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Text: Carolin Blöink

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin

Grids, panels, and modules structure the imagery of some contemporary illustrators and transform graphic compositions into even stronger illustrated stories without necessarily integrating text elements.

Reminiscent of split screens, these illustrations draw on various comic styles such as the ligne claire, popular since the 1980s, or topical artists of the so-called neo manga genre, such as Yuichi Yokoyama. We asked the illustrators José Quintanar, Jiye Kim, and Nicolas Nadé about the role models and influences accounting for their visual output and the role played by these structural elements in their work.


Timeless Stories


José Quintanar initially studied architecture in Madrid and London, before devoting himself to illustrative storytelling. He now teaches illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Fascinated by narrative forms with different speeds in literature and architecture, their structural approach, and internal organisation, Quintanar meanwhile also integrates grids and modules in his imagery, which reward him with new levels of freedom in illustrating time and timelessness, but also a larger variety of perspectives. In line with his original intention of primarily creating well-balanced compositions, he is increasingly interested in the narrative aspect. Born in Spain, his approaches to visualisation are inspired by writer Don DeLillo, musician Brian Eno, architect Cedric Price or work by the installation artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, for example.


Creating Dynamism


A graduate of Kingston University, Jiye Kim works as an illustrator in Seoul. By touching on animation in her first year of study, she started to draw storyboards and learned how to appreciate the function of panels in various ways: different options of navigating within the storyline, spontaneous addition and removal of ideas, creating a narrative rhythm, but above all dramatisation and dynamism by scaling the modules. Kim also uses grids in order to break through them as well as for classic forms of delineation for querying sequential order. Her style is characterised by combining various narrative methods within the page layout with which she summarises events in a humorous manner as illustrated stories. Film and cinema serve the illustrator as a source of inspiration for her perspectives, as does the ability to translate written words into moving pictures.


Capturing Improvisation


Early on, Nicolas Nadé was inspired by the various forms of repetition and creating variations within these. This is also one way of explaining his interest in the experimental cinema of Paul Sharits and Peter Kubelka or in minimal music. Nadé compares his approach with overlaying various screen tones which, when shifted only slightly, can achieve entirely different optical effects. Graphic compositions arise intuitively and only become a narrative construction at a later stage with the aid of module arrangements. He often starts off by defining the starting and end point and is open for the story unfolding in between. Visual loops are exposed or two narrative strands are combined, which may have started off having nothing to do with each other. Image mutations from 2D to 3D are also possible, which break through the limitations of flat space. Nadé’s pleasure in initially concealed places of narration has a strong appeal in his work. He talks enthusiastically about macrophotography, which unveils textures invisible to the naked eye, or the complexity of a rootstock in botany, which cannot be intimated on the surface texture, or architectural plans which have an entirely different narrative for him than would be revealed by observing a house from the outside.


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Women and Design

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