Daniel Aristizábal is a Colombian artist, illustrator, and graphic designer who has described his style as “pop surrealism”. His work combines elements of Cubism, Dadaism, and Futurism with pop art and postmodern design. Aristizábal’s work is saturated in 1980s pastel hues, bold geometric patterns, and a playful sense of the absurd.
We spoke to Aristizábal about his influences, the role of symbolism in his work, and his recent project, Cósmica y sus huevos, which explores the ancient myth of the Earth being born from a primordial egg.
G—Your recent editorial project, Cósmica y sus huevos, references the ancient belief that the universe was hatched from a primordial egg. How did you encounter this belief, and why did it take on such significance for you?
Well, since I can recall I’ve been interested in philosophy, history and the origins of the universe. My concept for Cósmica y sus huevos stemmed from the idea of what happens inside a black hole, a place where the rules of physics don’t apply in the same way as they do here.
Daniel Aristizábal—Well, since I can recall I’ve been interested in philosophy, history and the origins of the universe. My concept for Cósmica y sus huevos stemmed from the idea of what happens inside a black hole, a place where the rules of physics don’t apply in the same way as they do here.
G—Human subjects are largely absent from Cósmica y sus huevos, except for these detached black model hands. Can you tell me how you decide what kind of objects you want to include in your work?
DA— Yes, the human body as a whole is absent. I like to break things down into smaller pieces and mix them so that they don’t seem to match. Two of the bases of my work are juxtaposition and Surrealism.
G—Your work seems precisely and meticulously arranged. Is there room for improvisation and last minute changes during the actual arrangement of objects?
DA—Yes, actually there’s a lot of last minute changes. I am never fully married to an idea – there’s always room for improvisation. I like to see each illustration as its own world, and each world has its own set of rules in terms of colours, composition and “physics”. After I decide what kind of settings are going to rule this particular world, I start to move stuff around. It’s a very controlled randomness.
G—Your colour palette of bold pastels – pinks, blues, yellows – as well as the black and white stripes and geometric patterns in your work refer back to elements of 1980s postmodernism. How did you become exposed to that style, and why does it appeal to you?
DA—That style has become so mass-produced and absorbed by popular culture that it was impossible for a kid growing up in the early ‘90s not to be exposed to it. I love colours and absurdity, and I’m a very political person, so the idea of an art style that tries to break the establishment is very appealing to me. In the end, I think I am more influenced by the spirit of Surrealism, Cubism and Dadaism.
G—The ‘80s postmodernism Memphis movement was born out of an artist rebellion to challenge the approach to designs. Why do you think there has been a resurgence of this style and do you think it still carries the spirit of rule-breaking innovation?
DA—Time is a flat circle; we are destined to repeat certain aspects of our history. For better or for worse. At this particular time, I believe that design is returning to a more artistic approach. For years, graphic design had been considered just a part of advertising. People like Milton Glaser and his work shaped the early years of graphic design, perhaps the more important years, and that same vibe of creating more personal and artistic graphic design is coming back.
G—Can you tell me about the role of symbolism in your work? To what extent are your design choices influenced by a desire to communicate some meaning beyond the immediate visual effect?
DA—I try to create little worlds in a visual sense and incorporate personal symbols in my work. There are examples of inside jokes and references to people in my life. My main desire is to be able to explore an abundance of ideas and concepts about life.
G—Is it acceptable to you for an audience to appreciate your work on a purely aesthetic level, or must they also grasp the meaning and cultural references layered below the surface?
DA—Just the fact that people like what I do is enough for me. I am still amazed at how well my work has been received. I really think it is impossible that everyone who comes across an art piece will understand the real intention of the creator. Some people will, others won’t. It will affect each person according to his or her own experiences and I love that.
At first glance, Paul Kaptein’s collection of hand-carved wooden sculptures might appear as though it was conceived in the deepest recesses of his unconscious mind. But in fact, his warped creations were born out of a very deliberate and conscious desire to depict an unstable realism – one that represents the dynamic relationship between form and emptiness. We spoke to Kaptein about his inspiration, the role of symbolism in his work and the relationship with his medium. G—Wood is a dominant medium in your work. What type of narrative do you think it creates? PK—I think it assumes a narrative that predates the work, and commences a commentary around time and timelessness. Wood has a universal presence that speaks to everything from wooden spoons and chopping boards, to alter prices, totems and architecture – it’s like the backbone of culture in a way. It acknowledges that change is an inherent part of the work – that it may one day become something else. For now it is sculpture. Hopefully. G—Much of your work is sculpture based. What are the advantages and limitations of sculpture? PK—I’m interested in being in the world and therefore tend to have a very visceral response
Kip Omolade is an American artist from Harlem, New York, with a background in graffiti art and a BFA from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. His latest series, Diovadiova Chrome, is a sequence of hyperrealistic oil paintings depicting massive chrome masks. Omolade casts these masks himself, which he then uses as a model for his paintings. The end result is a fascinating hybrid of African tradition and contemporary materials. We spoke to Omolade about Benin masks, Paris Hilton, and the meaning of chrome, “the poor man’s silver.” G—In your series, Diovadiova Chrome, you explore immortality and contemporary notions of beauty and luxury. What prompted your interest in these themes? Kip Omolade—Paris Hilton. During the early phenomenon of reality TV stars, I became fascinated with the idea of the instant celebrity in mainstream media. I wondered if art could participate in this star-making machine. So, I ironically spent ten years developing the Diovadiova using one model as a muse. I drew, painted, printed and sculpted over 100 images of a single person. By confining myself to one model, Diovadiova also allowed me to stretch my imagination as an artist. I developed different styles including the current technique used in Diovadiova
Since 2008 the Finnish photographer Juha Arvid Helminen has been exploring humanity’s literal and metaphorical dark side with a photo series entitled The Invisible Empire, which explores the ways in which power, authority, and violence express themselves through fashion and visual iconography. Helminen dresses his subjects in uniforms and accessories which suggest fascist and authoritarian political movements, conservative religion and contemporary policing. “I have always been fascinated by uniforms, and when I had studied arts and photography for a few years in 2008 I wanted to create photos with a meaning. To be honest, at first I was only intrigued by the aesthetics, but a bit later I started to think about human behaviour and how we convey different ideologies and professions by our clothes – how traditions and beliefs dictate our behaviour. How we hide our true persona and create walls around us.” This name, ‘Invisible Empire’, was on my mind for many years. Little by little just a few photographs grew into a whole narrative of humans’ incapability to learn from its mistakes throughout many centuries. The title, Invisible Empire, refers to an alternative name used by the Ku Klux Klan, an organization “known for violence, racism and