Contemporary Graphic Art

Pick-me-Up 2015 at Somerset House

Pick me up 1

Once again we took our students to the current offerings of Somerset House’s Pick Me Up, Graphic Arts Festival. I really wanted to see something different, something inspiring, something to amaze me and I came away feeling mostly flat. The ‘festival’ seemed to have lost its buzz and its edgy excitement . There was little of any substance but then that’s partly what Pick Me Up seems to be about. (No, it’s not me getting old, many of my students felt the same way.) Even the exhibitors appeared to have lost their zest for the occasion, looking quite glum and crestfallen. I suspect that there were fewer exhibitors this year and that made it feel emptier.

Pick me Up is a niche happening. It’s a mixture of the zany, the quirky, the colourful and the cheerful. Typically you’ll see cartoons, surreal and abstract prints and alphabets and much of it now looks like a reproduction of each others style and a rehash of much from previous years, only now it’s looking a little like a tired clown. Pick Me Up appears to have become increasingly safe in churning out pseudo-cheerful work with little to say. Imagine a nursery school with a letterpress, good paper stock and plenty of day glo colours only far more strained in its results. Well, with the few exceptions that’s Pick Me Up 2015. There were some noticeable strong participants and their differences in both technical skills and content made them stand out. My favourites by far were the sensitive and lively drawings of Zoë Taylor and wonderful paper-crafted works of Hattie Newman. Both were a real delight to find.

Visual work aside, the range of speakers this year was good and I was lucky enough to hear Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright of ‘pioneering publishing house’ GraphicDesign&  deliver a great talk on graphic design.

In recent years I have genuinely enjoyed much of what has come out of PMU and the associated genre of art that has emerged. I particularly like the way in which many of the PMU creatives are doing things for themselves, on their own terms and in their own way, however, I can’t help yearning for something fresh or perhaps more importantly a more diverse range of styles. Contemporary graphic art is so much more than what PMU has come to represent. A little substance goes a long way.

PMU_2015_2
Lucienne Roberts (L) & educator Rebecca Wright of GraphicDesign&
Out students taking part in using coloured scraperboard at the Blink Art stand
Our FE & HE students taking part in using coloured scraperboard at the Blink Art stand
Hattie Newman
Hattie Newman
Hattie Newman
Hattie Newman
Workbook of Hattie Newman
Workbook of Hattie Newman
The work of Kate Hudson
The work of Kate Hudson
The work of Kate Hudson
The work of Kate Hudson