Amelia’s Magazine | Graduate Show 2010: Westminster Illustration

Public Ad Campaign by Peru Ana Ana Peru.

The bizarre, information pills colourful creations of Peru Ana Ana Peru can be found all over the streets of New York, information pills brightening up the city’s darkest corners and entertaining passers by. In their own words, pilule they leave ‘keepsakes around the city for others to find.’ They produce fine art, which can be seen as an extension of their street work, and they also make films. Peru Ana Ana Peru are bursting with creativity and their artistic output tends to be eye-catching, witty and brilliant. I caught up with them last month to reminisce about their visit to the UK, and find out what they had been up to since then.


Peru Ana Ana Peru came to London late last year to take part in a LAVA Collective group show. They have fond memories of the trip: ‘London was great. There was a nice energy about the place, at least that’s what we gathered from the small time that we stayed. Definitely would like to spend more time out there if and when we can. LAVA was amazing, and working with them was a pleasure. They brought together a massive show that was very special and that people seemed to like’.

Earlier this year, Peru Ana Ana Peru were invited to take part in the Eames Re-imagined project, in which artists were invited to upholster and decorate a classic Eames chair design. This was a prestigious invitation and the finished result looks great, but as they reveal, it was not the most harmonious project they have ever worked on; ‘The process for the Eames Chair was an interesting one, and involved a long, final night of arguing and painting, arguing and cutting, arguing and gluing, etc. When we finished it we couldn’t tell if we liked it or not. So we went to bed, mad at the chair. Then we woke up and saw it again, and we started liking it’.

Eames chair design.

Having appeared in books like Street Art New York (Prestel), Peru Ana Ana Peru are perhaps best known as street artists, but in fact they see themselves primarily as film makers. In an interview with they describe video as ‘the medium we feel the most comfortable in, and in which we feel we have the most to offer.’ They shoot most of their own material, but occasionally use found footage in their work. One film featured clips of 1950′s porn, shot on Super 8mm. I asked them where they found the source material; ‘We found this footage at a flea market in Chelsea ages ago, but we got it without bothering to look at what the footage was of. Then later when we got home, we decided to check it out, and we found that it was all porn, all of it. Like, 12 rolls of film. Some in color, some in black and white. We were floored. We had always wanted to use it for something, so one day we did. At the moment is no longer online because youtube took it off for violation of terms or whatever—We’ll have to get that video back online soon’.


Their last solo show at the Brooklynite Gallery featured small TV screens imbedded into canvases, a format which unified their film making and illustration work. The show also featured some fantastic piñatas, which I couldn’t resist asking about: ‘The idea simply sprang from a long held fascination and nostalgia for piñatas, and the fact that we knew we wanted some 3D objects in our show. So, piñatas seemed natural. They were fun to make, and coincidentally a friend of ours, Meg Keys, happened to make piñatas pretty much for a living. So we hooked up with her and popped them out’. Are the any plans to make any more pinatas? ‘Perhaps one day’. It seems that revisiting old ideas is not high on the agenda for Peru Ana Ana Peru: ‘We tend to get extremely bored with things if we dwell on them too long.’


Last year, Peru Ana Ana Peru joined dozens of artists to take part in Public Ad Camapin’s NYSAT project (New York Street Advertisting Takeover). Public Ad Campaign is the brainchild of Jordan Seiler, who has been waging war against street-side advertising hoardings for many years now. Much of the advertisements that appear in American cities are placed there illegally with the tacit consent of the authorities. Seiler and collaborators whitewash these adverts, then invite artists to come and decorate the blank spaces they have created. I asked Peru Ana Ana Peru how they came to be involved with the project: ‘We got involved after we were contacted by Jordan, and we naturally agreed to be a part of it. We thought the concept of the project was amazing, and it is what has always drawn us to take part in anything he is involved with. Jordan is a very smart guy and his projects are always reflective of that’.

Finally, I asked Peru Ana Ana Peru if any New York artists had caught their eye recently. (I haven’t there for a while and I’m feeling out of the loop.) They mentioned a street artist I hadn’t heard of called Nohjcoley, I’ve been checking out his work and I think it is lovely, you can visit his photo stream here.

Mural Art by Nohjcoley.

I’d like to thank Peru Ana Ana Peru for taking the time to talk to me. You can check out their films on Vimeo, including my personal favorite, ‘On the Roof’: which you can watch here

Lucy Wragg bear
Illustration by Lucy Wragg.

