Self identity and self perception, deeper and beyond the selfie fever.
SELF. is a pop-up exhibition and a fanzine featuring self-portraits by 20 illustrators from all over the world.
Inkee Wang. Guangzhou, China, 1988. Based in Shanghai, China. Freelance illustrator & animator.
With a background studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins and latterly animation at the prestigious Royal College of Art, Inkee is now based in Shanghai, China, where she creates super fresh illustrations where there’s always a (more or less) hidden message. Is right there, in the effort to set some sense, where she founds the main difference between a selfie and a self-portrait. Self-portrait means, for her, self awareness. Inkee, who says to express only a small part of her persona in social media, portraits herself with a whisper gesture that, she says, can also be a prohibition one. The rest of the meaning depends on the viewers.
Highlight: I am one of everybody, I am a quiet family member. I am a friend with lots of thoughts but sometimes too lazy to pay for action.
Celia Jacobs. Portland, Oregon, Based in Los Angeles, California. Illustrator
Celia describes herself as a decent cook who likes a lot of salt, very into plants and animals, a casual dresser, a music listener, sentimental about dogs. She’s also a Portland illustrator who moved to L.A and captured the city’s sun, people, buildings and food in a lovely book called ‘Hello from the horizontal city’. Whether if she draws happy scenes or Donald Trump’s cowardice on ‘dreamers’ for The New York Times, her strokes are always fresh and hopeful. So it happens here in this self-portrait that brings us to David Hockney’s universe. When she was a teenager she drew dozens and dozens of self-portraits, maybe because it was the best way to get a grip on her changing identity. Now she thinks that maybe taking selfies would have worked just as well if she’d only had a phone with a front-facing camera. Not for this piece, for sure.
highlight: Taking a selfie is faster, and it takes less skill. You spend more time scrutinizing it than you do making it, while a self-portrait is the opposite. Both are kind of good and kind of narcissistic and feel like an honest effort to understand who you are.
David Méndez Alonso
David Méndez Alonso. Pontevedra, Galicia, 1988. Based in Barcelona. Artist and designer
The most exciting thing about David Méndez Alonso’s work is his authentic will of starting a new world from the real beginning, where nothing is set. No previous rules, no fear. That’s why it doesn’t sound strange at all reading that he defines himself as a giant yellow castle made of plastic. In fact, you’ll find yellow everywhere when staring at his multiform art pieces which include drawings, sculptures and an eternal fantasy clothing brand called Outsiders Division. If you suddenly need more of this cheerful drug, tip his name around social media, where you’ll find Méndez Alonso’s raw material: his artwork, color palette and therefore the explosive imaginary of a truly free kid that wants to keep positive and project a multi-color universe, bright and full of energy. Facing a self-portrait, he says, is like falling into a room full of mirrors. So he did. Put on your sunglasses and be welcome to the show.
Highlight: I am a giant yellow castle made of plastic.
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, 1993. Based in Berlin. Student of feminist intellectual history in the Middle East and freelance artist
When illustrator Moshtari Hilal was two years old, she and her family arrived in Germany as refugees from Afghanistan. Today, she studies feminist intellectual history in the Middle East and she’s also a powerful artist who defines herself in these terms: “more mind than body, looking for solidarity, love and wisdom”. Something that you can also see in her overwhelming drawings; an open room for faces, memories, feelings and details which usually have no place in the dominant cultural and political (always white and Western) life. If you look for her on social media you’ll find a politically charged public persona who works to transform silenced shouts into striking images like this one here where, with wide eyes, she interrogates herself, ourselves and this world we’re all building.
Highlight: When I take a selfie, I still try to look nice or attractive, but when I draw I am more radical or honest; I can look at myself from outside.
Oh Caroool. Born and based in Barcelona, 1989. Illustrator.
When Oh Caroool holds a pencil, she stops being a 28-year-old Barcelona illustrator to teleport to Japan, the country where her soul has been since her younger days. So this is how she sees herself and also how she wants to be seen. Huge and sparkling eyes. Pink hair. Pastel universe. What, in the land of the rising sun, they call ‘kawaii’: the quality of being cute and adorable above all else. This is exactly what you’ll find about her if you google her name: a self-built world made of young and powerful girls in school uniforms, taken directly from the huge and amazing parallel reality called manga and anime, completely ready to make us fall in love. There’s no difference between this self-portrait and a selfie, she says. So don’t ask about reality. Reality is nothing.
Highlight: This self-portrait is something that I did without thinking too much (like when you take a selfie), but it is well taken care of (like when you take 10 selfies and pick the one where you look the best).
Born in Kenya, 1977. Based in London. Illustrator/ digital artist
Seidlitz has an ever-evolving list of clients, including the New York Times, the Guardian, NME, MTV, Coca-Cola among other brands. He also worked as an in-house designer at Cartoon Network before leaving to focus on illustration. His drawings are something like screaming in colours – like pop explosions right in your face. You may ask yourself where all this comes from, and maybe part of the answer is that Serge Seidlitz is an English/German hybrid born in Kenya who grew up travelling between the UK, Russia and Asia. But in this specific case, and when asked about identity, he wanted to define himself as “husband & father, son & brother”. Using Frida Kahlo’s portraits and the tropical garden views from his new studio’s window as an inspiration, Seidlitz wanted to introduce himself smiling, surrounded by monkeys and iPhones. “Seems like a there could be a metaphor in there somewhere,” he said.
