Dreaming in kid-colour

Michelle Matthews, curator at Curious, Whetstone and Frankley, writes about child-friendly graphic design.

First Published in

Childhood is a magical space – fairies live under the bird bath, crocodiles attack when we step off the bed and, of course, if we wish hard enough, we can fly. Happily – though our limbs are long and our skins branded by time – we can still access those dreams. Playroom, which ran at Curious, Whetstone and Frankley over December, was subtitled “art for children” but enchanted everyone who visited.

Have you ever seen a bear play a pennywhistle? Patrick Latimer’s band of musical animals also included a mandolin-playing Jersey cow, which is even funnier. His brother, Alex Latimer, on the other hand, was more interested in penguins. His series of prints was sparked by the rather adult imagery of a lone penguin, trundling through the tundra with nothing behind him but his flipper-prints and nowhere to go but forward. Still, there is a decidedly light-hearted feel: The penguin does star jumps! The penguin eats sardine ice-cream!

New 3D paper works by Clare Walker showed layered fantasy worlds, where siblings floated on the sea between dancing dolphins and a little girl could be carried into the sky by a flock of butterflies. Illustrator Toby Newsome referenced early 20th century children’s book illustration in his tri-chromatic print “A to Zeeland”, which was simultaneously a busy landscape and a lesson on the alphabet. It had visiting children engrossed finding the owl, the diamond, the hot-air balloon...

Durban illustrator Colwyn Thomas’s lighboxes were for older children who dream of freedom and power, while Julia Anastasopoulos (knolc) indulged the childish fascination with detail and world-creation in her 3D ink drawings on a printers tray – a different tiny scene was enacted in each of its many rooms. In turn, Hannah Morris, illustrator of award-winning children’s book uTshepo Mde: Tall Enough, was in her element painting a town square packed with bicycle-riding zebras!

Curating this exhibition, the brief seemed to bring out the whimsical in the artists. Through their playful, lovingly rendered work it was clear that they relished returning to that magical space.

Alex and Patrick Latimer show new work at Curious, Whetstone and Frankley, Cape Town, from 4 to 18 March 2009.