Drawings For Europe – exhibition at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Berlin

I read a recent article in The Guardian reporting on an exhibition of illustration at the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs. It’s a reaction to a comment made towards Axel Scheffler that he, as a German/European is “taking away work from our British illustrators”.

Fig.1 Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Berlin

He agrees “he might never have come to Britain and worked with the author Julia Donaldson on books including The Gruffalo, were it not for the EU. But he doesn’t necessarily expect that to convince Brexit supporters”.  Wouldn’t we all be the poorer if he and Donaldson never collaborated, life without the Gruffalo is almost unimaginable.

I took myself along the the imposing building which is housing this exhibition, passport in hand, as there is a strict entrance policy to all government ministry buildings. To my delight I had the exhibition to myself, although it must be said, the room had the remains of what seemed like a very jolly opening event the evening before.

Fig.2 Axel Scheffler – mice

Of course I made a bee-line to Axel Schefflers two pieces, they are simple in their execution of ink line and gouache. My favourite of both is his four little mice leading each other along holding aloft a European flag and balloon. Axel Scheffler has a very distinctive style, his character designs are usually outlined using a scratchy wobbly line and they possess large eyes. His illustration spreads carry much detail, so that a new item can be discovered with a fresh look at the illustration. He also makes subtle plays with colour, using it to create suspense or threat throughout, by darkening the pallet or making it lighter when the mood of the story requires.

Fig.3 Jutta Bauer – Europa, Skeptisch

There were Euro sceptics in the room also, Jutta Bauer has her Lady Godiva type character sitting aloft a proud bull (perhaps a nod to the Catalonians) looking slightly bewildered with her modesty covered in a thin veil of three european blue strips. The illustration is in pencil and gouache, with the bull very noble and angular in contrast to the delicately coloured and rounded figure of lady Europa, she is precariously perched on the bulls back, looking like she might easily topple off if he makes a move.

Fig.4 Anne Brouillard – Killiok prend soin de l’Europe (Killiok takes care of Europe)

Anne Broulliard, the french illustrator of such wonderful illustrated books as The Three Cats and the Wolf Smile, created for this exhibition an amazingly detailed piece detailing the character of the Killiok taking care of Europe. In the forest behind lurks sinister creatures between the trees and under rocks. It’s a beautifully executed illustration with a setting sun perhaps a symbol of what she believes is the outlook for Europe.

For myself as an Irish artist, living in Berlin & studying through a British University, I feel extremely fortunate to have the freedom to work, live and travel without borders within this vast richly cultural landscape. It is difficult to imagine the change. I only hope it is not past the point of no return.


‘We can’t be quiet’: Gruffalo co-creator and fellow illustrators respond to Brexit. by Kate Connolly for The Guardian in Berlin https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/10/brexit-axel-scheffler-gruffalo-co-creator-and-eu-illustrators-draw-for-europe?CMP=share_btn_tw

Room on the broom in the primary classroom – GRIN, your knowledge has value. http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/169389/room-on-the-broom-in-the-primary-classroom



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