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Pick Me Up 2011 at Somerset House: a review

The Pick Me Up Contemporary Graphic Art Fair returns to Somerset House for another 10 day run less than a year after 2010's very successful inaugural event. Here's my pick of the crop, and thoughts about the exhibition.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Pick Me Up Paul Blow
Tiger Feet by Paul Blow.

Yesterday 2011′s Pick Me Up once again kicked off in the Embankment Galleries at Somerset House. I went along to the opening night to check out this years talent.

Like last year, the lower galleries are once again devoted to the young rising stars of graphic design and illustration. This is the section for which I was asked to nominate a selection of Up and Coming illustrators many months ago. None of my suggestions were picked, and on the basis of some artists who were chosen I would question the description. Tom Gauld – an old acquaintance of mine – has surely been at the top of the illustrative game for many years, as have some of the others. At 47 years old American artist Polly Becker is hardly young. Although it’s great to be feted at any time in your career it’s a bit of an oversight to champion well established artists as Ones to Watch. But nonetheless let’s continue with the review: there was much to enjoy in this gallery.

Pick Me Up 2011-Kate Moross
London based designer Kate Moross has quickly established a glowing reputation for her bold psychedelic style.

Pick Me Up NIght & Day by McBess
Pick Me Up NIght & Day by McBess
Matthieu Bessudo, aka McBess, favours a cartoonagraphic style with a surreal edge. Expect naked ladies with ninja faces. I liked the intricate stories in the large scale Night & Day artwork best.

Pick Me Up Seiko Kato
Seiko Kato was a real discovery – this Japanese artist lives in Brighton and produces amazingly detailed collages, filled with colourful flora and fauna. The Funeral is a beautifully surreal large scale work.

Pick Me Up 2011-Andy Rementer
I loved the bold colours and shapes of Andy Rementer.

Pick Me Up 2011-Jules Julien
Jules Julien makes macabre fine line work influenced by the surrealist drawing game Exquisite Corpse.

Pick Me Up 2011-Jessica Hische
Typography is Jessica Hische‘s speciality. Another American, she was a senior designer for Louise Fili Ltd. Beautifully rendered, if a little polished.

Pick Me Up 2011-Clara TernePick Me Up 2011-Clara Terne
Swedish designer Clara Terne is inspired by the deep oceans and outer space, both equally other worldly. Kaleido did pretty much what it said on the tin. Nebuloso was a beautiful piece of digital art.

Pick Me Up 2011-MVM
MVM is a Norwegian and co founder of the Grandpeople design studio. He employs a fluid minimalist form and exhibits huge silk banners – almost Japanese in appearance.

Pick Me Up 2011-Eda Akaltun
Eda Akaltun is a founding member of Nobrow – evident in her distinctive colour palette – and favours a collagey painted approach that is instantly recognisable.

Pick Me Up 2011-Victo Ngai
From Hong Kong but working in London, Victo Ngai graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. I loved her Japanese influenced drawings, which recall the fine detailing of woodblocks combined with a whimsical touch.

Pick Me Up 2011-James Graham
James Graham favours a simple graphic aesthetic.

Pick Me Up 2011-Revenge is Sweet
Revenge is Sweet shows bold 80s art deco artwork that has obvious advertising applications.

Pick Me Up 2011-Sarah ArnettPick Me Up 2011-Sarah ArnettPick Me Up 2011-Sarah Arnett
Sarah Arnett shows some beautiful digitally created flower artwork, densely created in curious colourways. Her original training as a textile designer is evident in these botanically inspired pieces.

Pick Me Up 2011-Gwenola Carrere
From Belgium, Gwenola Carrere shows some fabulous screenprints. She has published three children’s books to date. I loved her bold playful style.

Nigel Peake, from Ireland, makes lovely delicate abstract work. He has exhibited globally and I’ve always considered him more of a fine artist.

Pick Me Up 2011-Takeru Toyokura
Another Japanese artist, Takeru Toyokura shows amazing felt collages that depict weird faceless figures in surreal situations. Blonde haired children float against grandiose architecture. Strangely wonderful.

Pick Me Up 2011-Otecki
Polish artist Otecki creates black block prints inspired by both traditional iconography and graffitti. Loved his owl.

