Ann Kiernan’s ‘Twitter Jail’ was commissioned to accompany an article which said: “Twitter is no longer empowering its users. Its platform cannot be considered neutral. Twitter’s actions suggest it is systematically suppressing voices in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.”

Kells illustrator named winner of prestigious international prize

Kells native, Berlin-based Ann Kiernan has been awarded the prestigious Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year and the Illustrated Journalism Award 2020, announced by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Kiernan’s winning illustration was commissioned by Open Democracy to accompany an article by Wael Eskandar entitled ‘How Twitter is gagging Arabic users and acting as morality police’. Simple brushstrokes and a spray of red symbolise a Twitter update that has broken free from a pencil drawn cage only to be shot down. The fluidity and drive of her brushstrokes create a sense of urgency that impressed the judges who praised Kiernan’s inventive use of the well-known corporate logo.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A said: “The V&A Illustration Awards celebrate outstanding creativity by working artists, who use the fierce power of illustration to illuminate all the complexity of contemporary human experience. The winning entries speak perfectly to the V&A’s founding mission to support artists, embed design in everyday life, and showcase imaginative brilliance.”

Originally for Kilmainham, Kells, Kiernan and attended Eureka Secondary School, before she studied classical animation in Ballyfermot Senior College and worked in animation for a few years.

She explains: "During one of the periods when I didn't work in a creative job I was a tour guide in Bru Na Boinne, which I adored. I worked as an archive researcher with Neasa Ni Chianain and David Rane, who run a documentary film festival in Kells, Guth Gafa, for a couple of years on a documentary film that gave me a real taste for seeking out illustration work in the field of journalism. The film was 'The Stranger'.

"I moved to Berlin in 2015 and began to focus fully on illustration. I have had a few group exhibitions here in Berlin and in June (pre-covid) I was due to have my first solo show at the Irish Embassy here. Ordinarily the winning illustrator of the V&A Award has an exhibition of the work in the V&A Museum in London for six months. This year unfortunately it will not go ahead, but I believe the illustration will be on display at some point, after the museum opens on 6th August."

The V&A has been running an illustration competition since 1972 when the Francis Williams Awards were presented for the best illustrated books. In 2004 new categories were introduced for Book Cover Design and for Editorial Illustration, covering illustration in newspapers, magazines and comics. Editorial Illustration has recently been renamed Illustrated Journalism. The student category was created in 2005, with a runner-up prize introduced in 2009.

The prize money for each of the four awards categories is £3,000, and the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year Prize is worth an additional £5,000. The student runner-up prize is £2,000. This year’s shortlist was drawn from over 800 entries. Previous winners of the Illustration Awards include Nora Krug, John Vernon Lord, Sir Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman, Posy Simmonds, Sara Fanelli, and Yasmeen Ismail.

There is clearly a streak of creativity in the Kiernan family as Ann's sister, Olivia, has just published the third book in her Frankie Sheehan detective series, 'If Looks Could Kill'.