Otto Iram talks about inspirations, instinct, and turning would-be wasted paintings into whole new pieces
Most creatives know the frustration of things going south while working on a piece; either the vision doesn't work out, or you're just unhappy with the result. It's a necessary but time-consuming and sometimes wasteful part of the creative process, particularly if you're working with analogue tools. But that's where Otto Iram stands apart; the artist has found a way to work with this creative downside. Returning to paintings he dislikes, Otto often cuts up and re-works elements to create collages known for their depth, texture, and full-circle evolution of ideas.
Whether painting or re-working materials via collage, Otto creates stunning abstract pieces. Hailing from Toulouse, he began painting during lockdown in France, tapping into a love of drawing he found at a young age. Only two years in, the artist has developed an aesthetic that moves between minimalist and densely-detailed, but one that tends to incorporate geometric forms to dazzling effect.
In our latest collaboration with the artist, Otto has once more played with geometry to produce a selection of paintings that we couldn't be more excited to share. To recap on his creative approach and his experiences with the collection, we catch up with Otto below.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How and when did you start working as an artist?
I have always loved to draw and I knew that one day I would take up painting. I preferred to skateboard while growing up so I couldn't find time to paint. In March 2020 in France there was a lock down due to the health crisis and I therefore decided to start painting at that time knowing that I would have time to spend at home. I really liked it so I decided to continue.
Can you tell us a bit about your collaging and what it offers your practice? How would you describe your creative approach?
I started the paper collages using the paintings that I didn't like. In order not to throw them away and therefore waste I decided to cut them up. Collages allow great freedom since you can add, move or delete elements. I glue the papers only on a small part with a sticky paste in order to play on the depth and the shadows.
Especially when working on some of your more minimalist works, how do you know when a piece is finished?
It's a difficult question. I would say that I operate on instinct most of the time. I just try to put the colors and shapes in a harmonious way. For the most minimalist paintings, I also work by feeling. If something is missing, I can add an element or a touch of color. I know it's over when I feel like I have nothing more to add.
Tell us about how you came up with your designs for your new print series with us?
For these paintings I worked with flats of acrylic paint on paper using masking tape. I mostly use masking tape for my geometric paintings. I made a few sketches before starting but they change as I paint.
What’s been your favourite thing about these pieces and about working on them?
I liked working on these paintings. I had a shapes and colors theme requested so that it could be accessible to children. I found it interesting to adapt to the eyes of a child.
What do you get up to when you’re not painting?
When I'm not painting, I spend time with my friends. I still do a bit of skateboarding. I also have a main job that takes me a lot of time.
Is there a strong artistic community where you live in Toulouse?
Yes I think there is an important artistic community in Toulouse. Notably in graffiti since the nineties. Today there are also lots of tattoo artists but also painters and illustrators. I don't know the whole artistic community in my city because I started painting not long ago but I'm starting to meet people.
What creative figures or works do you admire?
What have you been listening to lately?
My most recent playlist for when I paint is:
Khruangbin- Texas sun
Timber Timbre- Beat the drums slowly
Isaiah Rashad- Warning
Nina Simone - Baltimore
Kevin Morby - Harlem river
Fela Kuti - Trouble sleep yanga
Donovan - Get thy bearings
Main Ingredient-Sumner Breeze
Thee Scared Souls- Weak for your love
Sébastien Tellier- La ritournelle
Mano Negra- Out of time man
Schoolboy Q- Dangerous
What is one goal you have for your career over the next year?
I would like to reduce my working time in my main job in order to have more time to paint. I would also like to work on other media like canvases or textile.
Keep up to date with Otto's upcoming work here.