Interview #377: Darius Ou

Darius Ou is a graphic designer based in Singapore. Using humour to create cyber-nostalgic visuals and experimenting with cheesy typefaces, he casually breaks traditional design rules and still somehow manages to make it look so good. We talk about New Aesthetics, WordArt and internet culture (of course).

Lee Chang Ming: What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Darius Ou: I’m currently working on an animated music video with Alvin Tan of PHUNK, as well as freelancing quite a bit.

In your about page, you mention you’re interested in “New Aesthetics”. How would you describe that? How does it relate to your design?
New Aesthetics is a term coined by James Bridle, a phenomenon observed with the increased appearance of the visuals (language) of digital technology in the physical world. Basically these aesthetics would be alien to those who lived before the digital age.There has been a lot of discourses on this new movement, I am actually still very new to it and am still learning to grasp the full idea of it.

I find it particularly interesting as in the past, people were very excited with recreating and mimicking our physical world in digital realms for example, people mimic the physical world and its details in the form of digital animation and CGI, but right now people are starting to bring the digital realm across to our physical space (E.g. Pixel art, e.t.c), in the other direction. With this crossing and blurring of lines, people get excited again, and that makes me feel very interested to explore this in graphic design. I discuss this a lot with a good friend of mine, Melvin Tan, who introduced the phenomenon to me.

I wouldn’t say my works are fully in line with the ideas of New Aesthetics yet, but they are definitely inspired by it. I am particularly interested in Cyber-nostalgic elements and interface designs like those Windows 95 system interface, WordArt, Arial Typeface with awkward kernings and VHS tape boxes in the 90s. They are also in line with the New Ugly style which I love to experiment with. These styles invoke a certain feeling in the viewers, which I feel that is missing in many of the “overly clean” and minimalistic works today.

I really like your “Autotypography" project, I think I looked though all 364 posters. I feel like you were taking an experimental approach to graphic design through the use of digital distortion and displacement while playing around a lot with composition. It’s like using WordArt in a new context that makes it somehow look good. What was the creative process like behind the making of your posters?
Thank you very much! Yes, originally I initiated Autotypography as a form of a visual diary, recounting my everyday life as a Graphic Designer, through typographic methods. It started out as an experiment, I was not sure if anyone would like it, I just committed myself to create a poster everyday, taking a more adventurous approach as each day pass by. Soon it became a routine to create an experimental poster daily. Most of the time I am experimenting/playing with typography taboos, breaking grid rules and just screwing up typefaces. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I am very interested in these Cyber-nostalgic elements that were all that we played with, as children of the glorious 90s. To me its about having fun while creating it, its like reliving the days when I used to make PowerPoint slides for my secondary school science class. All the gradients, awkward kernings and all the metallic 3D Type effects in WordArt may appear to be super-cheesy and “ugly” to people so I often try to re-imagine it in a contemporary context. In a way, it is about creating “ugly” works purposely, and the challenge is making it invoke not just disgust, but good feelings too. I am very lucky to have people appreciating my works.

Some of your “Autotypography” posters seem pretty personal, was it sort of like a diary to express yourself (i.e. rant) through design?
Haha, yes, definitely. I started Autotypography not knowing where it was going, and frankly speaking, creating a poster everyday regardless of mood, workload, submission deadlines and lassitude is a challenge. I had to base the posters on something I experience/saw on that day,in order to have enough contents to play with. So most of the posters are greatly influenced by how I feel or what I did on that particular day.

I recently read somewhere that new experiences need new languages in order for it to be expressed/communicated. Linking this to your works/style, how do you feel that internet or digital culture has given rise to a new visual language?
I am not very good with words but what I feel is that the internet has been hailed as the “big country of internet” nowadays and it just shows how much technology and internet has brought people so close together and made the world smaller in terms of connectivity. With microblogging platforms and social networking websites like Tumblr and Facebook e.t.c, things get shared across continents very quickly and trends get picked up more often/faster than before. With this increased connectivity and communication methods, like-minded people from all over the world can get together to discuss and collaborate, producing even more new works that can be seen by even more people, giving rise of the new visual language. To me, this culture of sharing over the internet is part of the whole visual language.

