Crossing boundaries

A few years ago, illustration was almost a forgotten art, says Pascal Johanssen – a state of affairs he wanted to change when he set up the Illustrative exhibition in Berlin. ‘There was a huge gap in the applied arts and illustration scene, with a well-established art market on the one hand and the design market on the other,’ he says. Now in its fifth year, Illustrative aims to fill that gap, showcasing international illustrators who have an artistic and experimental approach and ‘are able to look beyond the normal boundaries of the commercial’, says Johanssen. ‘All innovations I see in contemporary art come from this field,’ he adds. ‘Illustrators work on a high level with both analogue and digital techniques, and are able to use these in a very intelligent way.’ Last year’s winner of the exhibition’s Swatch Award for young talent, Christian Montenegro, astounded visitors with his trompe l’oeil, digital woodcut aesthetic. This year’s show features a lot of abstract illustration and a trend towards 3D illustration, from the likes of Pixelgarten, whose tactile work is a hybrid of graphic design, photography and illustration, and Julien Valle. Drawing, graphic prints, painting, mural collages, book art and animation will also be on show, in what Johanssen hopes will provide ‘a pool of inspiration not only for collectors, but also for the commercial side’. The question of whether the work is art or design will invariably be asked. ‘To be honest, I’m a bit bored with this discussion,’ says Johanssen. ‘In the end, it’s the quality that counts. These are people who work very intelligently between those fields, and those who are cutting edge will redefine them.’

Illustrative 2009 is at the Villa Elisabeth in Berlin from 16 October to 1 November

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  • Julian James November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I can’t label myself as one thing or the other these days… I’m a creative and that’s about as accurate as I can get without waffling on for ages in order to mention all the various disciplines/styles I adopt.

    Technology has blurred the lines between digital, physical, 3D, design and illustration and I for one create using whatever medium feels right at the time.

    It feels so damn good to be free of the constraints of labels and feels even better that the industry is starting to recognise this non-style as a legitimate form.

    Labels can be such a restricting human obsession.

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