Alongside watching a lot of football, and attempting to grow a good moustache (it’s very good, we’ve seen it), Kingston School of Art graduate Laurie Avon has been “grafting towards [his] big goal of being a freelance illustrator” since leaving the university last summer. Now based in Brighton, Laurie’s work centres around print, in particular, linocut to create work with a firm rooting in activism.
Techniques and methods aside, Laurie’s work is succinct in its goal: To use illustration to disseminate important topics and information to as many people as possible. It’s a notion that was first introduced to him by “the brilliant Rachel Gannon” during his final year at Kingston. “She introduced me to the powerful potential that can be found through combining the ethical and academic approaches of ethnographic research, with the creative outcomes of illustration,” he tells us. “Combining [illustration and anthropology] can result in the collection of rich and credible information that can be disseminated further (to more diverse audiences) through illustration’s ability to imaginatively interpret, breakdown and emotionally engage with people.”
These concepts are only furthered by Laurie’s use of relief printing, a medium with a long history of protest and activism. He explains how his love for technique is both because of its “gestural and handmade aesthetic” but also because it “goes hand-in-hand with my drive to tackle humanitarian issues. As a medium, it is visually powerful, persuasive, and (through its handmade production) human.”
Imperfection and a clear human touch, therefore, plays a massive role in Laurie’s work. His illustrations are graphically bold, but retain “a perfect sense of bespoke imperfection,” not possible through digital techniques. “Part of what excites me the most about lino-cutting, is the physical object itself. It is always an amazing feeling to show people the cut pieces of Lino, as in today’s digital world the craft behind the artwork is so rarely seen.”
Laurie’s understanding of his techniques’ abilities connect with people and tell stories is clear. The illustrator often chooses to work with sensitive – and altogether pertinent – topics. For example, he conducted a sustained research project into the different aspects of the UK’s refugee crisis.
He tells us: “Receiving refugee status can provide a displaced person with certainty and safety, but (according to the Refugee Council’s ethnographic report 28 Days Later: Experiences of new refugees in the UK by Lisa Doyle) the transitional period between being an asylum seeker and a refugee brings with it many challenges. Home Office policy states that 28 days after an asylum seeker is notified of being granted refugee status, their entitlement to accommodation and cash support is stopped.” In response to this, Laurie created a zine titled 28 Days Later which documents this transitional period. Using a red and black visual language, the zine is accompanied by a protest banner, Voices of Disent which depicts the “social commentary of the polarising viewpoints and flawed structural support of displaced people in the UK.”
Alongside personal projects such as these, Laurie is the co-founder of Crit Club, a group for creatives to refine their practices through peer set and reviewed projects, and Minute Books, a collaborative press making live publications of events. He also works editorially on pieces for publishers such as Penguin and Soccer Bible. Ultimately, however, what makes Laurie’s work so compelling is the way he is reinstating a traditional illustrative medium, utilising its strengths to produce contemporary and exciting work.
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