Illustrator Toby Melville-Brown kicks off our 71a Gallery window artist takeover project with False Beast.

Illustrator Toby Melville-Brown kicks off our 71a Gallery window artist takeover project with False Beast.

How do you draw fear? That’s the challenge British illustrator Toby Melville-Brown encountered when we commissioned him to interpret themes from Huck’s Freaked Out Issue.

Toby created a radiant black and yellow False Beast that dominates our 71a Gallery window – the first piece in our new artist takeover project. From afar, this mystical creature strikes terror into the hearts of passersby – but like most of our fears, it’s dressed up to be far more than reality. Come closer, strip away the layers of artifice and you’ll see the beast for what it is: a pathetic creature in knobbly knees and Y-fronts.

Toby usually draws intricate and impossible architecture-inspired cityscapes. But for this commission he stepped up – and blew us away. Come see the False Beast for yourselves, in Huck’s 71a Gallery window, Shoreditch, until May 30.

We reached out to Toby to find out more about creating False Beast, taking inspiration from architecture and the bad things we can expect in the future.

Could you talk us through the work you’ll be putting in the 71a window and the thought process behind it?
In response to Huck’s Freaked Out Issue, I set about creating an artwork that talks of fear. As an emotive subject I felt the need to move away from the architectural scenes I usually create. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of designing surreal costumes and felt this was a good opportunity.

The result is False Beast an elaborate embodiment of fear. It’s menacing and appears full of confidence. But on closer inspection, is actually a decorative guise and can be overcome. The aesthetic takes inspiration from theatrical costumes, a reminder that part of us enjoys being scared – whether by horror films or dramatic headlines.

What sparked your interest in architecture? How does it continue to inspire your work?
Lego, Sim City, drawing materials. I’m sure these guys played considerable part in nurturing my imagination. Early trips to America; ‘the land of skyscrapers’ also played a part.

In order to maintain that verve it helps me to keep exploring. Be that first hand; travelling, seeing things or learning; understanding history and other people’s creative responses.

Though probably most inspiring is a good vantage point. The prospect of watching the sunset over a city, witnessing that transition into nighttime makes me giddy.

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How did you approach Huck’s theme for this issue, collective fears?
I wasn’t sure at first because you don’t want to create something inherently negative or defeatist. Better to understood fear and not kowtow to it. Huck’s article about The Future Men inspired me. I like that constructive approach.

How do you hope the work has an impact?
At the very least I hope people enjoy a big drawing of an outlandish costume, on their way to work. I suppose it’s possible someone will look closer and understand the piece is a reminder that fear is an abstract. Something that can be owned and reshaped.

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‘Should our generation be scared of the future?’ is the question that runs through the issue. What’s your take on that?
I’m pretty sure every generation has always been scared of the future. There are plenty of threats and outcomes rarely look peachy. More bad things will happen and that’s sad. But I don’t think we should be scared. We should pay close attention to our surroundings, keep talking and being proactive, with the aim of minimising those bad things.

Find out more about artist Toby Melville-Brown’s work. False Beast will be on display in Huck’s 71a Gallery window, Shoreditch, until May 30. Illustrators/artists/photographers who’d like to take part in our ongoing Window Project should contact lidia@tcolondon.com