Cartoons, sci-fi and the environment collide in the work of Flora Mottini

Blobs, inflatable structures and Disney-esque characters co-exist in the artist’s strange and cartoonish world.

14 July 2021

Disney is a regular reference for many of the creatives we feature on It’s Nice That. Whether it's through the artist’s representation of its characters, the movies themselves or, in the case of Flora Mottini, something a little more ambiguous and warped.

Although not a direct reference per se, the Geneva-based artist and illustrator is inherently inspired by the cartoons made between the 30s and the 50s (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first Disney film that released in 1937, for example). “Concepts like spatial distortions, time travel, super-dimensions influence me a lot,” she tells us. This, coupled with a love of science fiction; movements such as psychedelia, surrealism and colour field painting; as well as the aesthetics and notions of landscapes have given way to a transformative practice filled with magic.

Flora’s step into the arts is what she refers to as being “relatively late”, having started her studies at the age of 26 and later graduating in 2015 with a BA in Visual Art from ECAL. Last year, she completed her master’s from the Head in Geneva. But before this, however, she was a trained decorator, and “did a lot of jobs of all kinds and all over the place,” she adds. “I also started training in various other mediums that I ended up stopping – graphic design, photography, multimedia design – and I mostly travelled a lot. I guess it’s through all this that I do what I do today.”

While working on her pieces, no two days are the same. Instead, she proceeds intuitively, adhering to a process that unravels in “phases”. When it’s a painting for example, she onboards an industrial process called anodisation – used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface, “which I divert to pictorial purposes,” she notes. If it’s more sculptural, she’ll employ a variety of different techniques to reach the end goal. Most of the time, she’ll produce sketches manually before transferring the compositions digitally; while other times, she’ll add Riso and silk-screen printing to the mix too.

GalleryFlora Mottini: Trash Mantra (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2021)

Over the past year, Flora has experienced a welcomed switch up. After working solo for years, she’s now enjoying the process of collaboration, which has subsequently seen the launch of a piece called Mammatus – a bench constructed from two anodised painted aluminium sheets which have been inserted inside three inflatable structures. The piece was developed with her friend and designer Christophe Guberan, to then be exhibited at the Helmhaus gallery in Zurich last month for an installation called Meanspace. “A row of three benches of different colours were presented,” she notes, “as if extracted from an imaginary shuttle. The idea of the installation for me came as an invitation to board as a passenger for a journey on land, in the air, under the sky or the sea.”

Another piece of hers, titled Waiting for Twirls, takes a more anthropomorphic stance on cartooning. A psychedelic blob is placed amongst a gradient landscape, with rouge mountains framing the piece and giving it an expansive feel. It’s also part of a wider collection of artworks that look at the "solitary figures” or cartoons, thus equating to a series aptly named Cooltoons, with Rebound Star, Total Crush, Bumpy’s Slug and The Snowman as its other members – all of which echo the colour palettes and motifs found in the classic animated canon of Disney. “To me, these figures represent something of the future evolution of sentient beings, their expansion into space, their ability to slow down their temporal rhythm, until they abandon their physical existence and become a great vibrant mantle of ideation that finely engulfs all matter.”

The rest of Flora’s portfolio gives off a similar sense of fantasy, wherein character-like objects are placed in colourful locations – the sorts of scenes that could only be composed in a dream or, better yet, a cartoon. When observing her work, Flora hopes that her audience will “feel as if an invisible influence is sucking the air from their ship,” she states. “Then their sailing ship would become a spaceship, and it would travel thousands of kilometres into interstellar seas, tacking under the solar winds.” And in all honestly, Flora’s work has the power to do just that; they’re transformative just as much as they are visually appealing, and you can easily find yourself lost for a minute or two in these strange, cartoonish worlds.


Flora Mottini: Pelagic Jellyfish, 110x94.5cm. Photo: Julien Gremaud (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2019)


Flora Mottini: Picodon, 100x115cm. Photo: Julien Gremaud (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2019)


Flora Mottini: Goulp (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2020)


Flora Mottini: Rebound Star (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2018)


Flora Mottini: Cocuyo (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2020)


Flora Mottini: Soon is Good (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2020)


Flora Mottini: Fleeting Bloom (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2019)


Flora Mottini: Meanspace (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2021)

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Flora Mottini: Waiting for Twirls, 40 x 54 cm (Copyright © Flora Mottini, 2018)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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