Pick Me Up 2011-Yoh Nagao
Another Japanese artist: Yoh Nagao is another surrealist collagist (do you sense a bit of a theme yet?)

Annelie Carlstrom uses a propelling pencil to fashion detailed pictures of girls with huge faces and extravagant hair. Quite unsettling.

Pick Me Up 2011-Paul BlowPick Me Up 2011-Paul BlowPick Me Up 2011-Paul Blow
Paul Blow‘s work really caught my eye for it’s strong colours and amusing narratives.

Pick Me Up 2011-Tom Gauld
Tom Gauld creates a weekly cartoon for the Guardian newspaper and you will no doubt be familiar with his unique drawings and quirky ideas – he used to run an independent publishing house with my bessie mate, the super talented Simone Lia.

Pick Me Up 2011-Polly Becker
Polly Becker‘s surrealist illustrations are created through the assemblage of ephemera.

Pick Me Up 2011-Stefanie Posavec
My boyfriend was most taken with the work of Stefanie Posavec, a graduate of Colorado State University who has an MA in Communication Design from Central Saint Martins. Her data visualisation is almost autistic in it’s detail.

I would love to see more emphasis on really new talent in this section, or perhaps in another bespoke section. Not to mention more variety in style (surreal, collage…) and a real nod to all the amazing home bred talent that is so prevalent on the blogosphere, in the zine world and elsewhere in the UK. The work shown is of an undoubtedly high standard but I think it’s an opportunity missed.

Pick Me Up 2011-Print Club London
Print Club London.

Nobrow and Ditto Press showcase their innovative independent publishing work on this floor, then above and below this gallery are stationed the collectives who pitched to take part in Pick Me Up. Print Club London is once again holding live screen-printing workshops.

Pick Me Up 2011-Sister Arrow
I particularly liked the print (for sale) by Sister Arrow, who has created an imaginary pygmy super-race simply called Sumo Babies of which I presume Crystal String Dance is one.

Pick Me Up 2011-Margaux Carpentier
I also liked Margaux Carpentier‘s work. Her print is inspired by an Eskimo legend where the first woman meets the wolf-god Amarok.

Pick Me Up 2011-Jaguar Shoes
The JaguarShoes Collective is showing for the first time, with lots of work for sale from a wide variety of loosely associated artists. For Pick Me Up they have created a Campfire wall – featuring over sized marshmallows and flickering tissue flames.

Pick Me Up 2011-Nous Vous
Next door is the minimalist Nous Vous set up.

Pick Me Up 2011-Samuel EsquirePick Me Up 2011-Samuel Esquire
Puck Collective are hosting a busy room that resembles a working studio. I particularly liked the strong graphic work of Samuel Esquire.

Pick Me Up 2011-Evening TweedPick Me Up 2011-Evening Tweed
Evening Tweed‘s exhibition space looks like a trendy aspirational shop in Brick Lane, with artfully arranged mementos lined around the walls. I wish my studio space looked like this!

Pick Me Up 2011-Anthony Burrill
Anthony Burrill is hosting the big central space – he may be an interesting graphic artist but he’s no Rob Ryan when it come to production techniques: expect photocopied collage opportunities and DJ-ing.

Pick Me Up 2011-Anthony Burrill
Pick Me Up Anthony Burrill area.

Suddenly it was closing time so I missed the It’s Nice That section and what looked like an interesting 3D concept from Them Lot – make sure you drop in to be filmed as one of the characters in their cardboard city. Leaving, visitors pass through the Concrete Hermit bookstore, which is much better placed than it was last year. From tomorrow (a bit late in the day I will concede) the shop will stock copies of both my books.

ACOFI Concrete Hermit
UPDATE: ACOFI and AAOI are now available at Concrete Hermit shop!

Make sure you take a moment to peruse through Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration and Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration – both of which are choc-a-bloc with *brand* new illustration talent.

Pick Me Up 2011-Nous Vous uke
Pick Me Up 2011-Nous Vous uke.

It’s exciting that an event like Pick Me Up exists, but disheartening that it isn’t more wide ranging and ambitious in the scope of its activities. What about the practical use of illustration and graphic art? Evening Tweed features some fabulous gilded Russian dolls, Nous Vous show a bespoke illustrated ukelele and the JaguarShoes Collective offers illustrated objects to buy, but there is very little consideration of how illustration can be applied to products within the exhibition as a whole or in the workshop schedule.

