On what turned out to be a glorious, almost summer-like evening, the Cog team meandered their way along the Strand to the wonderful Somerset House for this year’s Pick Me Up festival.
Pick Me Up is a cramped, multi-floored marketplace packed full of young, all-too-eager art and design types, proudly boasting their best mark-making achievements, both on paper and on themselves.
Other attractions included live illustrating, “I’ll draw anything you want for £5” stalls, screen-printing in the Print Club London stall, a bar and a DJ and band setup (although the band were nowhere to be seen).
As I wandered around I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by the wall-to-wall plastering of prints, drawings and sketches. The large-scale cardboard constructions that dotted the show were a welcome break from the small scale images that were often given no room to breathe in some of the confined rooms.
As much as I was overwhelmed by the setup, I was a little underwhelmed by much of the work itself.
Apart from a few cases, I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was the same — eclectic collectives of students, with names that match their make-up. Perhaps I do them all a disservice but I struggle to take them seriously. They remind me of the youngsters that interrupt your determined walk to “take 5 minutes of your time to talk about [insert charity name here]”. Some of the work just felt saccharine and ready-made for the greeting cards industry, with cute hand drawn letters commanding us all to “Be nice to everyone…”.
There were some highlights though. The stand-out displays were naturally Print Club London, with their screen-print offering and this years collaboration with Bob Gill (which I was delighted to see). The room hosted by Unlimited, a Brighton based collective, had a number of gems. In particular Paul Farrell’s one-colour prints were amongst my favourite from the show. The stand that drew a lot of attention was Malika Favre, whose alphabet from human figures for Penguin’s recent edition of the Kama Sutra received much acclaim and publicity in the design press last year.
I may be over-critical of Pick Me Up. There were a number of talks and special events that were going on during the day and late evening that we missed so there was a lot on offer if you have more than an hour or so to spare. There is also something special about seeing works created by hand that has a certain charm and an admiration for the skill involved. The whole place certainly had a buzz and a lively feel that was reflected in the work — bold, colourful, noisy but mostly lost in the cacophony and confusion.