Spring 2008

Less sugar would make for a tastier rabbit pie

Illusive 2

Edited by Hendrik Hellige and Robert Klanten
Die Gestalten Verlag, £33 / Euros 44

Illusive 2 undertakes to show us ‘contemporary illustration and its context’, and begins with a preface that addresses the different playing fields of art and illustration – a distinction that I suspect is becoming less and less interesting to the players – and includes the weasel phrase ‘styles and trends’. Unfortunately, the way the volume’s content is arranged confuses context. The first section (‘Naïve & Basic’) is named for a critical opinion; the next (‘Fashion & Style’) for ultimate use; others take their names from a visual approach (‘Pattern & Surface’), tools or techniques (‘Vector’, ‘Collage’, ‘Pencileers & Ink’ – as in Musketeers & Sword perhaps?) and so on.

The chapter introductions are by Sonja Commentz, and the ominous words ‘nymphet’, ‘cute characters’, ‘fairytale eroticism’, ‘irresistibly cheeky creations’ creep into her preambles to her informative, comparative interviews with eight of the 166 illustrators featured.

Although Illusive 2 is not devoid of good things and interesting work, far too many pages are turned to reveal the gaze of someone cute or coy. Too much whimsy and far too little logic. So twee, so pretty, so many sweet animals (I stopped counting rabbits). Very little humour, guts, opinion, ideas, intentions; lots of bland decoration. So forgettable, so contemporary, so trendy so stylish. So so-so.

I read Eye no. 58 vol.15 and understand that ornament is no longer a dirty word and that there is room for decoration. The argument is that no branch of graphics need be vacuous. There are 339 pages of pictures in Illusive 2 , each 300mm x 23.5mm. If you bought two copies you could paper a room about three metres square. If you bought a third copy and framed the images that raise their heads above the parapet of genre you could hang some wonderful pictures on your newly decorated walls.

I would recommend pictures by Jan Oksbøl Callesen, which transcend ‘Fashion & Style’, and sing out from ‘Pencileers & Ink’, a lovely pair of real legs by Maya Shleifer in ‘Fashion & Style’, exquisite photocollages by Hr Müller in ‘Deconstructive & Collage’, Lars Henkel’s pencil and tempera work under ‘Collage’, Pot 1 by Famille K / Stéphane Kiehl in ‘Vector’, Katrin Olina’s ghost products and the best of Tomer Hanuka. The raunchy and sweaty output of Yuko Shimizu is an antidote to the surrounding coyness, as are Jens Harder’s triptychs and illustrations to Poe. Also recommended are the obsessive 88 Fiercest . . . series by Nicholas Di Genova, Tim Dinter’s cool and dry cityscapes, the craziness of Apfel Zet’s CRAZY B2, the ideas in Istvan Banyai’s New Yorker covers (especially ‘No Yorker’) and the clever work of The Heads of State. Gary Taxali is very funny, which is welcome 319 pages into the book.

For a truly comprehensive overview of contemporary illustration you might do better to buy a copy of Illustration Now! 2 (Taschen, £24.99), which has a much broader sense of the contemporary, including, for instance, brand new work by Seymour Chwast, Paul Davis and Maira Kalman.

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