David Lemm: The Open Studio

Our Illustrator in Residence moved his studio into our galleries for four days - here are the results.


  • David Lemm
  • Residency

I'm writing this as I place the last bits and bobs back on my shelves, home in Edinburgh after lugging them down to House of Illustration for my open studio last week.

It was a rare chance to share works in progress, showing what I've been up to during the last few months as Illustrator in Residence and chat through my ideas with a range of people. I was amazed at how busy it was and really enjoyed the experience. Thanks everyone who came down!

As I've been writing here each month, I've been exploring the area around Kings Cross estate and experimenting with how I might visualise and map ideas relating to these experiences.

Photography has played a big part in this research, so I decided to create an animation from the route I walk on each visit, exploring the textures and patterns around the area that perhaps go un-noticed, yet form a big part of the visual language of the city: the halftone of a crossing point, the repeat pattern of cobbles or the organic marbling of new sandstone paving in the rain.

On each visit I have been pounding the streets getting to know the area, mapping the changing landscape, seeking out narratives/chance compositions and noting the forms that make up and define the place. As I explore, I realise I am almost acting out a circumambulation of the area, where on each encounter I become more perceptive to nuances or particular traits in the environment.

I was particularly interested in charting the different surfaces as I walked - abstract compositions, temporal snapshots, strung together to map the space over time.

I was also interested in the idea of paths and how these textures/patterns perhaps inform or influence how we navigate - is a smooth surface more appealing than rough, or pre-made lines more enticing for us to follow? What surfaces do we leave a trace upon, creating our own paths as we move?

Alongside the video I showed some of the paper collages I've been experimenting with. I'm really enjoying its tactile nature and the idea of physically making or building something. This seems particularly apt when in the context of exploring this area, at one point the biggest building site in Europe.
I thought of these, as with everything I showed, as building blocks. The project is still very much 'Under Construction'

These compositions are based on forms I have noted from my walks. I start with a shape based on something I have seen, then map other elements around that based on my memory of where I saw the initial shape, taking into account the spatial relationships on the page as well as in the landscape. There is no definitive story, other than what the initial shape was, so these are also building blocks in the sense they offer opportunity for narratives to be built by making connections between each element.

I'm always interested in asking people to get involved with projects, and during the four days of my open studio I asked everyone who visited to place a sticker on a map of London to mark where they came from. At the end of each day I joined the dots and made a shape.

I'm still working out what these will become, but the initial idea was to use the four shapes to develop an image: a symbol to mark and represent this open studio event, all derived from mapping where we are and where we came from - pretty much what I'm doing at this juncture of the residency before I consider my next steps and start working towards my final exhibition.