Highlight: “All art forms are an expression of the artist’s ‘self’, so in my work, I hope that my own personality and self expression comes through.”
Born in Madrid, 1976. Based in Barcelona. Filmmaker.
It’s not very often you see Lope Serrano drawing men. Most of his illustrations feature beautiful women lying in the sun, sleeping by swimming pools, smelling fresh flowers. The universe that he creates, using bright color marker pens and pure lines, seems like the perfect spot to take a nap on a summer Sunday afternoon. A quiet place like the landscape he painted in his portrait. “It’s a relief to find your reflection on a surface – whether it’s a mirror, a shiny car or a piece of paper. Otherwise, what a nightmare. So I guess that if you’re also the one who helps seek this relief by setting your own reflection on paper, the feeling is quite heartwarming,” he says. Outside this oasis of pleasure, Lope Serrano is one of the founders and co-directors of Canada, one of the most original and successful production companies in Barcelona. Check out his illustrations in movement in the music video for Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know the Better”.
Highlight: I’m the reflection that I found in my bathroom mirror after a shower.
Born in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, 1980. Based in Madrid. Illustrator.
Cristóbal Fortúnez likes to think of self-portraits as something like an unreal space of time where little-anxious-demon-cats are allowed to exist. But this man in a metal band T-shirt proves to be much more interested in others than in himself. In fact, one of his most celebrated works is a series of drawings that he posted on a blog called Fauna Mongola, where he portrayed people that he came across on the street with the idea of creating a kind of huge and subjective archive of urban typologies. His hilarious and sarcastic drawings were followed by crazy texts where he analysed the characters. Fortúnez’s drawings seem to be an author’s attempt at understand the humanity in our many and weird ways of being. Don’t miss his illustrations for Blackie Books adult entertainment (not a euphemism for porn) notebooks.
Highlight: There are few things I have less clear than who I really am.
Plaid shirt, torn jacket, messy beard and some unidentified substance (maybe the bird was the culprit?) about to fall of that old cap showing a capital R. Even so, everything is “alright!”, as that pin in the jacket says. In Finnish Rami Niemi’s bright illustrations, tenderness coexists with roughness and coaxes a tiny smile from all of us. What we see here is what he calls “the illustrator persona”, a cartoon and raucous version of himself which sometimes requires some outlandish details that can only be achieved by drawing them out. Meanwhile, the private Rami, “a middle-of-the-road family guy” as he defines himself, only uses selfies when he cuts his hair, “to check out if he did it well or not”.
Highlight: I’d feel uncomfortable talking about myself all the time on the Net. All of which means I’ve fallen off the wagon of modernity a bit. My illustrator persona, however, loves the attention and the likes/followers he gets.
Born and based in Moscow, 1985. Psychologist
Have you ever used a burger as a sex toy? Well, she did, at least while drawing. When asked for her current occupation, Yulia Nefedova defines herself as a psychologist, but she has also been a muse for some artists, such as the iconic American photographer and filmmaker Richard Kern. A couple of years ago, she gained popularity as a wild and free illustrator who uses art as a tool for emotional self expression as well as a form of escapism. If you take a look at her social media profiles, you’ll find a bunch of women licking each other, foot-jobs in yellow panties and multi-colored toenails, and girls in a happy free fall from outer space – like Carroll’s Alice fell down the rabbit hole. Some of these characters show their faces and others show their asses. Who cares. Yulia does the same. Tell her something fun if you want her to turn around.
Highlight: If you’re brave and honest, there’s no difference between a selfie and a self-portrait.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, 1977. Based in Rio de Janeiro.
Rita Wainer’s illustrations taste bittersweet. In the world that she depicts there are beautiful flowers, bleeding bounds and the women who have them both. Softness and hardness. She is clear on one thing: aside from being Rita Wainer, from Brazil, she is “an artist whose purpose is to discuss and raise awareness about women’s lives in the world”. After working for years in the fashion industry, she finally quit to fully dedicate her time to telling necessary stories and communicating feelings through art, especially in democratic spaces like the street, where those stories can reach everyone.
Highlight: An illustrated self-portrait talks about some issues that no camera can capture.
Flavia Paravisi. Born and based in Buenos Aires, 1983. Tatto artist.
If you take a look at Flavia Paravisi’s life in Instagram stories you’ll find underground parties, drugs, shaking asses and lots of Reggaeton on permanent streaming. “Only superficial stuff, no sadness.” Although she is a tattoo artist with tons of personal style, she is part of the Latin American neo-perreo lifestyle wave, along with artists like Tomasa del Real and DJ&producer Lizz. Hers is the hand behind young people’s bodies covered with tattoos of curvy women with a lot of attitude, wild tigers and tribal shapes. Regarding identity, there is no room for doubt: “What I post on social media is not me, but what people like and enjoy seeing. Only my closest friends and my family know who I am.”
