Listen up Seeders – we have launched an exciting new feature on onesmallseed.com: each week we will present the one small seed network Member of the Week. In this series we feature creative individuals who have captured our attention with their talent and originality. With over 5000 members on the ever-growing one small seed network you can expect showcases of work from cutting-edge design, amazing photography, illustrations, fine art, and everything in between.
To start us off this week is fine artist/illustrator/designer Shaun Liddle. A Somerset West man of many talents, Shaun took some time to answer some questions and talk us through his brain processes.
1. Who is Shaun Liddle?
I am a fine artist, illustrator, graphic and web designer based in Somerset West, Cape Town. Currently I am the graphic design lecturer for the Andrew Owen School of Art and Design. I am also the co-founder of Yamsea, which is a collaboration of four creative individuals and their creations, consisting of my wife, two of my ex-students and I.
2. What does art mean to you?
Well, I see art as a game: it needs to be thought-provoking, but fun and interactive too. At first glance it looks quite serious, but upon further study one can see the funny little details. I try to not take art too seriously, otherwise it tends to inhibit the flow of ideas.
3. Tell us more about your background as an illustrator/artist
I grew up in a creative family. We’re all in some sort of creative career, from fine art to film and also animation. I have always been surrounded by art books and the grand masters thereof. Everything changed though when I started studying fine art in high-school & college and was introduced to the concepts and history of modern art.
I was moved especially by Surrealism and Dadaism. It was the mix of the seriousness of Surrealism, with the anarchistic and tongue-in-cheek attitude of the Dadaists. They both greatly appealed to me. But the Dadaists left their big dent in the way I approach my art. I like to see them as the punks of the ’20s.
4. What inspires you? / Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nature, nature, nature. Moustaches. Vintage comics. Coffee stains. Typography. The Cape Mountains. Tamagotchi’s. Storms on the ocean. Tintin comics. Radiohead. Fynbos. The Karoo at sunset just before it starts to rain. Lion King Marbles. Camping and hiking. Wes Anderson movies. Red wine…
In all seriousness though, I really admire a clever idea, especially in art. Ideas take shape. They’re alive. Marcel Duchamp’s “Large Glass” has always haunted me.
I don’t get directly inspired by the digital world, but actually by the contrast between technology and the organic, along with the supernatural. But it is when the lines blur that it makes me tick, which is what inspired me to do Digital Limbo.
5. Describe your style and technique to us
In high school we were taught to reproduce in superrealism. And I am glad that we were. We would spend an average of three months on one A3 drawing. But now I choose to work in a semi-illustrative style, because simply reproducing photos does not stimulate me one bit. I can admire realism, but it holds no interest for me. It gets too serious. My aim is to take realism and distort it, while making it still seem possible. Dali and Ryden are both masters at this.
6. How do you stay motivated to keep doing what you do?
I am in love with the process; the journey. I find it equally satisfying and important as the end product. It’s like a road trip; you also enjoy the views, stops for snacks and padkos on your way to the destination. And to put it bluntly, if I didn’t do what I do, I would simply fill up with ideas and explode. And nobody would want that.
7. How do you bridge the gap between fine art, illustration and design?
While I was still studying art, I started dabbling with graphic design. Most of my friends were designers, so I often got the chance to help them with either designs or illustrations. These experiences then got me to into freelancing as a designer and later on, as a web designer. And it’s a combination of the two that made me fall madly in love with typography.
It was when I was creating art, comics and logos, that the three fused. And it was this combination that got me to create my art and designs the way I do. I loved the ideas and styles of art, but the professional and elegant approach of design.
8. Are there any other artists out there - local or international – who influence you?
As a kid I was heavily influenced by vintage comics such as the work of South African cartoonist T.O. Honiball, Casper and Hot Stuff, Tintin and TV shows like Ninja Turtles, He-Man and Dino-Riders – especially the toys, which I couldn’t always get. If I really liked or wanted a toy, I would draw it – it was the closest to actually owning it I could get.
