I’ve previously expressed my interest in traditional Illustration, and the golden age, but its hard to ignore the contemporary side, which can also be so very diverse from the traditional side of things. the 20th Century and the 19th played host to the Golden Age of Illustration which was helped along by birth of stong media outlets such as newspapers and book and the development of better printing techniques. In the 21st Century we have the rise of technology and there is a huge link between the popularity of the internet, social media and contemporary Illustration.
below is a quote from an article published on ‘Aesthetic Magazine’ titled simply ‘Defining the Art of Illustration’, and for me it encapsulates exactly how Illustration is being discussed today and what contemporary Illustration is and how it became:
“Iillustration is one of the most versatile art forms in today’s visual culture. Somehow it has always crossed boundaries between fine art and drawing into a “grey” area, and has consistently provoked debate, but how do we comfortably define it?
The “label” illustration/illustrator is ambiguous. The definition of the form is amorphous and indefinite, constantly challenging notions and perceptions of contemporary image making. Like photography and printmaking, illustration has often been questioned by its intent — if it’s commercial, is it art? The answer to that is obvious, some of today’s greatest artworks have been commissioned, for example, Angel of the North by Antony Gormley or Marc Quinn’s sculpture of Alison Lapper and Mario Testino’s flawless images of Kate Moss.
Illustration has often been partnered with the publishing industry, advertising campaigns, or used politically for satire, but more recently, illustrators are creating bodies of work that excite and experiment with the notions of contemporary visual art and its hybrid forms. As a genre, illustration has been born out of many things, grown broader in its context through new media and technology, and this has signified that illustration now shares a valid platform with fine art. Today’s illustrators go beyond caricature and visual representation to observational statements about current trends and popular culture. Contemporary illustration is a new movement with illustrators drawing influences from graffiti, fashion, computer games and animation. There are fewer boundaries and more friction.”
The internet is rich in popular culture, media and trends, this is an open resource which allows artists to have a good range of subject matters to comment on and make statements, its gives illustration a more diverse range of subject matters, straying away from purely editorial or narrative. See for example Luis Quiles who creates strikingly obvious digs at the way he views society, again someone who I found using the technology of the internet.
his work is almost too strikingly obvious some people feel, and I wouldn’t say there wrong, but that’s the idea of his work, he’s not trying to create beautiful images to sell or hang on the wall, he’s making statements through imagery, exactly what contemporary illustration is about.
technology has led to the birth of work that is allowed to be interactive, animated and able to be used by a wide range of people. One of my favourite examples for this would be a website called Ana Somnia, which (pictured below) an illustration which you interact with some objects in her room, and then when you turn the ‘lights’ off in the drawn bedroom it becomes dark and the screen emulates dream, a really interesting concept, and again something that couldn’t be done without the age fo technology, a whole new dimension to Illustration.
contemporary Illustration has expanded across many things to Fashion and gaming, as mentioned in the article. This means more and more people become interested in it, and it will continue to expand. I also believe the reason contemporary illustration has been allowed to develop and expand is also due to the education of it, Art has become more recognised in the education system from a young age and there is far more higher education opportunities than their used to be, making it less of an issue if people don’t have the money to be exposed to the art world and its education.
In conclusion as much as I love traditional illustration, contemporary illustration is so broad ad diverse it has so many subject areas to look in and explore and I really feel as though this can dramatically further my search into what illustration is NOW and where I see myself fitting amongst that.