What do you like or not like about graphic design?
The thing that I like about graphic design is also the thing that I don’t like about it - The fact that it has taken over my life.

What programs do you typically use for designing?
I normally use Illustrator and Photoshop, sometimes I use After Effects, Maya for 3D and PowerPoint for “ugly” stuffs.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Can I have plain white rice?

Yes. Upcoming projects?
I am working on a collaboration with the amazing Jennifer Mehigan , and coincidentally the context of it would be very similar to what we have just talked about here in this interview! I would also be working on more zines soon.

Any new music to recommend?
Mixes by a friend of mine, Ethan Hansen.

tumblr and website.

For the past two years, Thisispaper Magazine has been an online platform showcasing design, architecture, fashion, photography and art with a clear and distinct aesthetic. Thsisipaper Inaugural Issue brings this vision into physical form with 144 pages of content.

In order to cover printing cost, they need 250 pre-orders. Support them by ordering a copy here.

Galavant Magazine Issue No.2 “Believers” is 117 pages of original literary works and images. Featuring photographers Nguan, Alex Thebez (both have been featured on Nope Fun here and here respectively) and 23 other contributors (including myself!). Additionally, Anythony Gerace and Sarah Eisenlohr were also included in the magazine under Nope Fun’s recommendation.

The publication features articles in which writers provide a piece (poem, prose etc.) and artists have to create a series based on the text. The result is the combination of word and image through the collaboration of two individuals around the theme of “believers”.

Get a copy of Galavant Magazine here.

Interview #376: Jennifer Mehigan

24 year old artist/deisgner Jennifer Mehigan is based in Singapore. Mixing digital and traditional methods of painting, sculpture and other processes, Jennifer’s works often subvert our treatments and assumptions toward different mediums. We talk about manifestations of artificiality, identity politics, cyber dimensions and Rhinoceros Hornbills. Yes, all very relevant topics.

Lee Chang Ming: I feel like your work aims at subverting established process of creating and it manifests in a layered abstract aesthetic which plays on textures, colours and space. It kind of looks like paddle pop: which is visually appealing, yet the artificial aspect is made very much apparent. Is this aspect of artificiality a conscious part of your work? If so, what is the intention behind it?
Jennifer Mehigan: Yeah, I definitely keep coming back to the idea of artificiality in my work. I don’t really have the language to talk about it well, but it’s not really intended to be a criticism of society or whatever - although I guess that is always there on some level. It’s more like, there is an ownership that I would like to have over some notions of hyper visibility and a failure to perform or conform adequately and how that manifests for me, and colour has kind of taken over the way that I do that.

I like how you said “subverting established processes of creating”, I think that is an important part of the whole construct of ~*the artist*~ and relates back into the idea of artificiality as well… The reason I even got into painting was because of artists like Tom Pregiato and Brian Metcalf and other phone arts contributors who made it casual and fun and NOT SCARY again, and the portability of technology has definitely fed that with the ability to share images and being in shows all over the world without needing representation or to be legit or whatever the requirements are. I think the quote I read was like, you can be at Burger King or on the subway and just be painting and making stuff on your phone and that is important. The separation of art from other things has always been weird to me though.

One thing that struck me when I was reading through your tumblr was the topic of feminism, homosexuality and the need for forging a new kind of aesthetics to represent a particular position/outlook. Relating this back to your works, in what ways does your personal identity translate to what you create?
My identity has everything to do with what I create, I think, I don’t really know how other people work but I’ve kind of always assumed that most people don’t try to be something else through their work - maybe that’s naive? Hopefully not. Most of the time my work feels like I have no idea what’s going on and that is because that’s true, I guess. It shows. Nothing is too pre-meditated and I enjoy that process, even if it’s easily dismissed as a rehashing of neo- or abstract-expressionism or whatever grumpy people on the internet like to say.

I read something about Richard Hawkins, like how his work could be considered a kind of visual “cruising”, bringing some restless sensuality to the way he populates his work with objects of his desire and that, so far, has been the most relatable thing that I’ve read about painting or making things. It’s definitely instinctual or sexual or something and not so much academic or necessarily a prime example of good decision-making or whatever.

