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2022 - Shortlisted
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.
Theory of Colours often presents simple elements yet renders them as simultaneously spectral and overwhelming. This casts the reader into new and uncertain relationships with language, image and the world. Li’s work reconsiders that which has been taken for granted: the prose poem, the fragment, the notion of the book itself. It is a work where both the elided ‘I’ and the occluded ‘eye’ point to the central abyss from which poetry emerges.