At the Jerwood: Quentin Blake, “The Only Way to Travel”

Back at the Jerwood and bigger than ever.  If Quentin Blake were a Hollywood star you could almost argue that this was a blockbuster. Last time we had scaled up, digitised, scans from his notebook but now we see work that he has created directly onto sheets of paper.  Some are merely quite big, others are huge.  There are also some smaller cards and, yes, notebook pieces, but what links them all is the theme of travel, of journeys and of the reasons people might move about.

There are some typical Blake-ian fun doodles: a serene man peddles his bike seemingly unaware (or at least, at ease with) the retinue of similarly calm animals in his front and rear baskets; a giant Cronenberg-esque bug acts like a jet for a bearded pilot and a jolly bunch of passengers.  These contrast with works where the journey is not pleasant and being taken under duress, at night.  On a Hokusai styled wave, filled with monsters of the deep, a little boat carries far too many people towards an uncertain destination; a series shows similarly timid groups edging along under pale coloured globes.

Now 84, Blake has produced everything in this exhibition within the past year and the energy that buzzes from them is extraordinary.  It’s a remarkable exhibition that, should you be passing the Old Town of Hastings, is one you should make every effort to see.

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