Review: Made You Look at the Hyde Park Picture House

On the first of October, the Hyde Park Picture House hosted a screening of Made You Look, a largely Crowdfunded documentary about graphic designers and illustrators in the UK, directed by Paul O’Connor and Anthony Peters. The screening was followed by a Q&A with co-director Anthony Peters, Leeds-based illustrator Matt Hodson and the owners of Leeds’ own graphic design gallery and bookshop, Colours May Vary.

Over two years in the making, this tells the previously unexplored story of UK graphic design and illustration in the post 2000s digital age – how technology has affected both the work processes and the accessibility of illustration. The film interviews several eminent UK illustrators from different backgrounds about their relationship with their art, with technology, and how they expect the community to evolve in the coming years. Although every artist has a different relationship to their art and media, they ultimately agree that variation in medium allows the art form to continue to evolve, and that technology has altered this evolution unequivocally.

The film strongly emphasises the layers and tactility of illustration and design media, be they complex paper sculptures, the multiple vectors of a digitally produced image, or even the messages and ideas that fuel artists such as Ian Stevenson to challenge what is culturally accepted. Although there are a few face-to-face interviews, much of the dialogue is cut with footage of the artists working. This ultimately gives their opinions much more weight and context, as we are given a glimpse in to each artists’ own creative process.

There is also a real emphasis on a return to childhood in this film, particularly in the context of rediscovering the simplicity of art. The artists speak about their earliest memories of creating art, and the freedom that it gave them. Many artists point out that technology has a tendency to overcomplicate that which should be simple, both in terms of producing and distributing their work. The film points out that whilst the advent of the Internet has made graphic design more accessible, particularly to people outside big cities, it has also lead to a saturation of graphic artists and illustrators all trying to find an audience online. In the Q&A following the film screening, director Anthony Peters noted that this saturation has also meant that illustrators are often frustrating their creative processes by comparing their work unfavourably to other artists’.

Although there was some discussion of digital and traditional mediums existing together, this was really a topic that could have been explored further by the film. There was not a particularly strong representation of solely digital illustrators, and so this unique voice was not strongly heard in a film that could and really should have represented this growing contingent of artists. This film did, however, encourage the growth and evolution of an often under appreciated art form. A joy to watch and a brief glimpse in to complex world, Made You Look is a compelling and inspiring film that will leave you itching to create.

Elizabeth Cooney

Image: Look and Yes media

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