Generally speaking, the making of art and the making of illustration are two quite different undertakings. Art, in its purer definition at least, has no function and while art is often sold, the nature of its existence is dictated by the artist. If selling comes into it, it is either for conceptual reasons or it is beside the point. Illustration on the other hand is dictated by a client and it is market-based. Its function is to sell something, a book, a newspaper, a product maybe even itself.
But it is never that simple. Time can transform meaning. Some illustration far outlives any product it was meant to sell. The viewer has a say too. Many viewers discriminate between images only by immediate qualities. Additionally, given that some artists support their personal work with market orientated work, that the same skills are often applied in both fields, there isplenty of room for overlap. The best illustrators are those whose work with charged with something above and beyond its given function.
Fuschia MacAree, whose exhibition of giclee prints on paper, Early Days, is currently on show in the Front of House at Garter Lane Arts Centre in Waterford, has been astoundingly commercially successful with clients including Facebook, Google, Guinness, Greenpeace, Airbnb, Mercedes-Benz and many more. Her style is emphatic – bright strong colours and simplified shapes – but infused with a dark twist. Indeed it is the cartoon-like quality of her prints which entice the viewer along bright trails and into clear waters but it is the reminder of darkness that gives the work its colour.
Two young women climb under a barbed wire fence watched anxiously by a third; clothes flap in the Irish rain; a pair of paddling legs end in what seem more like monster paws than the pale, shimmering feet one would expect to see. Text comes into play. Low Tide reveals a traffic cone. Rare Light, at first glance a cute still-life, suggests a less rare darkness. Even Back on Top, a take on affirmative memes, implies downs as well as ups. While these hints of the other are not overwhelming, they are a pause for thought unusual in much illustration. Humour is also present, while influences are drawn from all over. Stretch recalls both 1920 Soviet Poster art and 1950s cigarette advertisements as it both teases and honours the perennial Irish concern with the lengthening of days.
The Front of House show at Garter Lane can easily be overlooked n favour of what is on in the main gallery – in this case Peter Nash’s I Remember Nothing, I Remember This (which will be reviewed elsewhere). While both shows are entirely different prospects, they are both strong enough to work together. It may be a stretch but perhaps MacAree’s cartoon-like characters and Nash’s hewn puppets, which inhabit an altogether drier, bleaker and more colourless world, are related as each are to different degrees dependent on their style for their power.
Fuschia MacAree’s Early Days is on at Garter Lane Arts Centre, 22A O’Connell Street, Waterford from July4th to August 17th 2019.
Peter Nash’s I Remember Nothing, I Remember This is on show at the same venue from July 4th to August 17th 2019.