Reimagine—the world according to children’s books is a selective survey of Australian children’s literature and book illustration, showcasing some of the most acclaimed and loved Indigenous and non-Indigenous illustrators of the past twenty years.
Reimagine provides an opportunity to explore how children’s books are able to introduce young readers to complex ideas about contemporary humanity. “One of the revelations of working on this exhibition has been the sheer range of material diversity and stylistic approaches deployed by illustrators as they find precisely the right medium to give visual life to a story,” says Geelong Gallery Director Jason Smith.
One such illustrator featured in the exhibition includes Melbourne-based artist contemporary Tai Snaith, who worked with clay, paper and paint to create the images for the stunning picture book Slow Down, World. Taking four framed originals from Snaith’s book, along with a number of other illustrators and artists, the exhibition is a chance for children to discover vivid, imaginative and original artworks from picture books.
“It’s bringing really imaginative artworks that are illustrations to the public within an art context, but it’s so that kids can come see it as well,” Snaith explains. “It’s quite rare for a show of picture book art to be presented in an art gallery; usually it’s in different kind of contexts but it’s great.”
Snaith’s book, Slow Down, World details a whimsical journey towards mindfulness, from a fast-paced metropolis to the greener, magical places of a young girl’s imagination. “It’s just exploring what might happen if we slow down a bit,” Snaith reveals. “The message for kids is just to take a bit
more time in what they do, but also to stop and use your imagination, daydream and look at the magic in things; take a bit more time to enjoy life.”
Serving as a timely reminder for children and adults alike to slow down, stop and appreciate the world around us, Snaith actually chose clay as her medium to slow down her own creative process. “Part of the reason I started using clay in my work was because it just made me feel a bit more present in my practice,” Snaith explains. “When I use clay, I feel a lot calmer and getting your hands dirty is a really good way of being mindful in your own body.
“There was the added bonus that I was totally addicted to my phone and Instagram, so I found that when I was working with clay, I had longer periods of time where I couldn’t actually touch my phone,” she continues. “It was another way of restricting myself from being obsessed with social media and just being present in the real world instead. I talk to my kids a lot about that; about mindfulness and basically just being present in your life, rather than being distracted. I guess I was thinking a lot about that as a parent and as an artist in my own life, and then often my picture books do come out of what I’m experiencing in my own life, or the journey I am on to figure out what life’s all about.”
Alongside Snaith’s work, you’ll find an exceptional, major new work by local illustrator, Robert Ingpen who brings together a universe of some of the most recognisable characters from the history of children’s stories and nursery rhymes; Shaun Tan’s exquisite paintings for The Rules of Summer; and Dee Huxley’s Look See, Look at Me following the story of family life in an Aboriginal community – just to name a few.
Through the works of Australian illustrators and authors, telling our own stories as well as universal tales, Reimagine—the world according to children’s books activates the dynamic connection between reading and seeing, and promotes literacy, perception, creativity, and diverse ways of seeing the world.
The exhibition will continue at Geelong Gallery until Sunday 27 May.
Written by Talia Rinaldo