When wandering through Stockholm’s contemporary art museum Moderna Museet as a child, there were a couple of artworks that became permanently seared in Swedish illustrator Klas Ernflo’s imagination. Salvador Dalí’s surreally deformed portrait of William Tell, for example, particularly fired up young Klas’ creative juices, as did Frank Stella’s eye-boggling optical illusion Claro Que Si and Robert Rauschenberg’s Monogram, a sculpture that features a stuffed Angora goat that looks like it’s got its paint-smudged front end stuck in a rubber tyre.
It was these inspiring pieces that Klas drew on when art director Åsa Vesterlund approached him to create a series of illustrations for the Moderna Museet’s restaurant, which will be used across menus, on trays, wine bottles and stickers. “Since I could depict anything from the museum I baked some of the ideas from those iconic (at least for me) works into my illustrations of the food and the museum’s surroundings,” Klas tells It’s Nice That. Some of the details are simple to spot, a jet-black tyre for example. Others like Stella’s pinstripe line work are more cunningly hidden.
Working with Åsa over the phone from his studio in Barcelona, Klas had originally gone for a more literal approach. “After one or two attempts to illustrate the museum building by Rafael Moneo, which I really wanted to do but it didn’t turn out as good as we wanted, we decided to use a simple grid and to work a little more freely,” he explains.
Much of Klas’ recent work features an unbridled colour palette (you will recognise his work from It’s Nice That’s Dropbox poster collaboration with Wang & Söderström last month), but to keep all the different objects and references looking uniform, Klas opted for a monochrome palette. “I started off illustrating exclusively in black and white and did so for many years, so I’m actually quite used to it,” Klas says. The result is not only a gorgeous set of illustrations but a visual puzzle that we’re sure the young illustrator would have loved.