Illustrator David Vanadia brings us inside his identity-driven practice, and shows us the lines it takes to get there
An artist from Marseille and the creator behind our latest series, David Vanadia is fascinated by “questions of identity, existentialism and human nature.” He is also an artist that defies categorisation - particularly when it comes to drawing hard and fast lines between design and visual art.
“My switch between graphic design and illustration came naturally,” David tells us, “I never wanted to define a border between the two disciplines, to have to choose sides.” After working as a designer and art director for fifteen years, David has come to take an open-minded approach to the two practices, and his style has followed suit. Years of regular practice drawing mean Vanadia‘s work is illustrative - often using bold ink and linocut - but it also communicates ideas simply and precisely, the tell of an expert designer.
Every time time we revisit a Vanadia work, it’s hard not to take something new from it. Our new range of prints with the artist also holds this idea close to its creation, with David saying he wants viewers to feel “free to experience the series on their own terms.” Composed of four prints, Vanadia initially created this work entirely with brush and Indian ink. Now converted into minimalist prints, they reflect Vanadia’s introspective aesthetic: full of thick lines and figurative silhouettes, with the feeling of brush strokes still present in the final digital image.
While David mostly likes to let his work to speak for itself, we recently had the pleasure of catching up with the artist. In a conversation true to his contemplative practice, David talks slowing down, art as a universal language, and how the life of a shepherd would suit him well.
Talk us through your background in illustration and design. Where did your career begin?
I graduated from a school of applied art and practiced for over fifteen years in visual communication as a graphic designer and artistic director. Besides that, I have always had a great attraction and a regular practice of drawing but I had never seriously undertaken to show my personal work before these last three years. The switch between graphic design and illustration finally came about naturally, I never wanted to define a border between the two disciplines, not to have to choose sides.
How has your aesthetic evolved over the years?
I have long adopted an extremely elaborate ink drawing. My work was then rich in detail and in meticulous play of textures. Then I gradually refined my trait to arrive today at an expression that tends towards minimalism. I believe that this evolution is intimately linked to that of my life orientations.
I notice so many iterations of facial features and hands in your practice! What draws you to these symbols?
Through the use of these symbols, there is a form of research into the notion of belonging to body and mind. What greater and lasting relationship can we have than with our own bodies and thoughts? It is this relationship to the self that attracts me and that I try to portray.
What’s something new you’ve learned recently?
This is a very good question, I think we are learning every day but not asking ourselves this question enough. So today I learned that I need to ask myself this question more often :)
To give a concrete answer, I will say that the past year has taught me to slow down. Slow down and accept what is beyond my control so that I can concentrate only on what I have a direct power of action for, for example cultivating every moment of my own present, but also cultivating relationships with people who are important to me.
What themes do you find yourself frequently returning to?
Introspective practice is a theme in which there are many different paths easy to walk. My work thus revolves mainly around being. Questions of identity, existentialism and human nature are themes that fascinate me. I also strive to ensure that my work contains meaning and that it can play the role of a language of its own.
This goes back to primitive, if not almost mystical, facets of human expression. Trying to explain visual concepts in words would be like saying that verbal expression is a more evolved means of communication than art, whereas on the contrary, I firmly believe that visual art is a universal language without borders which is sufficient in itself and I believe that wanting to bring a literary meaning to it would only compartmentalize this expression in closed concepts. So I think it's more interesting to break free from words and leave the door open to emotions, feelings, silence and reflection.
"What greater and lasting relationship can we have than with our own bodies and thoughts? It is this relationship to the self that attracts me and that I try to portray."
If you could have created any artwork by any artist in history, which would you choose?
Composed of 72 lithographs, this work is an extraordinary marriage between the poems of the writer, written without punctuation or capital letters, and the work of Miró, sublimated as much by his thick, sensitive and irregular brushstrokes as by his incomparable and unclassifiable sense of the colour.
While working on your new prints with Evermade, what was your process like?
It was originally a work entirely with brush and Indian ink. I like this pure and sensitive contrast between black ink and paper, it's a great way to transcribe concepts in a very simplified way. This series revolves around two opposing concepts: movement and impassibility. But again, I don't want to lock the expression into verbal concepts and I'm very happy with the idea that everyone is free to experience this series on their own terms.
What have you been listening to during lockdown?
The silence. And the song of birds.
What’s a project you’re looking forward to working on?
A project for which values that are dear to me will be used. A project in which people are at the centre, a respectful project that can bring meaning. Ecology, culture and education are spheres around which I would like to gravitate.
If you were not working as an artist today, what would you be doing?
It's a very difficult job, but I would say shepherd. I feel happy when I'm in the wilderness, I have a pretty lonely and extremely contemplative temperament, so I think that might be a good fit for me. Also, my great-grandfather was a shepherd, so I think it's also a matter of genetic inheritance.
David Vanadia's new minimalist prints are now available to purchase from Evermade.
Discover more from David Vanadia.
All images courtesy of artist.