Since Peony Gent featured as one of our Grads back in 2016, the London-based illustrator has gone from strength to strength. As well as graduating with a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art, self publishing a number of publications featuring the wonderful illustrator’s linear works, not to mention treating us to a bundle of thoughtful poems, arguably most notably, Peony has taken us residence at the House of Illustration.
At the renowned Kings Cross institution, Peony’s creative process was imbued by the rich history impregnated in its very walls and archives. “It’s pretty much taken over my creative output recently,” she tells It’s Nice That, “and it’s where a lot of my focus has gone.” The 12 month long position sounds like the envy of many an illustrator out there today. Comprising of a six month research project, followed by a six month long solo exhibition. Due to open in July, like pretty much every other exhibition planned this summer, Peony’s show is postponed to the autumn.
With a little longer to wait than anticipated, the show will feature a series of works celebrating the transitory every day moments of the area, Kings Cross, in the form of experimental comics and poetry pieces inspired by the past and present. She adds on the observational body of work: “I always intended to combine my interests in installation, drawing and poetry for the project, but it’s been a slow process to work out how these three things can work with, and for, each other.”
Weaving the material and immaterial disciplines into one coherent show, it’s an ongoing juggling act that Peony is still working, balancing between the mediums in her now interdisciplinary practice. For the drawings however, these started off as pretty simple lines drawings on paper. She captured any kind of moment that stood out to her – as long as it possessed a fleeting ordinary beauty or interest about it. In turn, she gives us a peak into the banal instances of central London. Builders drinking coffee outside Waitrose on Granary Square for example, nine to fivers taking a smoke break and items of clothes that pricked the illustrator’s attention as well as faces.
Without realising it, she noticed drawings cropping up depicting corner shops or market stalls around places like Caledonian Road. “There’s just something familiar about the eclectic nature of corner shops that really appeal to me,” she adds. “They feel human and grounding, especially in places which are becoming homogeneously gentrified.” After spending two and a half years living off Ridley Road Market, she thought it was an apt time to capture the bustling stalls, just before she moved away from the area. And now, looking back on such a familiar corner of the world, she explains, “it feels really good to be drawing these moment which used to be so boring and now feel so precious.”
Now, she can indulge in the activities that once felt like part of a boring daily routine, and appreciate the pursuit for what it was. “I don’t think I have a particular goal for this set of drawings,” she finally goes on to say. “A lofty answer would be to say something about ‘people finding beauty in the every day,’ or ‘making people reconsider the ordinary things around them’. But just finding them a soft reminder of things outside your own living room, or getting a sense of enjoyment in the shapes or composition, that’s easily enough for me.” And also, if you send Peony a photo of your local corner shop, she might well draw it too. She’s running out of her own photos to draw from.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.