Too often are we met with the inevitable question what is art? and with it, a need to categorise and define; the persistent search for an explanation behind every artistic endeavour that ever graced our planet. But was Van Gogh’s subliminal suicide note really at the heart of his turbulent skies and crossing pathways? Admittedly, it’s an exciting prospect, to unpick the secrets hidden beneath the brush strokes of an artist, or the thoughts deposited into a sculpture prior to its grand creation. We have an underlying urge to find meaning in everything and anything, but what if there was no meaning? Picasso called it the disease of our age, an age of a generation that is anything but practical and yet believes to be more practical than any other age.
So let’s, for a minute, imagine there was no meaning behind the painted canvas that hangs before us. That it was painted for its pure aesthetic value, only. Because it looks nice, and it’s fun?
Richard Long didn’t create his line made by walking to over invest in the idea of art as a form of narrative, nor did he want to attain a grand theory of walking or art making, ‘they just seemed like good ideas at the time’ he said. And ideas that indeed show an appreciation for nature and its fine magnitude of landscapes.
An artist certainly not short of this mentality is Italian born, Helsinki-based director/animator and designer Lucas Zanotto, whose works are a cross between analogue and the digital and stand out for their consciously indomitable, childlike playfulness. Among them is his ongoing photographic series HAVING A FACE. A project so effortlessly simple yet undeniably fun, Lucas uses painted plates and his camera to transform landscapes into playgrounds of friendly monsters, and boy oh boy, do we love it.
I had a quick chat with Lucas who recently opened the Berlin based contemporary character and illustration festival, Pictoplasma, to find out more.
You’ve gone from producing commercials, apps and all things digital, to a series of photographic images. What was the inspiration behind ‘Having a Face’?
The Finnish countryside and having time to play around with things
Talk me through the process, did you go out actively looking for suitable landscapes and formations or was it very much a spur of the moment thing?
In general it is happening on walks and hikes spontaneously. If I know I’m going for a little stroll in nice surroundings, I will keep these paper plates with me. If something pops up I put eyes onto it. For the Pictoplasma Opener, I scouted some locations, as it required more planning.
The series has the potential to be turned in to an ongoing project (in another country, for example). Is this something that would appeal to you?
Yes. It is definitely already an ongoing project and has been for about 2 years now. I have been to so many countries to put eyes onto things. It’s nice as I think this is probably something that will continue and stick with me, for a long period. It is so simple and timeless in a way.
The simplicity of the idea makes it very appealing and accessible to everyone. Who is your target audience?
I don’t think there is any specific target audience.
Your projects always invite us to think outside of the box. Is this an important factor for you?
It is. I think that is important in life in general. Looking a bit further, combining things, improvising, changing viewpoints… this aspect helps a lot.
‘Having a Face’ and previous designs such as your app Drawnimal seem to be encouraging us to move away from the digital screen and embrace analog. Would you agree?
Yes, it feels good to leave the eyes to rest away from the screen every once in a while. I like analogue and tactile experiences, as they are, in a way, not as linear, not as perfect. There are always unexpected elements in it.