Goodbye August, hello September. We help you overcome these “back to school” days with some of the best cultural recommendations from Spanish and International contemporary urban artists and illustrators. From the comics of the publishers Autsaider Comics or Fulgencio Pimentel recommended by GR170, to some classic love-story films that we review with the Russian artist Marat Morik, going through the unmissable Keith Haring’s Diary highlighted by the illustrator Harsa and everything accompanied by the composers Hans Zimmer’s and Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack suggested by Madrid’s artist Oscar Llorens. We start off!
A reference in the Spanish Street Art and graffiti scene, the Catalan artist GR170 pronounced as “Grito” has been painting and bombing walls halfway around the world for over twenty years, but especially those in the suburbs of his native Barcelona. Thick strokes in the letters that write his name or in the urban elements he draws, round and bulging eyes and a palette of colors that varies from the more pastel tones of some of his works to other more strident, are some of his footprints that will help you recognize his work. Shy and with the intention of not attracting too much attention, the work of this artist has evolved into different formats that in addition to painting now include sculpture and ceramics always marked by a contemporary urban aesthetic.
«I recently picked a couple of Simon Hanselmann’s comics from the library. I didn’t know about the “Megg, Mogg & Owl” series and I’m just freaking out, I’m looking forward to more. Autsaider Comics have a new book by Magius, the last one I read was incredible: “A Gemini Method”. I recommend any comic by Kaz or Benjamin Marra, brutal! In general I would recommend anything Autsaider Comics, Fulgencio Pimentel or Apa Apa Comics publishes.
During this confinement I have replaced my passion for football for hiking and mount climbing documentaries like “Meru”, “Uprising Valley”, about Yosemite’s Park history, or “Free Solo” where you realize what sacrifice and passion really is. Nothing to do with football. I also watched “Style Wars” graffiti documentary again just to see the scene of the kids waiting for the painted train to pass. Is worth it just for that. “This is it!”.
The last book I read and would recommend is “Into the Wild” by Krakauen, as well as “Into Thin Air” by the same author. I have also recently discovered Eduard Bunker, a guy who knew the underworld, spent many years in prison and writes about it. It’s like a Tarantino movie but without the fantasy side, very raw.
In terms of art, this year I was very moved to see the impressionists at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, especially Renoir’s work. I also really liked Solo Collection in Madrid. I had goose bumps with a piece by Todd James aka Reas and another by Dany Fox. Seeing all of these works live cannot be compared to the digital world. Let’s see if we can put an end to this virus and this screen life so we’re able to make these visits again soon!».
The Russian artist, illustrator and graphic designer Marat Morik (Novosibirsk, 1982), who now lives in Prague, is one of those artists whose work, a mixture of figurative and abstract art techniques, mixed with realism and expressionism, will trap you in an endless number of forms and figures that overlap each other and create compositions that seem to fit together magically. With a degree in philology and economics, the artist let himself be carried away by hip hop and graffiti in his adolescence, which led him to perfect his technique by experimenting with aerosols, making letters using all kind of textures over all kinds of surfaces. Today he paints murals on a large scale all over the world and is one of the most talented contemporary artists in his country.
«Since my early childhood, besides art, I have always had a huge interest in criminal organizations: organized crime history in US, La Cosa Nostra, the 90’s Russian mafia, serial killer stories and so on. To sound right I never dreamt to become part of it but dark and dirty sides of humanity were always the object of my interest and studies. There were two VHS tapes that really made an impression on me: “Crime Inc – The True Story of The Mafia” (1984) and Martin Scorsese’s “Casino”. I watched them so many times that I could listen to it like radio.
I think gangster movies developed my passion for the 60’s American music such as “The Ronettes”, “The Crystals” and others. Violence along with love soundtrack from the 60’s is a perfect contrast which I often try to show in my artworks. “The Sopranos”, “Godfellas”, “Zodiak”, “A Prophet”, “The Irishman”and tons of documentaries, mugshots, gang leaders biographies — all are the huge part of my interests and finally my art.
At the same time I’m a pretty soft and sentimental person. Quite often I have those romantic periods when I watch either sweet and simple love stories like “Notting Hill” or delicate like “Revolutionary Road”, “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Lost in Translation” and one of my favorite Russian Oscar-winning movies ‘Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears’. Highly recommended by the way. All these movies I can watch or just listen to them over and over again while I’m working. “Beautiful boy” had a huge impression on me. I love when characters are not flat and you feel all their shades and sides. This is hard to show in paintings but the eyes of the character, color palette and sharp or rounded forms can give the right clue. Though I don’t like open ends in movies I find understatement in static artforms important. Understatement very often plays the role of the soundtrack for the viewer.
As for the books I better keep silence because I read mostly popular detective novels like Dan Brown’s books or Russian historical novels by Boris Akunin. Akunin’s books are calm, intelligent and extremely interesting. When I get tired of music I always play the books on my headphones while I’m working on a mural. Furthermore I love dystopia as a genre. George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” had a huge impact on me.