Highlight: This is not literally me, but how I feel. Powerful. Like a stripper.
Born in Porto, 1988. Based in Lisbon. Being unoccupied mixed with moments of “Oh my god, I need to draw or write this idea down that I just had in the middle of the street and a make an exhibition about it or just post it on the internet.”
Portuguese artist Wasted Rita says her presence on social media is like a Kardashians reality show, “about being super vulnerable and revealing all my issues to the world, including myself”. Not overdoing it at all: in Rita’s work you’ll find love letters, breakup letters, crises and bullshit, among other extra emotional stuff always set up with high levels of sarcasm and a sense of humour. Her illustrations and art pieces have been exhibited in galleries around the world and she has collaborated on projects such as the Red Bull Music Academy or Dismaland, Banksy’s sinister version of Disneyland. While the illustrated Rita eats some popcorn at home, cause her future is so bright that she doesn’t need to move her ass, the real Rita defines herself as “a very difficult, annoying, introspective, awkward, food loving, hypersensitive but also independent and strong as fuck, left-handed, white, privileged person”. No doubt.
Highlight: For a selfie I might wanna look flawed but in a flawless way, so I can look slightly better than I really do and get those likes dropping like they’re hot. For a self-portrait I’ll probably try to portray some qualities I think I have but other people around me can’t see in me. So, yes, both end up being misleading and delusional representations of myself.
Born and based in Pontevedra, Spain, 1982.
This is life, folks. A hole full of bright colors, tons of shit, cold sweat, rareness and happiness, too. That’s what Berto Fojo’s illustrations seem to say. Or maybe not. Either way, shiny colors are always there – sometimes painting smiles and other times, scared faces. Berto’s universe is populated by weird and friendly characters that the illustrator has spread around fanzines, project for bands and images for magazines such as ICON - El País. When his eyes are still inside his head and there aren’t worms coming out of any orifice, he is also Berto Fojo: an active member of Pontevedra’s DIY space Liceo Mutante, a Thursday football player, supporter of Pontevedra CF and Deportivo de Coruña, a drummer in a band called Cuchillo de Fuego, and the owner of a dog called Monchi.
Highlight: I always thought of self-portraits as desperate calls for help. There isn’t much of a difference between a selfie and a self-portrait if you customize your selfie with the right emojis.
Born in Valencia, Spain, 1986. Based between Valencia and Madrid. Illustrator.
Her portraits feel nice to look, at first sight, until you realize that there’s something strange there. There’s something in their eyes that makes you feel like they’re dealing with something deep, intimate and sometimes even disturbing. This also happens in her self-portrait. That flies standing in her forehead and her hand, breaking the harmony and also giving some rawness to the image. “The vision of oneself is more real through drawing than with a photograph”, she says. While most human lives that we see on social media try to look happily perfect 24/7, Carla wants to be as honest as possible through illustrations that show dark circles, serious faces and people who are not afraid to look tired, as they are. Add to this honesty live lines, primary colours and work that is moved by instinct. So real.
Highlight: I am a woman who tries to be as honest as possible in all parameters, even in this new era where it is increasingly difficult to know where the limits of reality and fiction lie.
Born in Huesca, Spain, 1984. Based in Barcelona. Illustrator.
Illustrator Ricardo Fumanal grew up in Tamarite de Litera, a little town in the north of Spain, and has been based in different cities around Europe “to try out new realities, people and inputs, also in what refers to illustration techniques and formats. Now, based in Barcelona, he realises that what makes him feel most comfortable is going back to the basics: pencils, ballpoint pens and colored pencils on white paper. Sobriety, purity and elegance are the common properties in the illustrations that he has done in recent years for clients such as Moncler, Adam Selman or Fred Perry and for TIME, Hercules, Dazed&Confused, Wallpaper and Vogue magazines. For a self-portrait, seen by himself as “a long work process in which there are many doubts”, he took his style to the limits of simplicity: pure black and white lines, and just a man after two pencils.
Highlight: Making a self-portrait wasn’t easy. Some questions arose during the process.
Born and based in Jamaica, 1994. Visual artist.
Aside from being a visual artist from Jamaica, Ricardo Edwards defines himself as primal, a bunch of raw survival instincts who marks his territory protecting what’s important to him. On his social media you’ll find his art, culture and background. “That part of me that I don’t want to be forgotten”, says. In his afro-futuristic portraits, “normal” people become mythological gods of humanity, emerging from the broken bones of their ancestors to our days, brave and full of trust. Hidden gods with hard feelings and situations that exist between reality – the streets of Jamaica – and fantasy – the mind of the artist – always hyper-realistic (take a look at the album cover he did for Jamaican artist Popcaan) and pure.
Highlight: A self-portrait has to do with honesty, not whether it looks “good” or not.