This year’s edition of excellent London graphic design festival Pick Me Up had a slightly more commercial feel than last year’s, with a number of the upstairs studios and galleries offering multiple products beyond prints, and retailer Lazy Oaf showcasing its new collection. As the 12-day festival gets underway, we spoke with co-curator Karishma Rafferty to get the lowdown on this year’s program, and chose our favorites among the emerging artists on display.
For 2015, Pick Me Up has introduced a new section: Pick Me Up Platform, a dedicated program that will feature more than 100 drop-in debates, presentations and discussions. “We want to engage our visitors in conversations about graphic design trends and issues; for example, we’re holding a large-scale sit-in for arts education with artist Bob and Roberta Smith (who is standing in the General Election), as well as a series of talks called ‘Points of Contention’ including [one] with Occupy designer Noel Douglas called “RESIST REVOLT DESIGN,” says Rafferty.
This time around, there’s also a focus on the idea of process. In the “Selects” section, where upcoming artists are on display, visitors can see both the finished pieces on the walls, but also the sketches and work that proceeded them—as shown in glass cases. The opportunity to see the effort that goes into the prints on display adds an extra layer of interest and insight. Artists will also produce new work on-site daily, Rafferty tells us, and Peckham Print Studio and Hato Press operate live-print studios during the festival. “When we first opened in 2010, we were the first graphic arts festival, so it’s really interesting to see how the graphic arts climate has changed and developed over the past five years… which in turn has challenged us to stay fresh and unique. It’s great to see that there’s such an appetite for illustration and graphic design, especially in this digital age,” Rafferty says.
The 12 rising stars that are part of “Pick Me Up Selects” were all chosen because they represent “a different process in an interesting way.” These young creatives really brought it this year and, judging by how much interest was generated and how many prints were sold at the press preview alone, we’re sure to see even more of their work in the future. Below, we’ve highlighted five of our favorites.
Calling Laura Callaghan “emerging” might be pushing it a bit—the South East London-based artist’s illustrations have been seen in NYLON magazine and Urban Outfitters, among others. At Pick Me Up she showcased her colorful, graphic prints of intimidatingly awesome women. The new works are a “tongue-in-cheek take on the nine circles of hell described in Dante’s Inferno,” she says. We especially love the ice-cold girl gang in “Shun” and the friends stuffing themselves in “Gorge.”
Illustrator and director Jack Cunningham has a clean, simple style of drawing that is reminiscent of children’s book illustrations. He made his childhood dream of being a toy designer come true at Somerset House with his cute 3D-printed dinosaurs, a collaboration with Vincent Techer that resulted in the friendly figurines, also accompanied by 2D dinosaur illustrations.
Taking his inspiration from the environment in which it would be shown, designer and printmaker Peter Judson created a large-scale image of Somerset House for Pick Me Up. Judson’s work is influenced by the Soviet Union and color, composition and perspective play a dominant role. The large, detailed main print that stopped a number of visitors in their tracks is accompanied by smaller “detail shots,” focusing on Judson’s labyrinthine graphic designs.
Swede Sara Andreasson’s illustrations for Pick Me Up featured people of different colors and sizes, all drawn with a loving touch. Andreasson says the work deals with “the notion of femininity and masculinity, ideals of beauty, intimacy and fashion.” The editor of feminist Swedish magazine BBY, she has also worked with The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Architectural Review.
Ghaurab Thakali’s work might be familiar from Protein magazine’s Gender Issue, or from the Camberwell College of Arts graduate show last year. The freelance illustrator’s colorful depictions of Prohibition-era America still managed to convey a noir feel, and underline how exciting the young graphic design scene is in the UK right now.
Images by Kevin Meredith and Cajsa Carlson