Teo Treloar, wearing a black jacket and pants, sits on a stool in an art studio, surrounded by paint on the walls. Photo: Paul Jones

Artist’s new exhibition inspired by The Plague

Artist’s new exhibition inspired by The Plague

UOW visual arts lecturer Teo Treloar used classic book to beat boredom of covid lockdowns

“What did you do during the pandemic?,” asked artist and University of Wollongong (UOW) Visual Arts lecturer Teo Treloar.

My answer was like most of us: I spent a large amount of time at home washing my hands and practising social distancing.

But for Teo, to defeat the boredom brought about by isolation, he started collecting books. But not just any book. He had one particular book in mind, The Plague by Albert Camus.

Interestingly, more than 70 years after it was first published, Camus’s classic novel became a best-seller again during the pandemic. The publisher, Penguin Classics, struggled to keep up with orders during 2020 and 2021.

For those who haven't read it, The Plague tells the story of human resilience and hope in the face of a plague sweeping across the Algerian city of Oran. When the outbreak takes hold of the city, so too does fear, isolation and claustrophobia as its citizens are forced into quarantine. Does that sound familiar?

“There are more than 40 different designed covers for the novel The Plague, and I decided to collect them all,” said Teo, who is also a renowned artist.

“The cover artworks range from representational to abstract and use painting, illustration, photography, and typography. Some depict empty cityscapes, vacant streets, others, figures in isolation, or social distancing.”

Teo said he became obsessed with collecting all the different book-designed covers.

“It was quite exciting to order and receive the same book from South America to the United Kingdom, and each book, although the same, had different artwork on its cover. It was great.” Seclusion can do crazy things to people, but according to the award-winning artist, there was a method to the madness.

The result of amassing books of the same name and same author became the inspiration for Treloar's newest exhibition, ‘And Now, The Plague’. It is a collection of beautiful graphite pencil drawings that examine the themes of isolation and existentialism.

“Albert Camus's novel The Plague was the perfect starting point for my artworks that mirror the social and cultural aspects of Covid-19 at the time,” he says, pointing out some of his latest works that include drawings of different covers of The Plague, along with Teo’s signature artworks depicting human characters in spaces of remoteness.

‘And Now, The Plague’ will be showing at Grafton Regional Gallery from September 17 to November 13, followed by Olsen Gallery in Sydney from November 30 – December 17.