Ikon Gallery based in Birmingham raised a few eyebrows and provoked a few thoughts recently as the work of graphic designer Tony Arefin was exhibited within the ‘Fine Art’ space. Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, Abed Mohammad Arefin moved to London in 1974. He worked for various magazines and for a brief period, as a curator at The Photographer’s Gallery organising an exhibition for Neville Brody who began a great influence on the artist. After the death of Arefin at 38, ‘Arefin Arefin’, displaying some of Tony Arefin’s finest works have been displayed to us today is through his family, close friends, collaborators and clients, all of which have contributed in loaning items to Ikon gallery. The disruption of the exhibition, brought Ikon to arrange a lecture at The School of Art in Birmingham (My university) inspired by Tony Arefin questioning Graphic Design in the modern art world. Two contemporary artists spoke within the lecture, both of which had a different style to their work but were connected through music- Vaughan Oliver and Kate Moross.
Vaughan Oliver, with 32 years experience displayed a sense of passion yet modesty towards his work treating each piece as something he truly enjoyed creating. For me, he made everything seem so simple, display a knowledge and love for the subject as if it was what he was made to do. The majority of his works are music related, his motivation flared from that out-of-body experience, change of mind and chemistry one has when listening to music. Vaughan Oliver’s teenage years spent listening to punk and involvement in its culture reflected in his work. He is greatly known for his work with The Pixies. The artist admitted that in his younger days he was persistent on becoming an illustrator and thought of graphic design as ‘boring’. However, after he working with cosmetic and supermarket labels and of course forced to work with typography, questioning how text and image relate towards on and another conveying information, he began to realise that typography was ‘another form of mark making’ a combination of texture and shape.
Vaughan Oliver express the importance of ‘going against the grain’ and creating something new, similarly to himself. He worked with The Cocteau Twins creating their single artwork for Head Over Heels. He, in his own right, describes his work as going against the grain, eliminating any subject as there is no subject matter. There is a strange and seductive feel yet being unaware of what is present, the image stays with you. As a graphic designer working with a commercial industry, Oliver expressed the ability as an artist to create something memorable as critical within your career as well as the ability to create graphic responses to the music, images and lyrics. Back to The Pixies. Vaughan Oliver created the works of many of the band’s artwork evoking mood and atmosphere, capturing the vibe of the music, one of which was completed after 1 year (6 month creativity time)- his longest project. One of the pieces for The Pixies which stood out for me the print ‘5,6,7 monkey goes to heaven’ which amazingly was not only created before graphic design on computer but was also a ‘mistake’ of the filtering of colour. There were other amazing pieces of work showed by Vaughan Oliver which you can find on his website http://www.vaughanoliver.co.uk/.
5,6,7 Monkey Goes to Heaven- The Pixies, Vaughan Oliver
Kate Moross aged 26, had a fun vibrancy to her that, similarly to Vaughan showed her passion for the subject. She is everything I envisioned a graphic designer to be, she wore a rainbow dye top reflecting her loud, bubbly personality. Young and fresh she had a approach to Graphic Design, which she best described as ‘do shit’. She recommended at all graphic designers, all creative people should get out there and speak to people. Do whatever they could to get noticed, to go against the grain. For example, she used to hand out cards with her drawings on to people. She too, was interested in music and this was one of the key motivations for her work. Kate spoke about her university experience, explaining that she was doing a ‘traditional style’ of graphics course. In her first year, she landed herself a campaign with Dairy Milk chocolate in which she earned herself £30,000– she was advised to reject the offer but of course as a young aspiring artist, she did do the campaign. The next stage of her career, led to the creation of her own record label in 2006, in which she focused on the independent music scenes creating vinyl’s, most of which she still has today due to the failure of the record company. Something beautiful came from her failures and she and Vaughan Oliver expressed the need as a artist to document and store every piece of work you have done- this of course, was how Arefins work was exhibited today. Kate Moross’s work isn’t conceptual, just pure simple and fun exploring typography in a illustrative way, the thing that makes people think about her work if the mystic qualities, pattern, texture and colour.
Dairy Milk Campaign- Kate Moross
The artist progressed into a new medium- video. Moross takes a D.I.Y approach to the makings of her videos, using everyday and household objects such as bike lights, fairy-up liquid under microscopes and repeated imagery creating layers of image to achieve a effect but lost cost production. Gizzards by Simian Mobile Disco- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO8eNoe4gYg is a example of Moross using something familiar under a microscope continuously, creating a beat, a relation to the music and how it makes you feel. Most recently, Moross has been with artist Jessie Ware creating the artwork and video for her music, the video ‘If You Love Me’- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXJl5Gf05zg has also been created with a simple, low cost material. The timing of the imagery and music, relates to the sound and beat of the music, therefore enhancing the enjoyment of listening to the music. I ask myself why something so simple can make the music seem so much more enjoyable? It is the colours, the movement or simple just imagery in time with music? More of Kates work can be saw at http://www.katemoross.com/.
The lecture left me questioning our ability as artists and creative people to use the materials we have in our surroundings, Kate Moross expressed her belief in the idea that ‘there is always a way’ and to do things D.I.Y. As for Tony Arefin and the issue he has raised-
How do we display Graphic Design?
and what separates Graphic Design from Fine Art in the contemporary art world and how we view it as people?