What the illustration students of Westminster lack in terms of proximity to town (did you know they are actually based way out in Harrow, stomach despite the name of the college?) is made up with access to a huge space in the central London wing of the college, opposite Madame Tussauds in Marylebone. The hangar-like P3 is hidden down a long grimy outside passage that wends past broken bits of furniture and it’s a huge space, big enough for a massive rave. I entered at the top gallery, which gives the most brilliant view of the whole exhibition. Unfortunately it also somewhat swallows the work of smaller artists such as illustrators…. to see them I had to venture down into the bowels and investigate further.

Westminster Graduate Show 2010

This graduating year is a small one because it lost nearly two thirds of its students after a fire forced them to miss large parts of their first year. Presumably a lot of them just simply got fed up with the lack of facilities and ventured off to pastures new. The current students are lucky enough to be tutored by two of my former Brighton University contemporaries, Simone Lia and David Foldvari, and last year’s crop have done sterling service on my blog, regularly contributing illustrations for my website and working collaboratively on interesting projects since their graduation.

The layout of this exhibition did not make it easy to look around – I was unable to pick up a business card next to the walls where the students’ best work was displayed – instead visitors were encouraged to go to the tables and peruse their portfolios to pick up any more than the most basic of information. I think this was a mistake. Bear this in mind, students who have yet to display your final work! Professionals have only the smallest amount of time to look at graduate work, and if they can’t find the information they want to hand then they are likely to simply move on, much like those first year Westminster students who flew the coop.

Tim McDonagh rabbit
Illustration by Tim McDonagh.

Some of the best work on show was that of Tim McDonagh, who produced large prints of densely detailed animals in a limited colour palette. Multiple owls peer through an oak tree with devilish yellow eyes and a dead rabbit lies prostrate in the entangled undergrowth. This is the kind of work which can only be made by someone who feels a really close affinity with the natural world, so it came as no surprise to learn that Tim was homeschooled in an intentional community in Virginia, in the east of the US. I hope we’ll see more of his work on this blog soon.

Tim McDonagh hippo
Tim McDonagh seamonsters
Illustrations by Tim McDonagh.

Animals are a perennial favourite of illustrators everywhere, and two other stand out illustrators in the show chose to render their animal imagery in fine line. Tom Baxter showed the conflation of nature and man in a finely rendered drawing where the outline of guns can be seen in an oil spill.

Tom Baxter nature of the beast
Tom Baxter
Tom Baxter
Illustrations by Tom Baxter.

We are at the same level as Sarah Bonner’s animals, which appear to eye the viewer with intent. She uses perspective to great effect in her drawing of a girl crouched, panther like on the floor.

Westminster Graduate Show 2010 Sarah Bonner
Westminster Graduate Show 2010 Sarah Bonner
Illustrations by Sarah Bonner.

Lucy Wragg makes great use of white space to show anthropomorphised animals – a bear reads the newspaper, peacocks look down on scummy Big Issue selling pigeons and a disgusted cat turns his nose up at another cat’s ablutions. She has produced a lovely set of cards from the series which she was selling in the pop-up student shop.

Lucy Wragg Class Division
Lucy Wragg cats
Lucy Wragg rats
Illustrations by Lucy Wragg.

Alexander Wells showed very adept Manga/Anime style illustrations. Although his work is not the kind of style that I generally gravitate towards I could see that he’s technically very good.

Alexander Wells girl
Illustration by Alexander Wells.

Also worthy of mention is Tom Leadbetter. His work is more abstract than the kind of work I gravitate towards – I like my illustration more literal I’m afraid – but he’s very good at something else that is an absolute imperative for illustrators. He reminded me to attend this exhibition, by yes, that most wonderful of networking mediums, twitter. He also thanked me for coming. It’s these little things that count when you’re making your way into the big bad world of work. He should go far.

Thomas Leadbetter
Illustration by Thomas Leadbetter.

At the front of the newspaper handed out with the exhibition is a long and rather rambling discussion on the purpose of illustration today. I found it not at all surprising that all of the illustrators mentioned above (bar one) participated in this conversation, which featured only 9 out of 25 graduating students. Willing to engage in thoughtful commentary, and producing excellent work. These are the students from Westminster to watch.

Categories ,Alexander Wells, ,Anime, ,Big Issue, ,David Foldvari, ,exhibition, ,Graduate Show, ,Lucy Wragg, ,Madame Tussauds, ,Manga, ,Sarah Bonner, ,Simone Lia, ,Thomas Leadbetter, ,Tim McDonagh, ,Tom Baxter, ,Westminster Illustration

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