The Temporary Society of Authorial Illustrators is a group of recent graduates and current students of University College Falmouth’s Illustration: Authorial Practice MA. The ethos of this course is to encourage students to identify and explore new contexts for the culture of illustration. This openness to novel forms and ideas with regards to illustration is reflected in the diversity of stylistic and ideological concerns of the collective concerns, which often lie outside of the conventional boundaries ascribed to commercial illustration. Within our group artists are producing abstract images, making installations from their images, using images to tell oblique narratives, and experimenting with improvised drawing on a massive scale. What unites all these diverse practitioners is a shared sense of excitement at the possibilities for new forms for illustration to take and new contexts for it to exist in. As a collective we have a shared interest in the conscious employment of creative process. Constraints and games are used as an aid to creativity; they are often used in the form of creative collaborations between members of the collective. These activities range from improvisation to parlour games, sometimes developing into more complex and deliberate devices taking influence from diverse sources. These include the Oulipo movement, Luke Reinhart’s Dice Man experiments and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. The latter have been used for more elaborate collaborations resulting in some surprising, occasionally baffling, but always interesting results.
My work plays heavily on the human search for existential meaning but, despite the prevalence of this theme, I am painfully aware that this preoccupation becomes absurd when looked at in the context of the day-to-day. You can question your existence all you want, but that won’t pay the vet-bills when the cat needs to be spayed. When you’re walking home from the pub and see a drunk, swaying gently and staring into the twinkling canopy above, you cannot deny the beauty and sense of awe he feels shining down on him from the stars. For one moment – maybe – he feels like he’s found meaning. But the more pressing concern for you is the steaming dark urine that slowly radiates outward from his crotch. In light of this, I can do nothing but approach these questions, the existential conundrum, from a comic standpoint.
I have used a variety of techniques (both traditional and modern) to create an interlocking set of fictional worlds that exist according to an ill-defined hierarchy. I want to suggest that maybe this expanding set of parentheses goes beyond us, that the top level is beyond our understanding. And that any proclamations to the contrary should be met with the gently amused contempt they deserve.
‘He was as tall as a 6 foot 3 inch tree’ – Jack Bross.
John spends a great deal of time worrying about consciousness, the absurd and why we seem to find it all so funny. The rest of the time he spends drawing pictures, cutting things out and sticking things together. Occasionally he does all of these things at the same time, which makes him laugh, almost uncontrollably and sometimes for several hours.
John finds it useful to engage with formal practice and structures such as typography, screen printing, paper engineering and prose as these create a playground for his expressive and cartoonish tendencies whilst preventing them from running wild and possibly getting into trouble. In the event that these tendencies do escape it can be a long and tedious expedition to get them all back in the pen with the door firmly shut.
John Dunbar Kilburn
Our first collaborative project ‘Ways to Hide a Rag Fief’ is now in print! It takes the form of a beautiful A5 booklet and if anyone wants a copy then let us know. Now have fun spotting the giraffes..