I’m a bit wary of the idea of forging a new kind of aesthetic and attaching that to certain positions or identities or whatever, but sometimes I worry that I’m falling into this trap of using loud ‘feminine’ colours in the same way blood or glitter or dildos have been used to signify some kind of queerness or hyper-femininism or whatever but I figure as long as it’s genuine and when I stop wanting to work with those I will then… that’s ok. That’s all it should be for anyone. I think it would be a little regressive to say that some kind of collective aesthetic might be better simply because our identities or politics are the same but I don’t really have any answer formed properly about that myself. Everything is still new to me.

Personally, when I see your art (or similar kind of visuals), I feel like I’m being shown an alternate cyber dimension which is slightly alienating and discomforting yet provoking in a good way. Is provoking a reaction part of your agenda?
Mostly the feedback I receive is that my work is not provocative enough actually, or a little bit vapid or “trendy” or something (I enjoy a good misogynistic critique), but I guess when it speaks to someone it speaks pretty clearly. And yeah the alternate cyber dimension is definitely an element of my work and is something I want to develop a lot further. Maybe there is something aggressive (sometimes) or threatening about it that might be a bit alienating like you said, even though the colours are ‘cute’ or whatever they’re also pretty confrontational or hazardous. Because of that, I find it difficult to let fluorescent colours go… like I actually can’t imagine making something without them.

Do think artists tend to be overly self-concsious?
Based on my experiences, yes, but there’s also plenty of artists who aren’t self-conscious enough. That sounds a bit arrogant but it’s meant to be more cheeky. I am probably too critical.

Favorite bird?
Rhinoceros Hornbills. They remind me of tropical fruit.

Upcoming projects or ideas?
Lots of projects! I’m just about to start selling a new collection of 13 sweaters (and other apparel) I’ve made with a friend Tom Hancocks called Liquid Series, and I’m working on a quite a few collaborations with people around the world ranging from sculpture to more screen-based work. One of them is with a really great Singaporean designer, Darius Ou which I am really excited about because it’s the first time I’ll be collaborating with someone who lives here, haha.

Any music to recommend?
Passage. Watch that guy - there’s some really good stuff to come.

website, blog and process tumblr

Interview #375: Alexandre Furcolin Filho

Lee Chang Ming: Introduce yourself:
Alexandre Furcolin Filho: I was born in a rural area and moved to Sao Paulo for university 8 years ago. Since then I’ve lived in between my regular job with finance in this chaotic no-city and my escapes around the world.

Your pictures are often about nature and solitude. What is motivation or inspiration behind this?
I believe my photography is not only inspired by, but is part of this process of escaping to nature, in my search for identity, truth and cure from the modern-societies diseases: Out of this domestication, this vanity enclosure, skyscrapers, elevators, offices, traffic horns, computer screens, noisy , overloaded and soulless world. Photography, as process and object, helps me wander away from all those harmful layers and find remote places where I can feel true connection with my origins and breath freely. This search is motivational and self-fullfilling by itself, and the pictures come as a natural way to express my feelings while meditating in nature. I find long-exposures a good way to manifest this, as it reproduces this flow of time in nature’s transitions and allows me to sit still for several hours with nothing but the wild.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Humm, I’ve been revisiting and editing and thinking a lot about my images lately, therefore discovering and reasoning a lot about myself and how subconscious acts through the camera.
Also, I’ve been working in many ways with a multidisciplinary creative studio (http://czerozero.tumblr.com/) and an art gallery (http://coletor.org/ ) in Sao Paulo.

Photographic equipement?
I shot mainly with my Nikon FM. For long exposures i am using a digital Canon 6D with dozens of hard ND filters. Sometimes I go medium format with a Hasselblad 500CM.

Upcoming projects or ideas?
Right now i’m packing up for a road trip crossing Mozanbique and Malawi. Can’t wait to throw my tent under the mesmerizing african sky and let my mind fly freely.

Any music to recommend?
Absolutely everything from Devendra Banhart.

tumblr and website.