Augustine Coll's UPside created exclusively for SUPERSWEET!
What lies beneath the berets of illustrators, the artistic lonely wolves and night owls with a talent to draw and spot the smallest joys in life? Together with artist Augustine Coll SUPERSWEET’s Emmi Ojala visits UPside exhibition at Medcalf Gallery to find what goes on in the minds of creatives and if a joy-radar exists.
When life gives you recession, you better make art of it – that’s what Playroom Collective, an international group of illustrators decided to do by putting up an exhibition called UPside. “Our starting point was Things That Make Life Not Completely Miserable, but obviously that was too long,” says Augustine Coll, one of the artists and organizers of the exhibition. The idea evolved and got compressed into upsides and a series of works reminding that even when there are tube strikes and you’ve only got one pound in your pocket, nursery rhymes, architecture and receipts with memories still exist.
However, not everybody can find happiness in wrinkled receipts like illustrator Aine Cassidy or see triumph in shabby buildings like Augustine. You definitely need some creativity for that, another point of view on life that apparently these artists have. Hypothesis: behind the introversion and dark deadline circles under their eyes, there must be something awesomely positive happening inside their heads. What is it and where does it come from?
In fact, illustrators are mentally hyperactive filters constantly taking influences in, processing them and throwing them up on paper. “Everyone has his own background, references and idols that are visible in one’s artwork as well,” explains Augustine. He himself grew up in Barcelona at a time when the local Catalan TV channel was airing Japanese animation. The predecessor of Pokémon ended up leaving a permanent mark on Augustine, who manages to slip in cartoon and manga aesthetics in everything he draws. Proceeding from himself to others, Augustine mentions also Ronald Searle, a legend amongst illustrators, who was prisoned during the WW2. During the confinement, Searle documented his horrifying experiences with a series of drawings, hiding them under a mattress. “After the war, he moved on to children’s illustrations. In a way, it’s the complete opposite, but there’s still something really dark in [the humour of] his illustrations deriving from his time in prison.” So, the point has been proven: there are no illustrators born with great visions or positivity particles in their brain, only creative filters who emanate drawings and produce art work fitted for the Zeitgeist.
Illustrations on the other hand can be seen as inkblots revealing parts of the personas of their creators’. So what do the art pieces of UPside project tell about illustrators? At first glance, nothing really scandalous: just like any model citizen, they find happiness in food, friends and gardening. However, Paul Shinn enjoys his sushi together with blue elephants whilst Yuki Nishimura sees poems as immense zeppelins. Augustine’s attention on the other hand gets drawn to the antithesis of splendour: his source of joy is a lonely tower block building, not very pretty and definitely not a dream of an estate agent. “I was cycling pass it and it reminded me of Spanish architecture that developed in the 60s. Some people in England think these buildings aren’t good places to live in, but in Spain it’s tower blocks everywhere, so I felt close to it somehow.”
But how do all these imaginative views on everyday life seem to come so easily to creatives? “If people in love wore rose-coloured glasses, illustrators would have to wear short-sighted ones,” says Augustine. That might be the cause of close-up work, but also of being analytical and fond of zooming into the details of life. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret behind finding joys in the simplest things. To the poor souls with perfect eyesight and no natural talent to be a too observant of an observer, Augustine recommends cycling. Next to having a list of health benefits and preventing Notredame’s Hunchbackism, it is also a great way to get inspired: “You get to see new things and go to places you otherwise would never go to.” So grab your bikes, observe and look around. Exercise in the name of happiness and put a positive spin on fucked-up situations!
UPside exhibition at the Medcalf Gallery opens everyday until 7th of November 2010.
Words: Emmi Ojala