Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Secret Members' Show, or How I fell In Love With Ink Again.

I'm an illustrator, which means I'm a pen-wielding gun for hire; proficient at answering briefs, often to short deadlines; navigating the demands of as many as sixteen clients at once (that's my record to date) and firing work out of the studio like so many curlicued ping-pong balls.

I can do this for months on end, but it takes its toll. You see I love doing books covers, and adverts, and packaging, but there's an itch that constantly waits to be scratched until an opportunity arises. It can only wait so long before the equilibrium begins to distort, and the urge to create some personal, entirely self-generated work becomes all-consuming. Like any bodily need - thirst, sleep, hunger, sex - if this is continually denied, I start to feel physically out of sorts.

So. When Leigh and I - in our capacity as curators of Factoryroad - wrote the brief for our Secret Members' Show, I knew there was a chance to do something I rarely get the time to do: express...and play.

The brief was thus:

"As you’re already aware we would like you to grace our new gallery with your interpretation, celebration, homage, tale or observation of the male member.

Be aware this isn't some 'just for laffs', cheesy feminism show; it has nothing to do with girl power or porn or Ann Summers. Neither is it a sombre acknowledgement of the weapon of mass production/oppression shared by the fairer sex.

No! This is a celebration of each creative female's feelings about this extension of the males who have coloured their lives, or which inspired the exchange of stories. Only female creatives are taking part.

The subject is apolitical, universal, timeless; it is variously a symbol of hope, new life, love, but also of war, fear, threat and oppression. They can be funny, characterful, and as unique as the men who wear them."

I did three pieces for the show itself, but the collection was held together by the poster. Since the subject matter was to remain secret to everyone but the participants, I wanted it to hint at peeping, vaudeville, burlesque, Victorian pornography, but also craftsmanship and exuberance. It was all hand-drawn at A2 in black Talens Ecoline ink with a variety of nibs, and a 0.2 and 0.3 fineliner for the very small type, on Fabriano 230gsm 100% recycled paper. The RSVP hand and the 'censored' little boy were also drawn in pen and ink.

It took three days, and with the exception of the three show pieces themselves - one video essay, one sculpture and one large-scale drawing in coloured pencil - I can't remember enjoying a piece of work this much in years.

Here's the original A2 art, done in one take - no digital, just planning, patience, and the odd little blob of Tippex:

Here's the little boy having his tender eyeballs protected (the show was thoroughly 'unsuitable for children'):

And for the postal invitations, I added a simple serif font (Niew CroMagnon) and rejigged the elements. The motif was used on all the information panels, the welcome poster, the tea towel wrappers and the leaflets. We've hung the original, appropriately enough, on the Victorian door of the bathroom.

You can read about the show and its opening night on the Factoryroad Gallery website, and see most of the work. If you would like a print of the piece, please get in touch.

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