You might think you’re familiar with the story of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, but you’re probably yet to experience Lucille Clerc’s fantastical interpretation, brought to life in her illustration of the same name. It’s a place where mythical creatures, tropical birds and larger-than-life plants awaken at night, transforming the V&A, for which it was drawn, into a garden like no other.
Dreamy, delicate and infinitely detailed, Lucille’s work combines the familiar with the out of this world and, as a result, dismantles our perceptions of reality. Think intricate depictions of buildings, butterflies, blooms and everything in-between, distorted in scale, kaleidoscopic in composition, and transfixing with an ethereal colour palette of soft pinks, dusky teals and emerald greens.
Then hidden beneath the surface, but just as interwoven, is the concept of time. As an antidote to today’s fast-paced news cycles and ever updated content streams, the illustrator places prime importance on the longevity of her work, adding a multitude of subjects into a single piece as a way to build up a relationship with the viewer.
“A lot of what we see right now are simplified images,” she says. “They are very quick, and they have to be easy to understand. I do that for commercial work and there’s a reason and it’s valid. For my personal work I have a longer time with the viewer, so I like to hide little details so you can look at the images again and again.”
As these more elusive elements emerge, big themes also become apparent. Most prominent is the relationship between urbanisation and nature – a source of great inspiration for Lucille. “It’s a challenge for the future,” she explains. “Does a city go against nature or does it find a way to integrate it? Is it a symbiotic relationship? Or does one destroy the other? I’m really interested in trying to find the balance between the two and how we can make it work.”
London’s profusion of green spaces is one reason Lucille moved to the city to study for an MA in communication design at Central Saint Martins – and decided to stay afterwards. Prior to this, she had grown up above her father’s carpentry workshop in Nancy – a city in northeast France where the art nouveau École de Nancy was founded in the 1900s – and completed an undergraduate degree in the artistic hub that is Paris.
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