British artist, illustrator and set designer, Gary Card, has captivated the industry with his weird, wild, and imaginative creations. Having previously worked with the likes of Comme Des Garcons, Nick Knight and Balenciaga, for this season, he’s lent his creative hand to Kenzo. Inspired by Kenzo Takada’s 1992 men’s show of hyper realistic tomatoes, Card has created an in-store installation made up of the giant, red and yellow fruit for the fourth iteration of their archival collection, La Collection Memento No.4, making its debut in The Dubai Mall. Sorbet sits down with the artist to talk about his creative process.
Q: What was your starting reference when working on this campaign?
A: It was very easy to be honest with you, as the nicest thing about working with people who know what they want is that they give you a very specific idea. Kenzo were very much like “it’s all about the tomato and we only have three colors we want you to work with”. So, tomatoes and three colors – whatever I could think of to do with these things.
Q: How was it working with the Kenzo creative directors, Carole Lim and Humberto Leon?
A: I worked with them last season, but not this season. I think maybe because they trust me a little bit more now, and had worked with me before, they let me do my own thing this time.
Q: And how do you see your own artistic aesthetic working with that of Kenzo?
A: I think our aesthetics and approach are very similar. That’s why it’s such a thrill to work with Kenzo, because they are just about fantastic print, fantastic graphics and things that pop, which is entirely me.
Q: It’s very dynamic, everything moves…
A: Exactly. I love motion. If we could have made it move, that would have amazing. We did talk about it but sadly timing got in the way.
Q: And what were the challenges? Because you’ve used archival prints for the tomatoes, right?
A: For me the tomatoes are new, they’ve all been made specifically for this project.
Q: From what I understood, the print was in the DNA of Kenzo and the tomatoes were from the archives…
A: Oh right, so yes, it’s definitely from their heritage, much like the Rousseau stuff from before, so this is all coming from their archives but the installation is all brand new.
Q: How would you define your own artistic aesthetic?
A: It’s hard to say really. As a set designer we are adaptable which is really important. We adapt to whatever the brand comes to us with. But for the last three years, I’ve been honing in on what and why exactly I do what I do and what makes me, me. I’ve started to make my own work. It all comes from disposable pop culture. That seems to be my go-to.
Q: What do you mean, disposable?
A: Meaning quick. It means fast. It means packaging. It means the kind of graphics you’d find on a detergent bottle; a barcode etc. Things that strike you and have an immediate impact. I like to make things that are instantly satisfying, recognizable and engaging. If they’re not any of those things, I’ve failed. They have to get you in a very visceral way. Immediately.
Q: Have you ever created art installations for art fairs? You speak like a curator-slash-artist.
A: That’s the next big step – that’s what we’re working on right now. We’re working on a huge collaboration with Philips Galey in Mount Street and we’re working on a very special curated exhibition. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this, although I’m curating it, I’m building the set around some of the most incredible contemporary artists of my generation – George Condo, Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman are all going to be surrounded by my installation. It’s in July this summer.
Q: The way you’re speaking you’re obviously very art led, not commercially led…
A: That’s exactly it – if I can get that through… In terms of my commercial work, its always art led. It has to have an emotional core at the forefront because that’s how we engage people. I am a commercial animal, but it’s about finding that cross section between and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Q: Can you tell me about your creative process?
A: My source of inspiration is anything from the science fiction movie I saw last night to a label on a box I’ve seen. There are so many approaches. Sometimes it can be a material, sometimes it can be a fabric or corrugated card I’ve come across and it triggers something. I think, ‘what would this look like if I blew it up?’ It can literally be anything, which is why it’s great when a brand gives me something specific to work with, because even with something specific there’s still a world of options.
Q: What are your biggest challenges when working either for yourself or for a client?
A: Well, like anybody creative, the trickiest thing is the very start; the momentum to put that first line down. As soon as you’re doing it, then you’re off. But sometimes it can take a huge amount of will power to find what that first thing is. Then the challenge is how to get the idea out fast enough before another one comes in. That can be really hard, because when you’re designing something and then the flow is disrupted, you’ve lost it.
Q: Which one of your creations is your favorite?
A: It’s always the thing I’m working on – the latest. I think the project I’m most excited about will be the July show I’m working on. It isn’t real yet but if it’s anything like the renders and the drawings I’ve made, it will be the best thing I’ve worked on so far.
Q: You’ve collaborated with Lady Gaga and Tim Walker. Who would your dream collaboration be with?
A: It absolutely would be with Prince. I sketched every hair style he had from 1978 to 2013. He liked it so much he retweeted it. I never met him. There were a few opportunities that never transpired. In a way I’m kind of glad, as I’m not sure he would have been very nice to me. He was known for being frosty to put it lightly. And so, it’s nice that he won’t ever change in my head, I won’t have a horrible experience to ruin my fandom. But it is a dream to work with the estate and we are trying to make it happen so fingers crossed. That’s my dream.
Q: Are you ethically conscious with your projects?
A: I’m a set designer. By the very nature of it, it’s not ethically sound as the work of a set designer means we make a lot of stuff very quickly that is for a set period. Much like the fashion industry, it’s disposable. So, I’ll be honestthere are things I have no control over but when it’s down to me we do everything in our power to make it sustainable. Sometimes I reuse and reinterpret old work. It’s recycling. When I finish a job, I’ll keep as much as I can and sometimes I will keep it in my storage and then we’ll repaint it or rework it for a different project. Sometimes we donate to schools, certainly when there’s a surplus of toys, we always give them to charity, but as I said, I’m a set designer…
Q: What’s your favorite sorbet?
A: Ooo, I would say raspberry, definitely.
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