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Labnotes: Illustrating “Home”

Adam Hancher

Jonathan Ward reveals the thinking behind his Home project to Varoom. Fifty images from different illustrators on separate cards, creating an artist book on this ‘universal theme’. Home as Muse?

What made you choose ‘Home’ as the theme for this project?

I am fascinated by childhood memories and their resonances in my own work, which invariably takes the form of the artists’ book.
‘Home’ was created from a desire to see what 50 fellow artists/illustrators would make of these thematic references before pulling them together into a cohesive entity. The word home focused on an area of memory that I could be sure all the participants would share without limiting the visual possibilities. The universal theme allied to the personal experiences of each artist made it the ideal choice for a collaborative venture.

Was there a specific brief for the artists?

The subject matter of the brief was intentionally open to encourage as wide a breadth of responses as possible. The visual problem solving had to accommodate the die-cut pattern sent to each participant. This was the only inflexible element of the brief, not only for the cohesive feel of the end product but also for ease of production.

The relevant sections of the brief stated:

“The aim is to create an editioned collection of 50 individual home-based memories or musings in the form of a die-cut house, complete with chimney-stacks and five moveable flaps at the rear.”

“The subject matter for your ‘house’ is entirely up to you.”

With the invitation to, “…explore the realms of memory between childhood and adulthood via the medium of the artists’book.”

Lucy Davey

Otto

Did you think illustrators would respond well to the theme?

We all carry memories of homes past and present. As such these memories are at once unique and universal. I was hopeful that the openness of the brief would encourage a broad spectrum of visual musings on these memories and that the advent calendar property of the die-cut windows at the rear would provide the space for the development and exploration of these ideas. My hope was not misplaced and the rich tapestry of warm, dark and surreal responses led to a depth of visual subject matter that both informs and entertains the viewer.

Jacqui Mair

What were your thoughts on the visual diversity of responses?

I was delighted with the breadth of approaches and outcomes to the brief. All the artists operated in their individual visual language, which lent the piece as a whole, a colourful cornucopia of surface that complimented the variety of topics being explored. If there had been less diversity I don’t think the project would have worked so well.

Ian McCullough

Sarah Grice

How have people (viewers/purchasers) responded to it?

The response has been one of children in a sweet shop, with viewers dipping in and out of the visual flavours on offer before declaring which ones are their particular favourites. The general pattern has been one of initial curiosity followed by a more in depth investigation. My attraction to the book-form has always been one of prolonged viewer engagement, that time taken in the visual process of reading is rewarded by revelation and discovery. The wonderful responses of all the participating artists has certainly fulfilled this unwritten subtext of the project.

‘Home’ was represented by Kaleid Editions at the London Art Book Fair in the Whitechapel Gallery this year where it was awarded the Birgit Skiold Memorial Trust Award for Excellence in Artists’books. The judges, from the V&A, British Library and the Trust itself, recognized its educational potential as one of the key qualities in their decision. The Trust has bought ‘Home’ and donated it to the V&A Special Collection at the NAL, where it is available for public viewing on request. I am really pleased for all the participating artists that their work is placed in the V&A and also that ‘Home’ is available for future generations to enjoy.

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