Artists that influence me include the Surrealists Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Giorgio de Chirico and then the Dadaist Marchel Duchamp. I quite enjoy the low-brow movement with Gary Baseman and Mark Ryden in America. Conrad Botes’ linework also inspires me greatly. And last but not least, the incredible photography and creations of my wife, Renée Liddle.
9. Can you introduce us to your Digital Limbo collection?
It all started one day as I was emptying my computer’s recycle bin and I thought to myself: “Where do all these deleted files go?”
Basically, anything that we delete – from the internet, a computer, mobile phone, mp3 player, camera, or even anti-virus programs – gets converted back to the default code, which is then later-on rewritten as new files or programs. And it was in this concept that I found a beautiful form of redemption; a second chance for the files to prove their worth, to be reborn. It was then that I decided to give this sacred place a name: Digital Limbo.
The deleted files range from profile pictures off your favourite social network to pirated or corrupted music, flagged YouTube videos, uninstalled games, and porn. It can really be anything. It’s a combination of these files that I use to create the subject matter for my work.
“Digital” refers to the files and “Limbo” refers to the Catholic term: A place that is neither Heaven nor Hell. A “digital wasteland” would be the best way to describe Digital Limbo (which was inspired by the Karoo). This wasteland is ruled by a blind, yet all-seeing moustache. It is a neutral realm, both Heaven and Hell, for all digital files. All the files are either broken, corrupted or deleted. But then they get a second chance and get restored back into “the source”. So they simply get “reincarnated” into new files. Sometimes harmful files such as viruses, trojan horses and worms also enter into Digital Limbo, but they get destroyed on-site…
For me, Digital Limbo is a combination of cheeky comments on our imperfect society, on religion and our dependence on technology. It is heavily influenced by old 8-bit, pixelated computer games, and also by the characters featured in them. It is a satire based on how we live our real lives through digital ones with our online digital friends and digital social lives. We have become completely dependent on technology, and I am frightened by the idea that one day we and technology will become one and the same thing.
11. You say your Digital Limbo project is based on a surreal, digital wasteland. You even use words such as ‘broken’, ‘corrupt’, ‘infected’ and ‘unwanted’ to describe your paintings, but most of it is actually quite accessible to look at – very colourful. What inspired this mix?
To be honest, I felt sorry for these files. I mean, they were put through hell because of an outside action or virus, not by choice. So I envisioned Digital Limbo to be a neutral yet beautiful place. Almost like a “Digital Nirvana” for the rejected files. I wanted these files to find peace after facing corruption, deletion and infection – like martyrs after persecution. So the pastel colour palette was introduced to create a more innocent and almost childlike feel.
12. What is more important to you, when creating a piece – the subject or the form of execution?
They are both equally important to me. The subject inspires the piece and vice versa. I sometimes find painting on canvas a bit restricting and so I vary it by using other forms. The “Manifestations”, such as the shoes and the little plastic fish toy, were both chosen because they were once used and had a purpose. They felt “wanted”. But once the shoes were too small and the fish toy was thrown away, I thought of giving them a second chance, much like the files in Digital Limbo. The fish toy was from a second-hand shop and the shoes were actually my old wedding shoes. The same applies to the painted books, which were all bought from second-hand shops. I love the idea of restoring back value into something that has lost all of it.
13. Can you please share your thoughts on the future of contemporary art in South Africa?
I am very impressed by what I have seen in South Africa. We have come quite far from the conservative nation that we were. Based on what I know and see daily as I roam the net for inspiration, I think South Africa has some incredible talent and that we can get really far as a creative nation if we want to. I seriously think that we can be compared to some of the top creative countries out there when it comes to our art, especially when seen in the broad spectrum that we offer in our range of cultures. I know we still have conservative galleries and people with their “pretty little pictures”, but I still think that South Africa has a very bright and clear future in contemporary art, even on an international level.
14. What’s next on the drawing board for Shaun Liddle?
I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve as to how I am going to take Digital Limbo to a whole new level, but unfortunately that is all that I can say for now. If you do want to stay up to date with the surprises I have in store, simply go to shaunliddle.com and click on the links to either follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or simply add me on one small seed. You can see more on Digital Limbo on shaunliddle.com, which is my flash-animated website.