This week the Brighton Journal interviewed Laurie Avon, a young artist who uses illustration to explore political ideas and transcend traditional boundaries.
© Jem Ward
Laurie Graduated from Kingston last summer, and has been working on a range of exciting projects since. He is now living in Brighton, which he describes as a good creative foundation: “its such a liberal place that I’m constantly with people who are interested in social change and cultural issues”
During Laurie’s final year at university he became “really interested in how illustration can be used to emotionall connect people and break down quite intense topics”. He wrote his dissertation about documentary illustration, exploring “how illustration can cover and represent humanitarian crisis”. This led to him creating a zine, entitled “28 Days Later”, that focused on the transitional period of time when refugees come to the UK and ascertain refugee status. He used lino prints to represent the crisis and explore the “weird transitional period” where a displaced person has “28 days to sort your entire life out, before your funding gets cut”.
He explained that as a creative, he is interested in taking inaccessible, jargon-heavy, academic research and turning it into something visual, that people can understand “to make research go further”.
“As a creative you can take really inaccessible, jargonised research and make it into something visual, that is open to more audiences“
He created the images by lino cutting “because it’s a craft of the people“, which has now become his preferred medium “I like that you have to simplify things“.
Today he has been making a follow up of this zine to “make people realise that refugees don’t leave by choice. There are so many choices that they have to make when deciding to leave.” The zine will turn the viewer into the person trying to make a decision – it will “be a map of the journey to safety, exploring all the things people have to think about before making the journey.”
During his last year of university, Laurie also made a huge protest banner which was printed onto potato sack material. He collected evidence from ethnographic research, and then created a visual representation of a political argument. The banner was held up by cast-iron poles set in concrete “which is all part of the visual language” and was entitled “Voices of Descent”.
Either side represents the right and left wing voices and in the middle is a manifesto of the Home Office. The colour -, red, black and white depict the visual language of protest. Representing the argument in this way means that “People can see their own research in the work, and take on other viewpoints“
“Voices Of Dissent is a social commentary visualising the polarizing viewpoints and flawed structural support of displaced people in the UK. Within it both right wing and left wing voices are represented through illustration, enabling people with different beliefs and backgrounds to recognize themselves in the work, providing the viewer with the opportunity to take on opposing ideas and a greater perspective of the crisis. The centre of the banner also provides a visual manifesto of the Home Office, representing picturing it flawed support for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the UK.”
Words are vital to Laurie’s pieces, “whilst lots of illustrators focus on making handsome images, the thing that I spend the longest on is writing the metaphor”.
“Often people are big who just focus on handsome images, I spend the longest trying to find the right metaphor”
Since leaving university, Laurie has been involved in many exciting projects. One of these is his involvement with a press called Minute Books, with Sean O’Brien, Barney Fagan and Scott Coleman.
“We make minute by minute books of events, it started as us all just being really into football. there are two illustrators and two set designers, the illustrators scribe the football match minute by minute, who then passes it to the designer. you end up with a concertin book.“
Laurie explained that what he enjoys most about this project is the fact that all of the drawings are metaphorical, but have to be created on the spot, which means that “there’s no holding back”.
“You are using images to summarise things, so when two people both cover things you know that its a highlight, when drawings layer up that’s also an important moment, it’s basically like watching the highlights.“
They have also started to create these books for talks and events “people can look back at a talk and remember what was in it. people can hold it in their hands and see a talk unravel”
Check out their Instagram:
“illustration has taken a newer role than just responding to text, alot of people are using illustration to make social change”
Laurie is also involved in a Crit club, alongside Olivia Waller and Jack Snelling – “We basically set each other speculative projects for each other to do, you get an article and respond with an image like you would for a client. were looking to open it up as an illustration creative its quite exciting”
He explained that this was a really important project for him, because it supports people who are fresh out of university, and is also a way of building contacts. Especially “uni works out the way it should and by the end you have found your voice”
He has also recently created a book cover with Vintage Penguin, for Roddy Doyle, which has just been published.
“I loved the whole process of them sending me extracts from the book, the layering of creativity is really exciting for me, someone created something and you create a response – you’re almost collaberating”
Laurie explained that he has “always thought the most important thing about illustration is the communication of an idea“. He discusses that illustration is gaining increasing respect as an academic tool, due to its ability to make research visual, and is excited to be a part of this. He has a lot of respect for Mitch Miller, who is the inventor of the illustrative style of the dialectogram.
“Mitch Miller is the perfect example of how illustration and anthropology can mix together, he does ethnographic research and turns it into visual maps of places based on conversations he has.”
Laurie has just started working as a tutor on the Art Foundation course at City College.
His Instagram is available here
The link to the website is available here