2006 saw the launch of Illustrative, a new festival/exhibition in Berlin that celebrates illustration and graphic art. Having taken place this year in Zurich between the 18th and 26th of October, it drew 35 different artists, and showcased over 400 works.
Its main thrust is described as “documenting the influence of illustration and graphic arts on other disciplines like book illustration, fashion and textile-arts, pottery, and animated movies.” The point is to trace how illustration and graphic art feature in, or are essential parts of, the many facets of ‘contemporary art’.
What this really means is you’re getting a ton of great illustration gathered all in one place. And as an excellent sideline, the exhibition hosts a Young Illustrators Award, in three separate categories that include Illustration, Book Art, and Animation.
A funny thing: even though I’m writing on design all the time, I’m still often in the dark when it comes to the genre terms “illustration” and “graphic art”. That’s fine: part of the point of their recent resurgence is the inability to pin contemporary illustration down into one, specific category, as was possible 100 years ago.
Take a look at this interview with Pascal Johanssen, one of the two Berlin-based curators of Illustrative, who outlines what “contemporary illustrative art” means to him:
It’s a new art movement. Unlike classic illustration it is a mix of influences from comic art, graffiti, fashion, advertisement, set design for computer games or animation. This form of illustrative art is marked by very different creative impulses and thus can be design or art.
He also describes the fundamental differences between what he sees as the previous generation of illustrators and today’s. I’ve never really thought about things in these terms before:
The parent generation for me is represented by illustrators like Tomi Ungerer. These have been willful, charismatic drawers. They were close to political caricatures, which was in accordance with the common operational fields of illustration back then. Today´s illustrators are mainly avant-garde regarding innovative means of design.
And finally, he’s asked in which direction illustration is moving at the moment. His answer is probably prescient, but it’s strange–I’ve been hearing a version of this answer, across several disciplines, for some time now. Read on:
Game Art will come up. This will be an art genre which will not only copy the aesthetics of computer games, like Eboy, but uses the graphical, narrative and technological means emerging from computer games and making them possible. Something new will develop in this field.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that games are the new, growing, soon-to-be-fundamental frontier for: advertising, literature, interactive experience, socialization, social networking, and entertainment in general. No one actually knows if it’ll happen, but for the moment I see games as still, essentially, games.
Yeah, there are massive networks like World of Warcraft. There are games everyone in the world plays, like Grand Theft Auto 4. There are games like The Sims 2. But they’re still just games. There are still stores that sell only video games, all staffed by the same 5 dudes that ran them when I was 10. Or at least it seems that way.
I’ll save a further exploration of that subject for another day, but it strikes me that Johannson’s answer here is actually not overblown like many of the video-games-are-taking-over-all-media claims: the area in which games and art will strongly converge might indeed be one where the very facility of young designers with video games (and the technologial means that bring them about) could actually create an entirely new field of art, and a big one at that. Just a prediction.
One can’t miss event during the exhibiton–especially for anyone interested in vintage art or just wonderfully detailed design–was Roman Bittner’s talk on his “Ancient Cities of Tomorrow” series. These are e-boy like illustrations taken to another level and really, really captivating. Check out his studio here.
Anyway, if you were lucky enough to be wandering around Zurich in October, staring at mountains and drinking their water straight from the clean, fresh rivers, hopefully you caught up with Illustrative.