I was searching the web, just like any other day, looking for young fashion designers, creative types, all sorts of people, really. The more I looked, the more frustrated I got until I happened upon an image of an illustration with an enormous pig covered with the hologram logo of Louis Vuitton with a cow’s head and a bag on it’s shoulder. Eureka! Just what I was looking for, although, truthfully, it wasn’t; it was even better. This wasn’t the work of a fashion illustrator after all, but an artist who, after studying and working in the small world of fashion decided to set off on his own and become a painter (thanks, Mala Siamptani!).
His name is Joan Taltavull and at 26 he’s already passed up work for Custo Barcelona in order to move to London to live out his dreams of being an artist. I was intrigued by this sudden change in career paths since most artists, when presented with the opportunity to work for such an exclusive brand, would feel as if they’d died and gone to heaven. I just couldn’t understand it. At So Catchy! we like to see people chasing their dreams; it simply makes us feel like there’s hope for the world.
Joan Taltavull’s work is recognizable, full of metaphors and feels very personal. Fashion is his “excuse” for touching on deep, psychological topics. His work has been shown on numerous occasions in Spain and the Spitalfields Art Market in London and this August, six of his pieces will be heading to New York where they’ll be on display at the Agora Gallery.
SO CATCHY!: Why did you decide to study Fashion Design at the IED Barcelona if your dream was always to be a painter?
JOAN TALTAVULL: Because I love drawing and, above all, being creative. Fashion design allowed me to draw and to think about what I was designing in three dimensions.
SC!: From fashion design to artist / illustrator / painter. How did you get to where you are now and what did you do beforehand?
JT: When I was a student, I started to excel at pattern design (which is a theme you might notice in my current work) and illustration so I began to combine my studies with an internship working for a company making prints and such. I learned a lot there from new techniques to how to draw for the specific goals of the company, and, truthfully, that’s when I started to think of myself as a designer. Afterwards, I started working for Custo Barcelona and everything I had learned before got magnified exponentially. I had various responsibilities such as visual merchandising, window dressing, prints, graphic design, layout, photography, and even interior design. I also had to manage my designs and I think that’s what makes you into a true professional.
SC!: But what was the spark that set you on the path you’re on now?
JT: I found myself in a moment of ‘professional’s block’ and so I decided to fulfill the dream that I’d had my whole life, to become an artist. I felt that I’d spent enough time learning and studying and that it was time to apply that to my own work and to get away from the typical worries of whether or not my new design will sell. Now, as an artist, I only worry about giving my best in each piece and I do that for my own pleasure, because I want to, not because someone might by it.
SC!: What are you doing now in London? Is there something special about the place?
JT: It’s special in that I can paint each and every day. London is an extreme city, in the sense that it’s big, expensive and when you arrive you don’t know anyone. It really helps bring out the best in you by forcing you to make an effort to fulfill your dreams, or to do whatever it is you went there to do.
And, it’s full of people doing the same as you, everywhere you go there are people who are creating, designing or putting things together and, most importantly, they believe in what they are doing and it works for them, and for all of us, really. The feeling of creative optimism is in the air we breathe and it’s quite a fantastic sensation.
SC!: Define your work in two sentences.
JT: It’s different but familiar. And, very faithful to my character, very authentic.
SC!: We love the piece, “Big pig with bag” because it speaks to the desire to be something else while showing us that the something else really isn’t that different from what you are…
JT: “Big pig with bag” is about the desire of the pig to become one of the famous Louis Vuitton cows that, according to rumor, have a strict diet, special care and receive regular massages, while ignoring the fact that it will actually die like a pig to be made into sausages or ham… or maybe like a cow and be made into a handbag.
SC!: What is fashion for you?
JT: It’s a form of cyclical creation, or recreation, with contemporary things added to it from time to time.
SC!: What do you like best about fashion and why?
JT: Anything that breaks out of this big cycles, people who do new things and who are capable of putting those things into the big wheel. Whatever is really creative, or that is taken so far out of context that it breaks away from everything in the past.
