Animationseries2000 is an artist duo that asks this simple question: can illustration be sexy?

Based on real-life porn magazines, the studio has created a new series of Jazz Mags – a comical and satirical project that comments on the banality of advertising culture.

2 March 2020

Can illustration be sexy? Posing this question is Vladimir Meln and Syrina Hartje, the artist duo behind Animationseries2000, who have recently completed Jazz Mags – a series of illustrated posters that take a satirical twist on porn magazines. As part of the duo’s kiosk installation series, that being a collection of illustrations based on consumer products like cigarettes, sweets, alcohol, ice cream, coke and gum, Jazz Mags was born out of an investigation into whether or not this type of abstract illustration can still be as evocative as its real-life counterpart.

“The Jazz Mags are an experiment of how far you can go with the abstraction using this style of illustration,” Vladimir tells It’s Nice That. “Does it still contain the message of the original magazine in its abstracted form? Does it still contain sex appeal or is it bound to look stupid this way?” In order to answer to this question, the duo collected a bunch of porn magazines to use as inspiration, before creating an exaggerated version of them, “often looking rather awkward and clumsy, sometimes looking really absurd,” he continues. “We try to capture the absurdity of these exaggerated poses and expressions, of the catchy phrases and the nudity itself.” Based off real-life covers, the duo decided to stay true to their original sources, yet altered the content so that it was completely fictional. You have your usual suspects, like Playboy, but there’s also the addition of a Banamigo, a fictional magazine made up by the studio.

The duo first met at art school while studying illustration, and at the time they were “bored” and “unhappy” with working on 3D animation and painting. Joining forces, they both began working on their debut project Budny and Rossman, a web series of “consumption-damaged, naive, pimpled, smoking characters”. Drawn in a purposefully Microsoft Paint-esque manner, the project evolved into the creation of two completed episodes, as well as papier-mâché objects and an undeniable amount of humour. “It felt relieving to do something completely different,” says Syrina. “There were no aesthetic boundaries, no visual language we had to live up to; it was just for fun, and it made more sense than all the stuff we did before.” Five years down the line, and the Budny and Rossman web series is 20 episodes deep and their portfolio is filled with an abundance of humorous animations, portraits, zines and paintings in a similar fashion.

GalleryAnimationseries2000: Jazz Mags

Inspired by the everyday, it’s the little interactions and conversations that happen around them that fuel the duo’s imaginations. “We like to work out the absurdity of what we see,” says Vladimir, “and we enjoy bringing out the sarcastic, funny, bitter, ugly and stupid parts of it. In a sense we find it funny but also kind of painful.” So alongside the observation of people around them, the duo find references in television, commercials and advertisements. “The world of consumption, babbling and repeating itself everyday, makes you go blind or totally hooks you up on things,” explains Syrina, before discussing the effects it has on their process. “We take the uninteresting and normal, then change the point of view you have on it, making it look absurd in a funny or stupid way, or revealing the beautiful simplicity of a product that is nothing but trivial.”

Inspirations at hand, the duo then jot down their ideas before going into the rough sketch process – “we don’t do detailed sketches”, says Vladimir, pointing out how they prefer to work with spontaneity. “It works best if it’s done quickly and looks wacky in a good way. Often it might turn out really bad, but it it’s drawn too slow, it will look even worse.” Using a finger on a touchpad, the duo refer to this process as ‘finger painting’ – a technique that’s evident throughout the Jazz Mags series.

So, to answer the question of whether this illustrative style is sexy, it’s clearly debatable. One thing’s for sure, however, is that it can still be provoking. “The Jazz Mags are meant to reflect upon the banality of the advertising culture,” says Syrina. With a mixed response thus far, the audience have in some ways acted as they would to your typical porn magazine. “Showing women (and men) like this on a cover of a porn magazine tends to arouse some dislikes that we do notice. We find it interesting, as we see the covers neither as sexy, nor as sexist, but as an exaggeration of an already exaggerated content. It’s what you see everyday in every book or magazine store or kiosk and don’t give a fuck about or notice anymore because it’s been there since forever.”

GalleryAnimationseries2000: Jazz Mags

Share Article

About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.