As for my field, of course I tried Malevich’s Manifesto and Dali’s memoirs some years ago but I got bored so fast that I left it for better days. Thank God there is Wikipedia for such stupid people like me where I can read about art and artists in a laconic, dry and simple way. I consider art as an entertainment and when I don’t understand how an artwork is made it entertains me the most. I mean not only the technique but the idea or spirit itself. And if it is the combination of both it blows my mind. There are some artists that I want to mention who don’t talk much but their art says a lot to me: Geremy Geddes, Jennifer Packer, Justin Caguiat, Zoer, Jaybo Monk, Matthew Stone, Adrian Ghenie, Joshua Hagler, Will Morrison, Jon Pilkington, Eser Gunduz, Linsey Levendall, Jennie Jieun Lee, Paul Cristina, Ian Francis, Wendelin Wohlgemuth, Mafia Tabak, Roid, Andrew Hem, Os Gemeos, and of course some classic artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Paul Gauguin, Amadeo Modigliani — all these guys blow my mind and make me want to quit».
Arantxa Recio (Harsa)
It is probably that you have come across (more than once!) the drawings of the artist and illustrator Arantxa Recio (Zaragoza, 1979), better known as Harsa. In book covers, posters, advertising creativities, packaging, fashion clothes or of course in murals. Her characters, animals and scenes of daily life are marked by a happy and funny character and as she says they are inspired by expressionist, dadaist and even surrealist trends.
«Lately I have been very interested in the sociology of sport, its history and everything related to it. A very interesting book is “Basketball (and other things)” by Shea Serrano, beautifully illustrated by the great Arturo Torres. The history of the NBA told from a perspective as hilarious as it is fantastic. Another book I recommend is “The Haring Diaries”, one of my favorite artists. Keith Haring left dozens of handwritten and illustrated notebooks with reflections on art, life, death and of course his artwork around the world. They are passages that impress by the enormous vitality of the artist and sense of humor. A jewel. In addition “Understanding Art” by Dana Arnold and “Clomorama” by Riccardo Falcinelli, the first one to introduce yourself in the art world in a very accessible approach, and the second one, a study on how emotions, advertising and art have used color throughout history to transform our vision of the world.
During the confinement I have seen many series and I especially liked “What We Do in the Shadows” by Jemaine Clement and Paul Simms, a rather comical vampire series shot as a mockumentary that follows the daily lives of four vampires. Also “The End of the F***ing World”, which I had heard very good things about and although at first I was reluctant, I admit that the story has seemed sublime to me.
I love auteur cinema and Wim Wenders is one of my favorite directors. His films and documentaries are full of travel, photographs and good music. I loved the documentary “The Salt of the Earth”, a mixture of beauty and feelings through the eyes of photographer Sebastiao Salgado. Another documentary that I think everyone should see is “The Silence of Others”, which can be found on Netflix. It deals with the silenced struggle of the victims of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain and the pain that is still very present in our days and that it is important not to forget.
In terms of art I have recently discovered the work of Jake Clark, a Melbourne-based graffiti artist who focuses on subversively recreating trophies from modern society and pop culture to turn them into clay. Very interesting».
Fantastic and mutants little beings inhabit the imagination of the Madrid-born artist and illustrator Oscar Llorens, who after working for several years in advertising agencies during his early years, pushed himself into the world of the freelance artist. He earns his living as an illustrator making digital designs for number one clients such as The Washington Post, Lacoste or Cirque du Soleil and as a painter he explores the possibilities of graphite, to which he sometimes introduce color, with his original designs of naïve-looking dolls inspired by his trips to Japan and other better known characters such as Mickeys and Kittys.
«I always try to alternate all sorts of readings, usually guided by recommendations to play it safe. In preparation for college classes, I recently read Ed Catmulll’s “Creativity Inc.” which reviews Pixar’s history and the hundreds of problems they faced managing a company with such a creative component. It’s funny how a book like this can be so engaging. The last book by Murakami that I read was “Killing Commendatore” and I admit that during its reading I went through several phases. The protagonist is a painter who takes refuge in a mountain house to overcome a sentimental break, that made me quickly hooked on the story, however the problem I have with this author is that he usually has many surreal episodes during the story that, sometimes, I am not able to understand its connection with the main plot. Still, I recommend reading this one like almost any of his books. Another book is Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild”. I discovered it by chance on Instagram, and after being confined for almost 5 months in a village in the Gredos mountains with less than 20 inhabitants I found its story fascinating. About a 24-years old student that leaves everything behind to go into the heart of Alaska to try to survive in the middle of the cold winter. In 2007 Sean Penn directed the film based on the book, highly recommended and with a great soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.
I usually listen to soundtracks while working in the studio. It was my middle brother who got me into that and since then I always use it as a tool to concentrate deeply on drawing. Nowadays, I don’t know if it’s due to the situation we are living but lately I feel very attached to the composers Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Michel Granchino.
As for artists, from time to time you find jewels like Roby Dwi Antono, an Indonesian artist who mixes surrealist compositions with a very perfected painting technique. I discovered him recently and I can’t help but to be amazed by his work. Another discovery worth following is Giorgiko, a duo composed by Darren and Trisha Inouye, with a very original style of painting and character creation».