Somerset House – Exhibition review

Today we took a trip to Somerset House to view the Worlds Illustration Awards exhibition. The exhibition presents this year’s shortlist of contemporary illustration, entered by emerging and established talent to the Association of Illustrators’ annual competition. The work within the exhibition included illustration from all over the world such as from the UK, to South Korea and the USA, this therefore promoting a message being that illustration is an essential contributor to global visual culture. The exhibition progressed into three very light, airy rooms allowing the work to beam off the walls and centre cabinets. The work within the exhibition varied from books, posters, sculptures to egg heads, this being effective for me because I think it was able to reflect upon the diverse disciplines which lie within the industry and prove that illustration is not always ‘just drawing.’


I have chosen to discuss some work from the exhibition which I enjoyed however in some cases I have chosen to upload an online image of the work as the quality of my own photos are not suitable due to the lighting at Somerset house.

The first piece of work which caught my eye as soon as I walked into the exhibition was created by Sam Pierpoint, a piece called El Jimador Skull.

IMG_3198       IMG_3200

This piece was created to celebrate the Day of the Dead, with each skull being inspired by someone who was a large inspiration personally. I believe this piece was able to catch my eye through the bright colours and captivating shapes in which it perceives. The artist has been able to create a three dimensional piece which has more than one meaning whilst being able to tell a story. Having researched this piece, the artist based his skull upon his Grandad who had an involvement in building the Queen Mary cruise ship, this therefore being represented through the boat upon the skulls and the strong waves in which cascade below it. The patterns upon the ship have been influenced by the artist Scottish heritage whilst also being able to enhance colour and separate the ship from the waves. I think this piece is able to draw you in due to it being a sculpture rather than a flat piece hung upon the wall, the fact that it has depth and the use of dimension create interest and allows you to question how in fact it was made whilst introducing a new medium to illustration. I also found this piece inspiring and something in which I would want to experiment with as I believe it gives a new means to illustration.

The next piece of work in which I enjoyed was a series created by Grahame Baker-Smith, this being the 150th anniversary stamps commissioned by the Royal Mail influenced by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.


I liked this artwork through Baker-Smith’s style of illustration as each stamp varies, with some being very cartoon-like such as the cheshire cat whilst some are more realistic for example Alice’s face being more refined and detailed. However there is a very fluent theme when it comes to colour as each piece is bursting with bright, vibrant and fresh colours and delicate blending allowing a lively interpretation to be achieved. Each piece has been made with a tremendous amour of detail from the lace upon Alice’s dress to the relocation on the White Rabbit’s pocket watch.

I liked this next piece due to its purpose, this being because the work is held at Royal London Children’s Hospital to make the wards feel ‘warm and cosy’ for the young patients. The work carried out by Chris Haughton are animal illustrations which have been made into prints, rugs and vinyl stickers. I think the illustration has been able to captivate the intended audience through the simplistic however vibrant and welcoming design. The designs are easily recognisable for children whilst also being made fun through the diversity of colour and shape in which each character perceives. The pieces give of a message to children that they are in a stable and safe environment almost to say that the animals are there to look after them, this therefore taking their minds off other factors.



To conclude I enjoyed viewing this exhibition as I was able to see a large collection of illustration at once whilst also being able to see first hand the diverse guidelines within illustration. Each piece within the exhibition was different however all were eye-catching, colourful and intriguing to look at, wanting you to find more about the work and research its meaning or story behind the design. I found the exhibition inspiring as I was able to distinguish that there is a lot more to illustration than hand renderings or digital design as there were a vast amount of materials used within the pieces for example water colour, ink, pencil, acrylic and screen print.

Within the exhibition, a printed vinyl sticker was placed below the illustrators w
ork, this being able to draw you into the piece whilst making the exhibition more interactive and fun.This being s
omething in which I think worked well because it allows the work to flow out of the traditional guidelines of the frame to be able to create more of a reaction from the reader.


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