Saturday 23 June 2012

Lora Zombie Illustrator

Lora Zombie is sick - and I'm not talking about that unforgettable tag-name.  With her use of dark satire and subversive pop references, the Russian-born "grunge" artist at first sight seems like another predictable product of the anti-capitalism urban art trend.

But there's something more digestible about Zombie's beautifully light and loose illustrative style which is no less impacting. Parodying Disney characters is nothing new I hear you scream, but Zombie designs in a way that is not excessive. She controls the chaos: initially what seems to be a random attack of splats and drips on a canvas turns out to be a masterful and disciplined application of paint.

There's nothing too deep or stifling about them either. They're not overloaded with political messages that will make your brain fry before you can even attempt to appreciate what they look like. They're just effortlessly cool, making them perfect to be appreciated purely for aesthetic beauty or for their Banksy-esque tongue-in-cheek rebelliousness.  Either way, her minimalist style comes to define the artistic cliché that less can be more. You get the sense that Zombie enjoys absolute liberation during her creative process. She should be applauded just for putting Spiderman in a tutu...

But while Zombie injects humour into almost all of her pieces, it is her more sensitive and touching work which I'm really drawn to.  I reviewed the portfolio of fine artist Joram Roukes recently, whose work I praised because of its terrifying beauty, its hilarious disaster... I could continue with the oxymorons until I buckled under my own pretentiousness. Anyway, Zombie (I have to stop referring to her like this) works in a similar fashion in terms of thematics, but uses a much more subtle and suggestive approach.

So many urban artists today seek out shock factor, and whilst they are still hugely effective, they can tend to force the viewer into submission by their subversive and violent imagery. They'll usually leave an aftertaste of bitter cynicism, too, which leaves not much room for any hope or redemption. But these pieces, despite their air of tragedy, always have some undefinable promise contained within them, as if to say, 'Yes, our situation is shit, but everything's going to be alright.'

Zombie recently exhibited at the Pandamonium show at Signal. With the current tidal wave of Superhero movies, it's no surprise that her own Depressed Superheroes collection was an instant hit. You could quite easily imagine these works as graphic prints for a gritty East London fashion label.

Also, visit her Facebook page at your peril, because you'll feel instant guilt once you're there. Not only does she have such a diverse range of works, but she's also got shit loads of them - up to 400 illustrations and oil paintings. I always thought her style was efficient, but jesus. It's no surprise her huge output of work has made her an international success.

All in all, Zombie uses her pop icons as clever metaphors for the absurdity of lofty ideals, the futility of  superheroic dreams and aspirations in a contemporary society reduced to supermodels and overpaid footballers. There's only so much we can achieve as real human beings.

Wasn't going to let you get off that easy.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Sons of Heroes AW12/13 Preview

Last summer I came into contact with the Creative Director of hot new menswear label Sons of Heroes. I was lucky enough to model for the Spring Summer 2012 Lookbook photographed by Harriet Turney, and since then have become enamoured with the brand's bold and confident masculine look. Tagging itself as the "uniform of future icons", Sons of Heroes "pays respect to the future icons of the 21st century, a blueprint that honours our country's heroic past and the formidable people who played a part in it."

In the current UK Menswear climate today, you'll barely survive unless you've got something highly unique to offer, and even then, chances can be slim. I'm always on the pursuit for fresh new aesthetics and Sons has this mysterious luxury-grunge feel about it which can be androgynous without sending male customers running for the hills.

Sons oozes a dark, enigmatic charm; experimental with its masculine silhouette but committed to a certain ruggedness and hard-edged sensibility. The collections feature muted palettes - predominantly monochrome - with teasing dashes of colour and bleaching techniques here and there.

But where this label triumphs as one of the most exciting new labels in the UK today is in its graphic prints - and AW12 is full of 'em.  They are some of the most stunningly detailed images I have ever seen on a garment - true works of art. The leopard silk leather bomber has become something of a signature piece for the brand, having been immensely popular with celebs both over here and in the US. Clement Marfo, Sway, JLS, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa,Trey Songz, and, unfortunately - Justin Bieber, have all been seen sporting it.
For a label that is only 3 seasons old to have become so popular already is a huge feat, and I have no doubt Sons of Heroes will continue to establish itself as a front-runner in contemporary menswear.

Grow some balls and grab some clothes.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Joram Roukes Fine Artist

Wreckface 2

The artwork of Netherlands based artist Joram Roukes is a literal 'car crash' of assorted western phenomena: Roukes perhaps creates his characters with such heavily layered imagery to hint at an identity swallowed underneath the chaotic iconography of consumerism. In fact, it seems that the only thing knitting the images together is Roukes' intriguing motif of destructive and violent collision, often depicted in his drawings by upended or at least severely damaged vehicles. 

Roukes is clearly obsessed by anthropomorphism, too: his pieces frequently depict grotesque human bodies with the heads of intensely vulnerable animals, producing images which pivot between terror and hilarity. What also makes these pieces so effective is that they don't preach; Roukes doesn't necessarily go out of his way to expose the flaws of his society, but instead he observes, allowing us to determine our own position amid the insanity.

