A post from my blog – design criticism and artist interview
Geoff McFetridge’s work captivates me, but at first – I found it quite difficult to articulate why. It’s quite easy to appreciate his style, even fall in love with the chunky monochrome line drawings mixed with flat blocks of vibrant colour. Geoff’s quirky use of perspective allows you to peer down on unsuspecting crowds of hugging characters, the tops of their heads flat with colour but round with life. There’s an easy abstraction going on – swimmers hover in waterless pools, held aloft by those shadows, heads blur with dots on dresses, hands make mouths and faces. Shadows become a second persona, characters formed from smooth, clever collections of shapes remain frozen in the moment.
It’s this captive moment, present in so much of his work, that helps explain why McFetridge’s work is so well loved. His super sharp drawn style, akin to the stunning colour and shape work of Saul Bass, creates characters that are abstract, formed through the associations our brains make between the shapes. It’s the movement and sense of space that these shapes create – arrested movement in a moment – that give the works so much latent energy. Sometimes this energy breaks out, with Geoff often animating his work in playful gifs, but the static pieces communicate just as much motion for me. They are all going somewhere, like a skater photographed in mid air (no wonder he’s worked for several skate magazines and Nike).
Primitive is the wrong word to describe his style– as with all effective design, any unnecessary elements to each image have been taken away or left out altogether. It’s this simplicity that transmits the idea or the captured moment so pleasingly, like an excited, gifted child tugging your coat to show you what they’ve just seen. Any more detail just isn’t required to get the exciting moment across – even walking down a set of grey stairs is made to look like fun – or is he walking up them? Such is the clever paradox between that quirky perspective and flat shapes that it’s hard to tell, which is teasing but not frustrating.
Geoff kindly spared some of his time to answer a few of my questions:
Could you give us a quick overview of how you go about creating a piece of work?
To be very specific: I sit at a table in my studio and draw in a large coil pad, it is around 18” x 20” and I write, and do small doodles, or complete drawings. I try to get out all the first ideas, the bad ideas, so I can get into a more wandering path… to actually go somewhere.
What or who have been your main influences?
I think my first exposure that was a sort of switch being turned on was to people like Neil Blender. He was a super creative pro skateboarder who also drew his own graphics was equal to say… Picasso or David Hockney. I am super influenced by all sorts of things, but it is more about amalgamation of the mass than anyone super specific. The artist I see most in my work is Saul Steinberg. I guess in that everything I do is rooted in drawing.
Your connection with music is well documented – what song or album has been on heavy rotation for you recently?
Jose Gonzales’ new album and Godspeed You Black Emperor
How do feel about commercial art right now? What direction do you think it will take in an increasingly digital future?
I am not much of a follower of commercial art, in the way maybe ITS NICE THAT follows it. When they post work I feel that commercial art is doing great… walking around my world (in Los Angeles) or looking in newspapers and magazines, commercial art seems really uninteresting.
If you could get lost anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Well… lost with no food or water? I don’t want to die there, but it would be the upper elevations of the Sierras in Yosemite. For me the mountains are the greatest.
And so to the giveaway! I have one copy of Geoff’s collection of drawings released earlier this year entitled Studies. Here’s the introduction to the collection in a few more of his own words:
‘These drawings are, mostly, studies for paintings. I have always been interested in creating work that lies between image and language: Imagery that your mind reads as language rather than being seen as spatial or physical things. These pictures are for me a way to induce a misfiring of our mind, to have something resonate with the viewer. What I am trying to capture is the moment of legibility. I would like these drawings to create a sense that the font with which you perceive the world has been changed.’
All you have to do to get your name in the prize draw is click the Twitter button below to re-tweet this article! I’ll be picking the winner at random in 2 weeks’ time, and then posting Studies to you wherever you are in the world.
If you’re not the lucky one who wins, you can purchase your own copy over at the Nieve store.