Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A-Z | Quentin Blake

A new exhibition at the Foundling Museum showcases recent work of one of Britain’s most successful and best loved illustrators, Quentin Blake.

The Exhibition showcases over 60 works commissioned by 4 hospitals. Blake’s aim was to create work that would make being in or visiting hospital a “less alien” and more of a normal experience. “What I have tried to include is a certain amount of detail, some interesting activities, and some suggestions of the little drama of relationships, so that the viewers - especially any who have to wait - may feel the desire to go on looking and perhaps even 
to speculate about the stories happening in front of them."

The illustrations are in 4 separate hospitals and took 5 years to complete. The first was Planet Zog for The Alexandra Avenue Health and Social Care Centre in South Harrow. This hospital cares for young children so Blake wanted to create an alien planet to fit the alien feel of going to the hospital. Blake cheekily reversed the roles of doctors and aliens to make the patients and visitors feel more at ease with going to the hospital and maybe seeing the doctors in a different more fun light.

 The second commission was completed in 2009 and entitled ‘Our friends in the circus’ for The Ellington Ward in Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow – an older persons mental health ward within the hospital. These light-hearted illustrations feature tightrope walkers, clowns and fire-eaters all of an older age. “I didn’t want people to take it too seriously, so it’s a parallel life.  I drew people of my generation swinging from tree-to-tree and things of that kind, it corresponds to their mental activities” Blake explains.

The third and possibly the most sensitive set was for Vincent Square Eating disorder Clinic in London. Before he created this set he spoke to the users of the clinic as he had no brief and wanted the users to be able to relate to the illustrations. 
The feedback form the clinic was that the users wanted subtle characters doing seemingly everyday activities with food. Blake created a set of foody images in a very relaxed everyday way.  Blake makes clear that “The drawings don’t insist on food but there is food about as part of everyday life. I hope they are optimistic. There is a lot of humour in them but they are not making fun of anyone. They are a form of praise.”

His biggest hospital project is in the Maternity unit of Hospitalier Universitaire in Angers, France.  Here he has created over 50 images whose sole aim was to say to mothers that “it will be alright, in a minute”!
The theme for these illustrations is the meeting of mother and baby for the first time. Blake has captured this by creating a “parallel world where their swimming expresses and celebrates their newfound liberty after the pains of labour”.

Quentin Blake’s As Large as Life exhibition comprises of 60 illustrations and will be displayed at the Foundling Museum on Brunswick Square until 15th April before touring the UK well into 2013.

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