The Laing Art Gallery is currently hosting a whimsical exhibition of ink and watercolour illustrations by none other than Quentin Saxby Blake entitled As Large As Life. Commissioned for display in healthcare centres, these images provide a much-needed dose of innocence and joy, hoping to make the whole healthcare experience just a little bit more pleasant for all involved.
Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake and vice versa may seem a bit like a cupcake without any icing on the top, like a Sunday lunch without the gravy, like a glass of coke without the rum. Perfectly lovely, but not quite, to use a very Roald Dahl word, scrumptious. The work of the two is so entwined in form and essence it’s difficult to appreciate them individually.
In fact, I believe I learned some of life’s greatest lessons from the Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake universe.
Take this little nugget of profound wisdom from the Twits.
So, so true.
Like all of Blake’s illustrations, his latest images conjure up another world, one that is similar and yet fundamentally different from the one we inhabit. In Blake’s world, anything is possible and even that which appears ordinary possesses a freedom, happiness and magic that is all too absent from day to day life.
Although the illustrations exist without the words of Roald Dahl or one of Blakes many other collaborators, they are not devoid of story. It’s simply up to you to interpret the images as you please. This could go some way in explaining the wonderfully calming and therapeutic effect the images can have reportedly had on the service users they were intended for.
Art is a reflection of, or reaction to, the society that has created it, and to see an exhibition with such a clear and deliberate social conscience is extremely refreshing. The most touching images, for me, were the ones created with the users of an eating disorder centre in mind. What these people craved more than anything was a sense of normality and Blake has given it to them in a series of lovely images depicting day-to-day life where people spend their time shopping, walking the dog and having a picnics.
A more subtle form of escapism than watching an exhilarating film or reading an engrossing book, the images are simply there, within the perimeters of your vision, inviting you to soak in their feel-good vibrations. They helped me to maintain a level of Zen as screaming toddlers tried to batter each other to death with the unlikely weapons of a clown wig and a top hat in the dressing up area.
A brilliant exhibition and a definite must-see in Newcastle this summer.