In talks with – Joan Tarrago.
Joan Tarrago creates visually deep, weird and wonderful work through a use of intricate line detailing and bizarre characters, the kind of pieces that have you staring for minutes, trying to infiltrate through the dense forests of lines and organic shapes that build up the images. Hailing from the vibrant and electric city of Barcelona, Joan has worked on projects for various big name clients including Converse and Rayban, as well as projects for some interesting clients such as NAKASHITA sushi restaurant and Barcelona’s Miscelanea Bar. We recently caught up with Joan to find out a little more about art, music, Barcelona, Haitian Voodoo and all things in between.
Hey Joan, how are you today? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Feeling great today. I would say I am a happy person, quite nervous and with an infinite hunger for making new stuff up. Freelancing since 2007, I describe myself as a creative worker and I have nothing but love and addiction to illustration, painting, graphics, typography and lettering, and the application of those disciplines onto products and interdisciplinary projects. I think there are no more bridges between art and design and I deeply believe in the professionalisation of the artist. I can come up with an experimental exhibition with embroideries on cotton, laser illustrations, silkscreen print, engraved graphics onto wood as well as developing a graphic collection for apparel design or creating fresh strategies as an art director. I just do what I love and I love what I do.
You’re from the vibrant city of Barcelona, can you tell us about the art scene in the city and how it has effected you as the artist you are today?
My humble impression is that the Art Scene in Barcelona is constantly changing, sometimes too fast other times very slowly, but it is getting better and better.
Before I left Barcelona, I think the moment where I felt more connected with the city was in 2004. When Street Art was all over the city, beside the painting crews anyone could get a spray can and leave a trace or symbol somewhere. I really enjoyed that time. People painting around, colourful walls, beautiful urban landscapes. You could smell the aerosol in the air. In 2008-09, once back to my city, I realised that the ‘cleaning up operations’ developed by the city council against urban art changed the whole scene. From colourful streets to gray concrete views. Then I realised creative people didn’t stop painting or producing, maybe their work wouldn’t be in the streets so often, but in fresh new little galleries. The art scene changed from outdoor to indoor. I discovered a new facet of Barcelona. The perception I have is that not just the number of exhibitions but also the quality of the work have become higher.
How did you first discover your passions and interests for art and design?
I think my parents did before me; as a child I always carried around a pencil in my hand. I used to draw all the time regardless if i had paper, the home walls, sheets of my bed, etc.
When creating new work or coming up with new ideas, where do you find your self drawing inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from many different sources. When illustrating iconography compositions I feel very much in the mood for religious symbolism, ancient ritual graphics and scenarios, primitivism, Haitian voodoo, geometric signs, temple decorations, etc. For printing projects, I also find inspiring the very old woodcuts and print making artworks from the XVI century. I realise how detailed, modern and great they were at the time. Currently, I am addicted to antique lettering, typography posters and advertising from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. But I have no problem, I can devour many, many images a day, not necessarily coming from only one type of style.
Are you currently working on any exciting projects that you can tell us about?
With VWORKSHOP*, the collective created by the Illustrator Marga López and I, we are having a traveling exhibition called “Fauna y Flora”. It is an Illustration project with originals, lots of screen prints, leather puppets, matrioshkas, vintage engraved skateboards, etc. We started in Barcelona and it’s moving on a national level but the plan is to move it into Europe and to the EUA. We are still setting it up, so if you have a gallery and like the show, just let me know! The group’s main activity is bringing to life our creative language experimenting with several techniques and a wide variety of natural materials. Visual art is no longer bound by the flat format, but very often inspects and even develops space. With our projects we try to build bridges between art and design, where illustration, painting, street, communication, design, and fashion all play an important role. We deeply believe in the essence of unique pieces.
I just finished a really cool collaboration with KARHU, a very interesting brand. This very old Finnish company is coming back with a Killer collection which is going to be launched next Autumn. The collaboration will be shown in the “Originals” Line of the SS2013, a very personal interpretation of this heritage brand. It’s been real fun and motivating to work with the Karhu head designer and I’m looking forward to doing it again sometime soon. Together with Nakashita, a sushi restaurant in Barcelona, we are going to launch a little limited edition run of T-shirts. With really fine lines and organic illustrations inspired by the awesome Japanese food, yamy.
I am also working with StepArt, a young artist t-shirt company, I’m going to present another little collection. This time, the main subject will not only be illustration but some some lettering compositions, I love it! I can’t wait to see the final piece.
There is another bigger project in an exotic foreign country with Solidarity + Colors + People as ingredients. There is a Clothing company involved, but no more can be told.
What’s next for you as 2012 continues?
I’m very much in the mood for working holidays, my favourite. I’d love to go to San Francisco and organise the “Fauna y Flora” exhibition over there, meet new people, get their feedback and discover a whole new art scene. Oh man, how I would love to do that.
Your work appears to involve lots of animals and natural influences, is this something that is important to you personally?
Oh yeah. I love nature, every time more and more. I think I really did not know the greatness of nature until I visited my brother in Mozambique. We had a crazy trip around the country and part of South Africa. Swimming with whales and sharks, running away from enormous elephants, midnight extra sized spiders moving over the bed, angry hippos in the river. Rituals with cockerel involved giant trees, tasty fruits, red coloured ground and smiley people. Wonderful! Plus I grew up in the country side.
What are you listening to at the moment?