I was commissioned by the Orwell Foundation to create an image that explored some of the themes of George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), whilst thinking about how those themes are relevant today. It seemed to me that the most pressing issue in urban poverty is now one of space and ownership, so I spent a period researching different ways urban space has been represented, alongside different picturesque ways London and Paris have been depicted in tourist brochures etc. The resulting illustration draws upon railway posters such as those by John Hassall; The Sims (an early 2000s computer game); the famous illustrations of Kowloon Walled City drawn by Japanese geographers before its demolition. I wanted it to feel a little studied and removed, but also human and authentic, like the book. Each room hints at a story taking place in an environment of urban poverty, whilst the number and close proximity evokes an ambivalent feeling of collective experience and isolation.
The illustration was used as the poster for Down and Out Live, an ambitious immersive event comprising theatrical performance and readings from the text, taking place in London and Paris in 2018.