If you are in London over the summer and need a break from all the sun, how about checking out the reportage drawings that George Butler made in Syria? Butler’s recent work has won him both the editorial and overall winner of the prestigious V&A Illustration Award. His exhibition: A Year in drawing can be seen at the Illustration Cupboard Gallery from July 13th to August 3rd.
In August 2012 Butler walked the 4 km from the Turkish border to the town of Azaz in Northern Syria. There he documented the displaced returning to their homes, which had been raided or damaged in the crossfire or shelling.
‘I was greeted by casually dressed men, the Free Syrian Army. I was asked, “What did I want to do?” and “Make some drawings” was not necessarily the answer they were expecting. But then I wasn’t really ready to be offered a car, a translator and a place to stay in what had become a war zone. These drawings, done in situ, are not designed to compete with news teams or photographers but I hope offer an insight into how people react at a wholly vulnerable time.’
Butler is not a stranger to war zones. He was an embedded artist with his uncles regiment in Afghanistan. While the news teams chased the action around in the forward operating bases, George was stationed at the camps. He soon realized that the soldiers actually spent most of their time training or teaching the Afghan National Army inside the camp. His drawings are a record of the soldiers there.
‘I don’t think an illustrator can compete with the photo-journalists on the front line, the process is different. You are there for a longer amount of time when you are drawing. It’s open, people can see what you are doing, so you get a different reaction.’
Interestingly in the last 3 years, 2 of the winners of the V&A illustration Award have been reportage illustrators, Olivier Kugler won in 2011 for his 30 page illustrated Journal “Massih”- A Trucker in Iran. Which documents a four-day trip with an Iranian truck driver from Tehran down to the Persian Gulf.
13th July 2013 to 3rd August 2013,
The Illustration Cupboard Gallery, 22 Bury Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6AL