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Illustrator and artist Karan Singh on how his colourful art installation at The Royal Exchange reflects the vibrancy of London

The Royal Exchange has collaborated with artist Karan Singh to create a giant Advent calendar that will surround the main entrance at the top of our grand western steps. From 1 December, a door will open each day in the lead up to Christmas to reveal a luxury gift from one of our boutiques. Here, we chat to the artist about his inspirations behind the artwork he created for the installation.


What did you want to convey about London in your artwork for The Royal Exchange?

With the artwork I’ve created for The Royal Exchange Christmas Advent calendar, I wanted to illustrate something that would feel bold, modern and vibrant when juxtaposed with the ornate, traditional architecture of The Royal Exchange building. This concept of old meets new is a reflection of the City of London, with its mix of old traditions and vibrant culture – the way a very historic place can feel so fresh and alive because of all the people that fill it.


How did you interpret the brief for the artwork?

It was a relatively open brief, however, it felt fitting to create something abstract but playful in order to let the Advent calendar shine. We set out with the goal of creating an illustration which felt contemporary against this traditional building – something that would form an interesting contrast between new and old.

Scale was a source of inspiration, considering the calendar doubles as the façade of the entry. We wanted it to be fun and immersive, allowing people to walk around, and even walk through. I love how striking it will look within the space.

In what way is your signature style expressed in the artwork?

I like to experiment with colour and form to see how they interact to create optical illusions and I’m especially drawn to bright colours, abstract forms and pattern. I love the idea of using these simple ingredients to create playful, surreal, or optimistic illustrations. I’m excited to see how the simple geometric shapes, which feature in the calendar, look in the context of the space; contrasting simplicity with complexity. It’s also a nice splash of colour at an otherwise grey time of year.


How did you incorporate the spirit of Christmas and the festive season into the artwork?

It’s not overtly tied to Christmas, but more the idea of the capping off the year with a celebration with your friends and family. It’s a really bold, graphic representation of this idea through little cues, such as abstracted confetti and baubles.


For more details on The Royal Exchange Advent calendar installation and how to enter to win daily prizes in our competition, visit #ChristmasInTheCity #KaranSinghxTRE