Somerset House is fast becoming my favourite venue for art and events. I’ve been three times in as many months. This week I was able to pop in between client meetings to see Pick Me Up, one of far too few public exhibitions celebrating graphic design and illustration. There’s a huge diversity of work on show, all of it exciting in different ways and I decided to pick just three highlights here.
One. Isabel + Helen
I’ve a weakness for the intersection of graphics and sculpture and so I was entranced by Isabel + Helen’s kinetic piece. In three dimensions, design involves its audience all the more. Retailers are discovering this, with increasingly creative merchandising and branded environments. This piece has a pleasing mechanical feel to it and in this context, with plinth and white walls, it’s a clear reference to early 20th century modern art.
Two. Claire Powell
Claire Powell makes charming and witty illustrations with a lovely inky aesthetic. With an economic number of elements she creates bags of character. No emojis I’ve seen convey anything like the expressions of those balloons. While she has certainly had successes with young audiences, the cleverness and quality of line work can be enjoyed by all and has potential for wide commercial applications.
Three: Alan Kitching
From the staircase descending into the final space, you can see that there’s a big treat in store. Alan Kitching is no newcomer. This is a major retrospective displaying work created through many decades. Letterpress has had a huge comeback and can feel jaded. But here we see a much-imitated mastery of type as image which every design student should go and see. I have always been a big fan of his hard-hitting work for The Guardian. Its power is not in using type as decoration but in delivering messages with as much impact as possible and owning the page.
Pick Me Up 2016 is on at Somerset House until 2nd May
The Alan Kitching exhibition will continue to tour:
3 June – 20 August 2016
The Lettering Arts Centre, Snape, Suffolk
1 November 2016 – 26 February 2017
The Lighthouse, Glasgow