And what about the many different commercial aspects of working as an illustrator today? Where are the children’s book illustrators, the fashion illustrators, the illustrators who tackle sustainability within their work? Where is the discussion of the many many ways in which illustration is utilised within the online world, in animation and in editorial? Aspects of this will hopefully be brought up in workshops but I feel very strongly that there are only so many prints that people can buy for their walls, and an applied context is what differentiates illustration and graphic design from fine art so it really should be talked about in an exhibition such as this.

Pick Me Up 2011-Evening Tweed Russian Dolls
Evening Tweed Russian Dolls.

I also think it would be nice if different collectives and publishing houses were invited to take part in Pick Me Up every year, rather than many of the same ones returning again – I had a strong feeling of Deja Vu. And of course, lastly, I’d like to see more work from TRULY up and coming illustrators. There are so many very great ones out there….

You can read my full listing for Pick Me Up, including recommended events, right here. My review of last year’s Pick Me Up event can be read here. And in case you were wondering I feel it’s only right that I admit that I was actually asked to contribute this year. But we couldn’t agree on the best Amelia’s Magazine presence, which is a shame.

There’s always next year…


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13 Responses to “Pick Me Up 2011 at Somerset House: a review”

  1. Kayleigh White says:

    Hi Amelia,

    What a brilliant review and such a true reflection of how it was! I went to see the exhibition myself today and as an ‘upcoming designer’ I completely agree with your point about wanting to see more young designers coming through and for their work to be shown.

    Overall the exhibition was really great and I think many will take lots of inspiration away from it, and I think the mini studios added a really personal touch so the audience could see the artists workings.

    Still.. I’d really like to see some more ‘fresh’ work next year. Looking forward to it!


  2. Amelia says:

    Hi Kayleigh, thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the exhibition. What did other people think? Have I been fair?

  3. Kenn says:

    I thought this was a good, thorough and above all, honest, review. There’s so little critical writing about our realm of the art world, I welcomed a bit of criticism and I think you raise some valid points. Especially about the notion of ‘up and coming’ as a term that is bandied about but frequently it seems to be a lot of the same names cropping up. Polly Becker is amazing but to even try and call her ‘emerging’ or ‘up and coming’ is ridiculous!

  4. Amelia says:

    Hi Kenn, thanks for your thoughts! I do agree that there is very little critical writing about graphic art and illustration when compared to fine art. Hope you enjoyed the fair x

  5. [...] It’s free and also has a fold out print inside. All the photos are stolen from here and here. POSTED BY fran Copyright 2010 Fran Marchesi | Website by Patrick [...]

  6. Ben says:

    I visited the fair yesterday, and came away with the same thoughts. It certainly didn’t live up to it’s billing:
    “The best, most innovative and avant-garde graphic artists, collectives and galleries from the UK and across the world”

    As I work in a creative business, it’s maybe more likely that I would already by familiar with a lot of the artists featured, but it also means I’m very aware of how much more diverse and innovative it could have been…

  7. Amelia says:

    thankyou very much for your comment Ben x

  8. [...] rightly pointed out by Amelia Gregory, the proclaimed newcomers on display upstairs are hardly unknowns, and it would have been nice to [...]

  9. [...] from Amelia’s magazine did a good review of the show for further reading. I tended to agree with some of her comments that [...]

  10. polly becker says:

    While she doesn’t dispute that giving newcomers a chance is good, at 47, Polly Becker wonders why the fact checkers at Amelia’s magazine have unfairly accused her of being 48. Ouch! But then, thanks for saying that I am established and not unknown. That part was quite flattering.
    I do wish I had been able to bring actual sculptures,and install them, newer stuff, which might have contributed to if not a more youthful, possibly more energetic and stimulating presence at this event.

  11. Amelia says:

    Hi Polly, erm, fact checker would be me then. And yes, I hold my hands up, I didn’t actually search for your birthdate, I just made a quick calculation instead and I have now changed it. I hope you can forgive me, I’m sorry about that! But thanks for your comment and loved your work in the show xxx

  12. grandedame says:

    Very cool stuff indeed! Must try to put my work in for next year!

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