Those who recognise Quentin Blake primarily for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books will be able to obtain a much more current picture of the artist’s concerns with this show.
Invited by Jerwood Gallery’s director to explore subjects at the forefront of his mind, Blake has produced new work looking at pressing contemporary issues including mental health, the refugee crisis and curtailments to creative freedom. He tackles these in his trademark style, where off-kilter scenes populated by odd and extraordinary creatures reveal deeper meanings.
Conceived as a journey through modern life and the creative mind, Quentin Blake: The Only Way to Travel includes several new large-scale drawings, a 12-foot by 9-foot mural (installed using a cherry picker), and some smaller pieces starting at the size of a postcard. The bigger drawings, hung in the Foreshore Gallery, have been created with a sense of spontaneity, largely improvised and then left unrevised or corrected. One of the exciting things about this process, Blake explains, is that ‘at this scale, you have to rethink the drawing materials. What you thought was a big pencil suddenly looks quite small. Many of the drawings are done with large brushes, and several with commercial decorator’s paint rollers or an ink dispenser. I’ve used things that are inexpensive and fun to use.’
Comprising more than 100 works, this is Blake’s biggest ever show.