From Bauhaus to The Simpsons: how nostalgia and minimalism inspire Kanioko’s vibrant illustration practice
The São Paulo-based illustrator includes surreal and funny elements in their work to help them to reveal both their “quirkiness” and “queerness”.
- Olivia Hingley
- 30 June 2022
At only 19 years old, illustrator Kanioko has already developed a bold, unique and effortlessly humorous body of work. To do so, they’ve taken inspiration from one of their biggest childhood obsessions, The Simpsons. It’s certainly not hard to see the influence of the cartoon on their character-focussed work. While the styles do quite significantly differ, Kanioko has mastered the ability of creating humorous, characterful personas with nothing more than a few black lines, block colours and a palpable air of nostalgia. Perhaps at the other end of the cultural spectrum, Kanioko also cites the Bauhaus School as being particularly important to their practice, specifically for its championing of a simple, minimalist approach.
Including a lot of landscapes, fruit and plants in their work, Kanioko also takes inspiration from their surroundings and by extension Brazilian culture and Brazilian designers. Their vibrant palette and simple lines are also representative of the “happiness and playfulness” present in their day-to-day basis. But their abstract forms and cartoony characters come from a much more personal place, reflecting their personality and background as a queer LGBTQIA+ and Latin American. “I believe what motivates me the most to use these elements is to think of my work in a conceptual way as a subterfuge of the harsh contemporary reality that surrounds us,” Kanioko says. “I like these surreal and funny elements because they reveal a part of me that I usually hide from the world, a quirkiness and a more relaxed, queer side of my essence.”
Always having loved drawing since childhood, it was then during the end of high school and beginning of the pandemic that Kanioko found themselves becoming more intrigued by illustration as a medium. “In the first months of social isolation, I started creating pieces with the aim of introspection to relieve stress related to the pandemic,” Kanioko shares. “I started posting my work on my social networks as a kind of virtual diary and this ended up taking me to incredible paths and wonderful opportunities to work with people and projects I never imagined.”
One such project is Kanioko’s collaboration with the Urban28 store at K11 Mall in Hong Kong. Being given complete creative freedom by the retailer for the project, all they were instructed to do was create two pieces for a light panel box that occupied an entire wall of the mall. “I had never participated in a project of this magnitude that demanded so much infrastructure and donation of time,” Kanioko says. Pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, and responding to forks in the road along the way (at one point the illustrator realised the lightbox required a much lighter colour palette to stand out) the final two pieces are vibrant, playful and of course, a little bit absurd. One features figures frolicking among geometric shapes and flowers, whilst the other shows a character tucking into a taco, Kanioko’s brilliant way with expression showing the recognisable unease of being caught mid-bite.
Alongside completing their graphic degree in São Paulo, Kanioko is excited about continuing to work on large-scale projects. They recently concluded a contract with a chain of coffee shops in Japan in which the illustrator was tasked with creating two illustrations infused with coffee themes and elements of Japanese culture – so Kanioko is on something of a creative high. But, they’re also excited about the prospects of expanding and trailing other areas of their works’ potential. “I have also thought a little about expanding my horizons with my art in different means of reproduction,” Kanioko concludes. “One that has motivated me to diversify my portfolio is painting on walls.” Being so early in their career but already showing such talent, we can’t wait to see where Kanioko’s creativity travels to next.
Kanioko: Igloo Series (1/2) (Copyright © Kanioko, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.