colour — and its absence — is at once subject, structural principle and medium. Moving from the distant past, through the fleeting, unstable present, and into a series of speculative futures, the book elaborates worlds both familiar and strange — a country estate, a small town, a grand hotel, a tower. Informed by the spectral practices of early photography and cinema, as well as the visual and thematic conventions of ghost stories, westerns and science fiction, Li’s narratives of text and image are unsettling explorations of sequence and time, absence and haunting.
Bella Li is the author and designer of Argosy, which won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry and the Kenneth Slessor Prize, and Lost Lake, shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award and Theory of Colours. Her writing and artwork have been published in a number of journals and anthologies, including Meanjin Literary Journal, Australian Book Review, Peril Magazine, Rabbit Poetry Journal, The Kenyon Review, and The Archives of American Art Journal. She holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and is the Associate Publisher at Cordite Books.
Author photo credit: Leah Jing McIntosh, 2018. Liminal Magazine.
Bella Li, Theory of Colours
2021. 152mm x 228mm. 176pp.
Release date: August 2021
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.