Kurdish illustrator Tishk Barzanji makes surreal, dreamy landscapes in pastel shades, yet the subtext is more sombre than the aesthetic conveys. The foreground in most of the works is dominated by walls, Escher-like staircases and impossible architecture, and Tishk tells It’s Nice That it depicts a personal challenge he once faced.
“I base my work on a moment or period in my life, good or bad, when I felt lost. A couple of years ago my anxiety was really bad, I couldn’t leave my house and I couldn’t really connect with people. I saw my life moving in front of my eyes,” he explains.
“A lot of my work relates to that. I wanted to show the human side of isolation and anxiety.”
Since overcoming this, he has developed an interest in spatial design and how people interact with the space around them. “The shapes of structures, for example the shape of an alley way, can make you walk in a certain way. I wanted to create a world where there are no boundaries for space and colour, everything colliding with free will.”
Tishk is originally from Iraq but moved to London in 1997. After studying Physics he changed path completely, deciding to focus entirely on his artwork. He hand draws his pieces, creating a base with watercolour or acrylic, before scanning and adding digital colour to make “something that blurs between 3D art and a painting”.
He cites Ricardo Bofill as a big influence on his work: “I really appreciate the way he uses space and the references to ancient history. I’m also influenced by the De Stijl movement, particularly Mondrian, and the colours of Ken Price. Brutalism also played a big part in my earlier works, having grown up around Brutalist architecture in London, and utopia is a key word for me. An organic world built among old spaces we have left over, that is connected 24/7, weather it’s social media or some sort of future technology. That’s the future world I envision.”
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