Illustrating intimacy

by Kitty Drake in July 2021
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The latest issue of illustration magazine Varoom is an exploration of intimacy, a kind of response to the way lockdown has “on the one hand, removed many of our familiar attachments, and on the other, forced a closer relationship with our homes and with ourselves”. 

The work collected here is tender and often funny. Illustrator and Joe Schlaud is profiled, sharing a series of ‘unsexy’ portraits of couples, combining coitous with mundane household chores, like vacuuming and eating a spaghetti dinner.

Intimacy is also explored on these pages in terms of its opposite: alienation and despair. In one brilliant essay, Walker Mimms writes about the ‘austerity graphics’ of 2020, explaining how crises inflect graphic design. In the 1970s, for example, as free love and its bright, bubbly fonts died, British editorial illustrators such as Bush Hollyhead and Bob Lawrie created a new ‘paranoid’ style, full of sharp angles and jagged edges, to reflect new unease. During coronavirus, the style made a comeback, and the feature is accompanied by some unnerving examples, featuring monstrous virus nodes and enormous syringes.

Below, we’ve photographed some of our favourite pages from the issue.

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