In fact, Roukes' balance between the dark and the humorous is so pitch perfect that you just don't know whether to laugh or cry. That awkward tension is where the true success of his work lies. 

It's no surprise Roukes is becoming hugely popular over here in the UK, especially with his recent solo show, Oils, at urban art gallery Signal in East London. He's got that sardonic but playful and seductive air of Antony Micallef about him, whilst still producing his own unique and robust aesthetic identity. 

He's also a really cool guy to chat with, which is a bonus. He offered me some enlightening pearls of wisdom recently about the virtual impossibility of getting galleries to notice you...Thanks mate!

In the meantime, I have no doubt we will see big movements from this guy in the future, I can quite easily see him up in the ranks with the likes of Micallef and Dan Baldwin. 

Tuesday 12 June 2012


I suppose my first ever sense of what it meant to 'be inspired' came when I was exposed to Ridley Scott's Alien  at the fragile age of 5 or 6 years old. Was I scared shitless? Yes. Did I turn off? No. Quite the opposite: I became obsessed, reviewing it compulsively, trying to decipher what the hell a toddler found so appealing about this frankly disgusting monstrosity: 

I don't know what it was, but H.R. Giger's horrifying yet strangely seductive and sensuous creations compelled me to re-create them. That was the only way I felt I might be able to access them. Because they were, and still are, so powerfully enigmatic.

Cool. Terrifying. Erotic. Self-conscious. Whatever it was, I needed to reproduce the images. I suppose "inspiration" was driving that need, and has manifested itself in the past few years in a series of works which I am quite happy with.

Giger's work planted the creative seed inside me (excuse the pun), so everything I've ever produced has probably had some influential grounding in his imagery. I'd like to think that it is specifically Giger's juxtaposition of the grotesque and beautiful which has filtered its way into my own work, as I have a particular passion for mixing monochrome with high contrast pop-y colours. 

People have commented that my work is dark, disturbing, even shocking. I can't really help myself there. I was never interested in painting pretty watercolour landscapes. For me, art has to be affecting or transformative, even if only for a moment.  I'd rather hear someone say, "it's nice but too scary", than simply, "it's nice". For one, "Too scary" translates as "I don't want to look at that because I don't want to be told how corrupt I am". Secondly...Who cares about nice?

Saturday 9 June 2012


 The fresh release of Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, Prometheus, presented itself to me as the perfect excuse to explain how and why I even started designing. More of that in my next post. For now, a little review. As a hard-hard-hardcore fan of Alien, I didn't hesitate to snap up my ticket the weekend of the film's release in London.

Prometheus harks back to the Greek myth, putting a twist on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein about forbidden knowledge and man playing God. I went into this film trying my absolute hardest to remove myself from expectations rooted in the original franchise.

I did. But while Scott's new conceptual offerings were interesting, and his sci-fi direction expectedly stunning, I hate to admit that it seems even the master of suspense has buckled under the pressures of Hollywood to deliver a profit-splurging blockbuster.

It lacked the tension which came to immortalise Alien as one of the most original horror films ever. Even the action sequences weren't exceptionally thrilling, and some scenes were so implausible - nonsensical even - that I actually found myself chuckling at certain moments - not good.

Fortunately, I was impressed by the visuals and new designs and, let's be honest: if they're good, we can forgive Ridley's narrative flaws. It was intriguing to see prototypes of the iconic xenomorph we know so well - although they weren't so much terrifying as purely disgusting, and I don't think I'll ever be able to look at a squid in the same way again.

The ending. I was torn about its somewhat shoehornedness. You can just imagine the studio execs during production insisting that Ridley make a scene which explicitly illustrates the bridge between this film and the Alien evolution, just in case the audience had thus far been stupid to make the connection for themselves. Nonetheless, we clearly have an exciting new instalment in the works.

The tag-line. I'm tempted to look really clever and perceptive and inevitably pretentious here by using it for my own means to lead on how I started as an artist. So I will.

The search for our beginning could lead to our end

In hindsight this is a bit dramatic and unnecessary, so I'll settle for the "beginning" bit...

Hello "Art World"

For a very long time I have felt under immense pressure from this invisible force goading me on to create a "blog" because, as a "creator" of things, I should also be "creating" in the virtual world. Yes, I am describing myself in inverted commas because I want to dispel any pompous self-righteousness before I even get started. I'm very wary of self-aggrandising titles and I prefer to think of myself as just having a strong passion and respect for many different forms of design: from fine art to fashion design and illustration, film to creative writing. 

I have a particular appetite for anything that strikes me as unconventional, extra-ordinary, subversive, challenging, controversial, shocking. Just anything that's going to snap me - and you - out of this sad, facebook-induced state of inertness. I'd like to think that's where my art comes from. If it's shocking, fine; at least you reacted.

I'm here to document both my own artistic projects and projects emerging from the realms of art, fashion, film, and anything else that's going to make you stop and think. At times, I might talk about something that's really pissing me off (like Big Brother), but that's probably because it's already hatched as a subconscious stimulus for my next project, so hopefully it'll be worth putting up with.

Nice to meet you,

Jonny Burt.