The present Ashmolean was created in 1908 by combining two ancient Oxford institutions: the University Art Collection and the original Ashmolean Museum.
The collections span the civilisations of east and west, charting the aspirations of humankind from the Neolithic era to the present day. Among its treasures are the world’s largest collection of Raphael drawings, the most important collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptian material in Europe, the only great Minoan collection in Britain, the finest Anglo-Saxon collections outside the British Museum and the foremost collection of modern Chinese art in the Western world.
The Ashmolean is also a teaching and research department of the University of Oxford, providing research and publications of the highest standard in the academic fields of art history, archaeology and history.
Refurbished in 2009, the way that the collections are displayed in the new galleries & enjoyed by the public became the driving force behind the transformation. The galleries are interlinked by one big theme, Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time. This encourages visitors to make new connections between the collections of the Ashmolean. Adding 39 new galleries to the original 1845 Cockerell Building, the Ashmolean’s new wing was designed by award-winning architect Rick Mather.
The Art class and I needed more than the few hours we had to full apriciate the vast collections. However we had a brilliant adventure exploring art history from around the world.
We were so lucky to get invited to join third year illustration students at Worcester University in working on a collaborative 20ft (!) piece with artists from LE GUN.
The illustration collective LE GUN was founded by Neal Fox, Chris Bianchi, Bill Bragg, Robert Rubbish, Matthew Appleton, Alex Wright and Stephanie von Reiswitz. The graduates of Royal College of Art produce a magazine and work on commissioned projects. They recently had a hugely successful installation and prints for an exhibition opening at London’s V&A Museum.
We were guided into a new and strange world by Neal and Robert the theme was following on from their exhibition about Mexican dream creatures called Alebrije.
While I worked away I was able to ask Neal Fox a couple of questions:
Q, What inspired you to become a collective?
“Well we knew we wanted to become a magazine when we saw the New York mag RAW and we were coming to the end of our studies four of us were mixing regularly with other graphics’ students and we just bound together. We came up with the long black and white collaborative when we were raising money for the Mag idea. We had these parties with the walls coved in paper that people could doddle on and say what they want. It was so popular we realised we had hit on something.”
Q, Don’t you ever fall out or struggle with seven different minds pulling a project?
He shakes his head amused at the question “No, not really, for a start we are well practiced at living with each other’s passions. Also we talk about it lots before we start. We always start with developing a story or fictional history to the exhibitions so everyone knows where the theme is going and then we trust each other. It has not failed before and we enjoy it.”
Currently Hunt is a freelance comic book illustrator and often works for the Beano on the characters Little Plum and Ratz. He lives and works in Birmingham so he really is a local success story.
He has been acclaimed as one of the 75 European Masters of Cartooning of the 20th Century by the Centre Nationale de la Bande Dessinee et de l’Image, and has won many other international awards.
The Emerson graphic novels Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Casanova’s Last Stand and other adaptations of classic novels and tales have been successfully sold in numerous countries, and translated into several different languages.
Hunt Emerson’s strips and illustrations are regularly seen in the pages of Fortean Times, a magazine of occult and unexplained phenomena. Also his pornographically humorous Firkin The Cat (written by Tym Manley) has appeared in hundreds of Fiesta magazines.
Hunt was inspired to become a cartoonist by seeing the comics arriving from Chicago, “they were sort of Hippy comics, but I loved the stories and character” (Emerson, 2015) Hunt practised and practices drawing and developing bio’s for characters. He came to Birmingham as a fine art student and found work at Birmingham Arts Lab and Polytechnic running a small printing machine. “In printing I saw a way that I could link earning a living with doing what I wanted to do; draw comics. I spent six years working at the Birmingham Arts Lab, with the printing press there, doing design, layout, darkroom, and machine operating on a shoestring in hair-raising circumstances. It taught me a lot about production deadlines and the need to make quick design decisions.”(From Emerson’s web site: http://largecow.com/)
This lead to his first book ,Thunderdogs which had a unique twist at the time because it included 2D and 3D drawings. Followed by Calculus Cat and then City Mouth.
We asked Hunt for his top piece of advice for us about to start illustration at university. He smiles and says the key to being a comic book illustrator is to keep working. Take as many of the freelance job you can manage but don’t forget to develop your own style and work.