House of Illustration

House of I.

I started my placement last Thursday. It was a very cold February day and I wasn’t sure how long it will take me from my house to the House of Illustration, so I arrived 25 minutes before my starting time at 9.30 am.!! The temperature was 0 degrees and I was wondering around and getting familiar with Kings Cross. As a Southern European as was dressed with layers and layers, yet I could feel the cold passing through all my clothes and thoughts. The question came back; the same question I have every winter since my arrival in the UK eight years ago: will I live here for good? And them the same answer: this is the loveliest place to be ever in summer… although I can believe it when I’m going through the winter.

Finally, someone opened the door at 9.25, But they weren’t expecting me! The visitor manager, Holly Burrows, who asked me to come, forgot to let know the rest of the team that I was coming on this day. Fortunately, after checking with Holly they told me that it was good for them to have one more helper. Next week I will be assisting in three workshops but for this Thursday I worked as a vigilant and it was actually quite interesting. When being quiet in a corner for hours surrounded just by the exhibition’s works you can learn more than what you think. We should never underestimate the power time plus observation. Time, that precious thing we seem to lack so much, time to look at things, time to really understand the kind of people interested in illustration and to hear their comments about what they see, time to see how this place works in detail.


The actual collective exhibition is filled up with wonderful drawings, storyboards, posters, illustrations and wonderful graphic novels books… and now I can look at all this and read this books within the many hours I will have to spend here today! At the end of my first day at the House of Illustration I felt completely drank of one of the things I most like in the world: illustration.

At the moment the House of Illustration is hosting an exhibition of the work of pioneering female comics artists. Exploring the world of comics through original artwork by 100 women comic creators working across genres and generations – from the 1800s to the present day; from observational comedy to surreal fantasy, challenging biography to subversive dissent. On display is original artwork from graphic novels, comics and zines – many seen in public for the first time. It will feature work from acclaimed titles such as Nina Bunjevac’s Fatherland and Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth as well as self-published sensations like Nadine Redlich’s Ambient Comics and many more. Some of the images in this exhibition are dealing in a masterly way way with very difficult issues such as abuse, grieve, isolation, rape… in a straight forward way to meet the viewer with this traumas, much better than explained with words.

Also theirs is an exhibition of the artist David Lemm: Mapping King’s Cross: a multi-disciplinary exploration of the changing King’s Cross landscape by our Illustrator in Residence. The first two hours of my day I was at the entrance of David Lemm’s exhibition. Here you can see a set of 24 square wooden boards with collages representing maps of Kings Cross with his observations and experiences in the area.  Among the different visitors to this room I was very interested in a group of students with a tutor talking about phytogeography. The tutor was talking about a known personage that predicted 20 years ago by channelling energies that Kings Cross area was going to be a playground for imagination and this is the reason for Saint Martin’s University and the House of Illustration ended placed in this area. I was very interested in this conversation, yet I couldn’t get the name of this personage and because of my “invisible” role as a vigilant I couldn’t ask. I will, anyway, research about it.


At the moment they also have The Book Illustration Competition Longlist 2016. entrants have been asked to illustrate Michael Morpurgo’s classic War Horse.There are many very strong illustrations from all around the world. The winner will be announced on 25 February 2016.


Camden Arts Centre



As I read about the exhibitions they have at this moment my expectation was to find a very modern venue, perhaps like a small Tate Gallery, since the artists they are hosting in this moment are known by their contemporary work. Instead I found a gallery with an air of “welcoming community” place. The day outside was cold. So the warm of the place and the light of the sun coming through the windows invited to relax and enjoy the cafeteria, the exhibitions and the bookshop with wonderful art books. They also have a garden with access through the cafeteria. Recently I learned a Japanese word to describe the light filtered through the leaves of the trees: Komorebi. If I could I would have named today the light coming through the windows in the Camden Arts Centre with a special name too, a name for a peaceful building inviting to wave trough the interiors and the thoughts and visions of its art. Immerse in these thoughts and wandering about in the building I found a wall with the history which I thought is beautiful because all started more than a century ago as a library in 1887. It was first called Central Public Library and the building was designed by Arnold S. Tayler. Later, in 1964 closed and all the books were transferred to the new library in Swiss Cottage. In 1965 reopened again as Hampstead Arts Centre at the initiative of the Hampstead Artist’ Council. Enrolments begin for classes in painting, life drawing, pottery and basic design. In 1966 exhibitions program inaugurated and in 1967 the name changed to Camden Arts Centre, as we know it now.


In this moment the exhibitors are Rose English and Florian Roithmayr.

Camden Arts Centre


Rose English has installations in two big dark rooms in which she shows works about acrobatic equilibrium with its fragility and strength. For this she uses acrobatic objects made of glass like diabolos, wands, spiral twisted chalices, bowls and dishes. These objects are displayed on a table in one of the rooms. In the same room are three big screen showing a documentary of rehearsals and workshops for Lost in Music with the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. The room is big and dark and these are the two elements of the room: the table and the screens. The next room is completely dark. A4 sheets with drawings and notes are pinned on the wall all around the room. A light bulb from the ceiling is illuminating the different sets of three paper sheets and that is the only thing you can clearly see in the room. But in the darkness you can intuit for its shadows some tables and chairs as if it was, maybe, an old classic café. The insinuation plays a great role in this room. Beautiful, and also a bit disturbing, sound of glass, harp and a mix of opera is spinning around the room in this darkness. Looking at the papers on the wall I see words like “nervous energy, weeping glass, rare air, elaborate bravura, broken glass used as music, voice-light-glass-image-word-opera”.


When I left Rose English exhibition’s rooms I heard voices of people coming from “The Drawing Room”. This is a space for making and discuss contemporary art. Inspired by the exhibition they offer courses, workshops and projects for people of all ages. It can be book free of charge for schools and community groups.

Last but not least I visited Florian Roithmayr installations. The pieces are made of concrete, wood and clay. He seems to be concerned about modelling the materials beyond the physical expectations with meticulous attention to detail. Carefully balancing tensions and pressures in the sculptures.