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Bella Li, Theory of Colours

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    Book description: Theory of Colours takes for its title a nineteenth-century treatise on colour theory by canonical German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe. While Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810) is a quasi-scientific work, my own Theory of Colours uses colour (and its correlates – light, shadow, the absence of colour) as a structural device and point of departure, to explore themes and subjects including: the spectral practice of photography, geographical extremes of north and south, climate change and speculative futures. The book draws on extensive research and fieldwork undertaken over the course of two years – in Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, supported by an Australia Council Individual Project Grant – including interviews with scientists at the Antarctic Climate and Eco-systems Cooperative Research Centre. To open poetry out to different discourses, I engage with a number of disciplines, most notably science, as well as the works of a generically diverse range of artists, including Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase.

    Bella Li is a Melbourne-based poet. She holds a PhD in creative writing from The University of Melbourne, where she teaches literature and creative writing. She is the author of one chapbook, Maps, Cargo (Vagabond Press, 2013), and two full-length collections, Argosy (Vagabond Press, 2017) and Lost Lake (Vagabond Press, 2018). Maps, Cargo was shortlisted for the Wesley Michel Wright Prize; Argosy won both the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry and the Kenneth Slessor Prize, was highly commended in the Anne Elder Award, and commended in the Wesley Michel Wright Prize; and Lost Lake was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award (QLD Literary Awards). Her poetry, reviews, articles and artwork have been published both nationally and internationally, including in Best Australian Poems, Overland, Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, ABR, The Kenyon Review (US), Western Humanities Review (US) and Archives of American Art Journal (US). Her work was also included in the Triennial of the National Gallery of Victoria in 2018–2019, and subsequently published in NGV Magazine. In addition to producing her own creative work, she was a managing co-editor at Five Islands Press for seven years, and has been the Associate Publisher at Cordite Books since early 2019.


    This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

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