Graphic artist Andy Rementer has been making waves in the art and design world with boldly composed illustrations, paintings, and scuptural forms. At once playful and mysterious, his work serves as a brilliant study in the art of reduction, with simple elements making a big impact. His distinctive style has landed his work in niche publications and big ticket newspapers alike, as well as regular group and solo exhibitions around the world.
Hot on the heels of Komono’s second “Curated by Komono” wristwatch collection, we stopped by Rementer's Philadelphia studio to talk about the limited-edition collaboration and the early sketches that inspired it.
Photos by Michael A. Muller
We have to say, the Komono collaboration looks great. What was the initial idea behind the collaborative works? How did that evolve as the project progressed?
For this project there was no set brief as Komono was looking for me to bring my visual world to them. Instead of guidelines I was able to think freely about the watches and explore my own ideas. Initially we planned to do just one watch, but it evolved into the idea of creating a series. We started to see some connections in the artwork and developed 3 different watches.
What kinds of technical considerations did you have to keep in mind when creating work for the watches?
The unusual size of a wristband presents its own limitations. So we came up with the idea to create a larger design for each watch that exceeds the boundaries of the wristband. This freed me up a lot, and later led to a range of possibilities for the packaging. Each artwork wraps around the box, and a limited edition screen-print has been made too.
Can you tell us anything about the characters in the Komono collaboration? Do they have names? Where are they headed?
I love creating characters, so I was happy to develop a story between the couple featured in the watch series. There is the suggestion of a rendez-vous in the city. It's not clear if they are going towards each other, or splitting up, or perhaps they are simply lost in the urban jungle.
Both in the Komono collaboration and your other works, how do you go about designing the characters? Do you decide on their personality traits ahead of time or do they become more clear as you develop them visually?
I’ve arrived at my own way of depicting characters within my visual language. I have a stylistic system of approaching character design that makes it natural for me to develop new ones. I’m drawn towards characters that don’t display much emotion, leaving more interpretation to the viewer. Sometimes the environment of where the characters are placed have a role in the storytelling too.
Some of your work has a clear narrative structure—the comic format of your work for Apartamento particularly allows for this. Do you establish narratives and backstories for your tableau work as well?
The Apartamento stories made with Margherita Urbani are the longest form of comics I’ve worked on to date, and have been very rewarding. In the past I’ve mainly concentrated on shorter strips or one page stories. It’s great to break out and really build around one character.
Narrative work is key to almost all of my work. As with the Komono series it can be present in commercial projects, as well as in my paintings. I feel the need to have at least the suggestion of a story in almost everything I do. It creates another layer of interest I think.
When did you first start making art? How has your work progressed from when you first began to today?
After leaving art school and working more in my sketchbooks, I started seeing my personality take shape through drawing. At that moment I felt I was finally creating art. When I realized I could express myself through drawing, comics, and later painting it was very exciting. While I try not to look back at old work, I think I’ve progressed a lot over the years. I see a lot of the progression as a process of slowly stripping away unnecessary information and details. Specifically in my paintings I’m trying to get more into the essentials of a composition and less about superfluous elements.
In terms of palette and pattern, your work evokes some of the design greats—the Memphis Group comes to mind. Are there any movements or particular artists that have influenced your work over the years?
There’s an endless list of things that have entered my brain and have influenced me. As a child of the 90s perhaps there is something appealing about a nostalgia for bold colors and patterns. I’m also slightly color blind, so I naturally lean towards a brighter color palette. Recently I’ve been inspired by paintings of the Weimar Republic, and I've always loved films of the French New Wave.
You collaborate frequently with your partner Margherita Urbani. What kinds of elements do you bring to each others work?
Margherita and I have been partners in life and in work since we first met. We are lucky have an uncanny balance that allows us to critique and pick apart each other’s work without the other feeling threatened or defensive. This is kind of an anomaly for creative couples.
We bring a lot to each other's work flow. While I prefer to think using a pencil, Margherita tends to be more logical and thoughtful in her creative process, having a great attention to detail and balance. She gives me lots of guidance on direction, concept as well as finer points like colors too.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you keep tight work habits or are you more sporadic? Are you more creative in the morning or later in the day?
I have a strong work ethic and discipline, and I get an early start every day. I’m very much a creature of habit, but luckily the variation of projects at any given time helps to shake things up. Over the course of any day I roll around in my chair from a drawing desk, to the computer and then over to my painting corner too.
Can you tell us about your studio space? Are there any essential supplies you always keep around for when inspiration strikes?
Our studio is a simple but efficient setup, with a good amount of natural light that I crave for painting. We recently went to Japan and loaded up on art supplies, I got fantastic mechanical pencils, erasers, rulers, and lots more. We’re always on the hunt for new drawing tools that we can’t live without. We’re also never short of books and coffee.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m planning a show of new paintings in Europe in early 2016 that I’m very excited about. I’ve also got a very special new sculpture series planned with Case Studyo that will be launching later this year. I have plans to create a large mural project soon too. And I hope to continue to develop more narrative work together with Margherita in the future.