Meet the curator of our new picture book exhibition
Carina McPherson is a Community Engagement Officer at the State Library of Western Australia and the curator of our forthcoming picture book exhibition A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day: Celebrating Western Australian picture books and 40 fabulous years of Fremantle Press.
Conceived as part of the Fremantle Press 40 Year Anniversary celebrations, the exhibition is presented by the 2016 AWESOME Festival, Fremantle Press and the State Library of Western Australia. It will be launched on 1 October 2016 as part of the 2016 AWESOME Festival and will run until the end of the year.
Describe the exhibition in your words.
A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day is a visual exploration of original illustrations, showcasing the diversity and originality of Western Australian picture books published by Fremantle Press.
It is arranged according to the themes of imagining the incredible and impossible, imagining place and country, imagining the past, and imagining me. Featuring illustrations by Peter Kendall, Sally Morgan, Brian Harrison-Lever, Kyle Hughes-Odgers and many more, visitors to the exhibition will be taken on a journey that explores the relationship between words, pictures and the world.
How did you decide which works to use?
The curatorial team at the State Library looked for artworks that demonstrated how illustrations extend the words in picture books to inspire imagination. We also paid attention to artworks that showcased different illustrative styles and visual communication techniques. Some styles are detailed, while other styles are more spontaneous and free-flowing. Each technique has a different effect on the viewer. The repetition of shapes and the geometric style of Kyle Hughes-Odgers, as seen in On a Small Island and Ten Tiny Things, draws attention to details in line, pattern and shape. In contrast, Brian Simmonds’s realism in Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy provokes an emotional response.
What were some of the themes or stories that emerged when working on the books?
One of the recurring themes found in the picture books selected for this exhibition is the impossible and uncanny. Can a sausage walk? Can a cat fly? Can a skeleton have an X-ray? These are playful questions that are explored in picture books in fantastical and often humorous ways. The ideas of place, home and Country are also significant. The familiar Fremantle street scenes in The World According to Warren and the Australian animals in We All Sleep will be recognisable to many Western Australians.
Many of the picture books and artworks are grouped according to the theme ‘imagining me’. This encompasses explorations of self-identity and an individual’s place in the world, often with narratives focused on navigating emotions such as joy, anticipation, loneliness and fear. The Aboriginal tradition of using stories to teach is especially strong and seen in works such as Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Caterpillar and Butterfly.
What’s the best bit about curating exhibitions like this for the State Library of Western Australia?
People who read picture books usually only see the final product: the published book with reproduced text and illustrations. One of the best parts about curating exhibitions like A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day is the opportunity to get up close with original illustrations, draft sketches, storyboards and manuscript notes. It is remarkable to see the hundreds of sketches, storyboards, text revisions, and style and colour experiments that go into creating a single picture book. Through these items as curator I am privy to the process of picture book creation and how the author and illustrator have collaborated to form the narrative. This is a process that is usually invisible to the public, but will be unveiled through the exhibition. Sometimes curating also reveals surprising insights; my jaw dropped when I saw Moira Court’s original illustrations for My Superhero, which are more than four times the size of the reproductions in the picture book!