SC!: What do you want to say with your work?
JT: I want to show what people are like, what culture is like and how the world works. I consider my work to be full of metaphors about the here and now.
SC!: What influence does fashion have on your work?
JT: The slim figure of the subjects, the positioning, the patterns and the iconography. I can’t run from fashion since it’s really a part of me, and the same goes for the sea, as it’s a part of my memories from Menorca, bones and skulls from my passion for paleontology and planes and kites from my fascination with aeronautics.
SC!: What makes your work so recognizable and authentic?
JT: Above all, the drawing, everything is painted first and then I draw on top, the three-dimensional nature of the things I do. I also think that things like disfigured and twisted subjects, fish, kits, and planes are pretty typical of my work.
SC!: Your all-time favorite designer is..?
JT: Alexander McQueen, CBE, not only for his clothing designs but also for how he lays it all out, incorporates different elements like a mechanic and the catwalks that seem like fishbowls. All of the iconography and the atmosphere that surrounded everything he did, as well as how coherent all of his work was.
SC!: You like him so much that you even dedicated a piece to him…
JT: There are a couple of ideas behind the case of the snake skull bag with the brass knuckles made from rat skulls. On one hand, the esthetics come from a clutch by Alexander McQueen, made from snake and the brass knuckles were human skulls, jewels. On the other hand, there’s the concept of “by who and for who” and the substitution of the human skulls for rats hints at the food chain of snakes, the snake skull itself, and the fact that it’s designed as an accessory, for humans of course. The text at the bottom also talks about the lack of motivation and the uncertainty I felt when I heard the news that McQueen had died. My dream during school had always been to work with him.
SC!: Your current favorite designer is…?
JT: I’ve been following Aitor Throup for a while. He’s a great illustrator, works with pattern design and does things that are truly creative and original.
SC!: Who do you look to in the world of painting?
JT: Egon Schiele, his drawings and his uncanny knowledge and use of human physiology, and the way he positions his subjects and composes his pieces, the natural and spontaneous feelings that his work transmits.
And Picasso, as he’s an icon of unstoppable creativity and seriousness when it came to his work. It’s incredibly how much work he made and the ends he went to in search of new creative horizons.
SC!: Where do you seek inspiration?
JT: More than inspiration, I think I focus more on ‘conceptualization’ and, normally, I feed off of feelings and attitudes that we all have. Or psychological and philosophical theories that we all know or can relate to. After that, my job is to choose the elements or characters that are going to represent this concept. That’s when I go rummaging through my journal which is made up of scraps from documentaries, magazines, photos, legends and mythology, my past, the little things in life, anything in the kitchen (I love cooking) and, finally, Inspiration (if you can call it that). This helps me bring it all together and makes it recognizable and composed.
SC!: What relationship do you see between fashion and art? Do you see fashion as an art form?
JT: I think that fashion feeds off of art, or at least it should. And I think that art and fashion go together hand in hand given that both are systems of creation that take elements and bring them together in a dress, a bag or a shoe, or in the case of art, in a painting or a sculpture. Fashion, though, focuses more on creating a product that must have all of the necessary requirements to be ‘fashionable’ and, thus, to sell. As an artist, I shouldn’t create work so that it can be bought or so that I can be more fashionable; I think that would be a big mistake. My job is to try to create something that never goes out of style, or that is never in style. An artist should do it for him or herself, totally removed from whatever trend happens to be hot.
SC!: Where do you see yourself in the near future?
JT: In six months? In London, I suppose. I hope to be finishing a new series of paintings and for my work to be out there more. I really love my job
SC!: And if we wanted to, where could we find and buy your work?
JT: You can get in touch with my though my website or go to Art-mine.com, where the Agora Gallery in New York put eight of my paintings up for sale. And in Menorcaartgallery.com, where I’ve also got a few of my pieces.
All images courtesy of Joan Taltavull
Translated by Michael Padilla
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