THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Fashion, film, design and all things creative at the British Library

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21 October 2014

Top picks from the British Library’s Gothic season

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Alongside our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition, we’re running a packed programme of spooky talks, workshops and a fabulous Halloween LATE. Here are some of my favourites.

Terror and Wonder: Curator-led Tours
Tue 7 Oct 2014 – Thu 15 Jan 2015
Meet our curators and have a personal tour around the exhibition.

Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat: Midnight Book Launch
Wed 29 Oct 2014, 22:00
The Queen of the Undead is back, with her first Vampire Chronicle in over a decade – marking the return of one of the most popular vampires of all time. This is a very rare event: you’ll get to explore our Gothic exhibition after dark, meet author Anne Rice and as the clock strikes midnight, receive your copy of her new book, Prince Lestat.

Late-at-the-library


Late at the Library: The Sorting
Fri 31 Oct 2014, 19:30
A funeral-inspired experience with macabre performances, music, DJs, bar and a late night opening of the exhibition. You are invited to be the guest of honour at an extraordinary funeral: your own! You’ll have an appointment at the funeral parlour with our local undertaker. Run in partnership with award-wining theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles.

The art of the 'Gothic' album sleeve
Sun 9 Nov 2014, 11:45
Hear from two of the world's most talented and prolific graphic artists, Dave McKean and Vaughan Oliver, sharing a platform for the first time to discuss their work on album covers. Dave also created our exhibition artwork. Read his interview here.

Image-by-martin-parr

 
The New Black: from subculture to high culture
Sun 9 Nov 2014, 13:45
Fashion historian, DJ and writer Amber Jane Butchart chairs a panel of innovative designers who are inspired by everything gothic, including Nange Magro, an Italian-Japanese fashion designer and founder of DeadLotusCouture, who has a passion for electronic fashion (and latex).

13 October 2014

Interview with Dave McKean on Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

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As I mentioned in a recent post, Dave McKean designed the wonderfully macabre artwork for our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic imagination exhibition artwork. That means that his image appears in all our marketing materials, from leaflets to tube posters. I asked him a few questions...

Mckeandevil

Hi Dave. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I have worked for the past 25 years as an illustrator, artist, photographer, designer, writer, musician, composer and film maker. I've illustrated around 50 books for an assortment of authors including Ray Bradbury, Heston Blumenthal, Richard Dawkins, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, David Almond, SF Said and John Cale, and I've made hundreds of CD and book covers including the entire run of Neil Gaiman's popular Sandman series. I've written and directed three features and several shorts, including MirrorMask for the Jim Henson Company/Sony, The Gospel of Us with Michael Sheen and my new film Luna.

How did you first get involved with the British Library and the Terror and Wonder exhibition?

I was asked to design the previous exhibition, Comics Unmasked, by co-curator Paul Gravett. I really enjoyed working with the British Library, and problem solving on such a large scale. The curators of the Gothic show were also interested in aspects of my work, especially my illustrations for Neil's book Coraline, so then it seemed possible that I could do the poster as well.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind the artwork?

I drew out six or seven rough ideas, trying to find an image that was not a single specific character or story, some way of representing the breadth of work in the exhibition, but touched on key Gothic texts - Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, and for me, The Hands of Orlac. Something that suggested the psychological aspects of these stories seemed appropriate. I also wanted a simple, bold, almost silhouetted flowing image, something that would stand out in a variety of formats and sizes. The drawing was made in ink and graphite and simply toned in Photoshop. The strange shadowy smoky face was an abstract ink stain, distorted into a face in Photoshop.

What are you particularly excited about seeing in the exhibition?

The design and presentation of the narrative. It was a steep learning curve for me creating the Comics show, so I'm now very interested to see how others approach storytelling in an exhibition space. And of course, I'm sure the British Library archives have unearthed another fascinating collection of work.

What’s coming up next for you? I know you're speaking at one of our upcoming events.

Yes, I'll be speaking with Vaughan Oliver, one of the most important influences on my early art school self, and he still is to this day, so I'm a bit daunted. I have a new film out called Luna, currently doing a small indi tour of the UK via PictureHouse. I have an exhibition of drawings in Paris at Galerie Martel, a new book of covers out from DC Comics called Dream States, and new collection of short stories out from Dark Horse Comics, Pictures that Tick Vol.2, I'm planning a new film with the theatre company Wildworks, and drawing more comics, including a new graphic novel inspired by the wonderful expressionist film the Cabinet of Dr Caligari. I'm hoping to create a new performance piece for the British Library as well, as part of the Gothic exhibition.

You can see Dave's artwork for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination below.

Dave McKean

 

01 October 2014

Be inspired by the Magic of Birds

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Did you know the British Library has a Publishing team? They release lots of great titles, and have just launched a new book called ‘The Magic of Birds’. 

You can find examples of imagery and symbolism of birds in cultures from around the world. They have captured people’s imagination since earliest times, with their beautiful plumage, behaviour and ability to fly. Birds are often linked to themes like birth, death, freedom and captivity.

Our author Celia Fisher has traced the ways in which artists, writers and storytellers have depicted them, from the myths of ancient Egypt to humble garden birds.

You can find out more on our Shop website and read a guest article  with Celia on our Asia and Africa studies blog. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite images from the book:

Magic of birds 1

Arctic Tern from The Birds of America by John James Audubon, 1827-38.

Magic of birds 2

Earl Mar's daughter, illustration by Arthur Rackham from Some British Ballards, 1919.

 

Magic of birds 3

Florican from Oriental Memoirs by James Forbes, 1813. 

Magic of birds 4

Golden oriole among leaves from Kyomjae hwachop, 'Album of paintings by Kyomjae', c.1900. 

 

Magic of birds 6

 

Page from Tennen hyakkaku (Tennen's one hundred cranes) by Kigai Tennen, Kyoto, 1900.