With illustration and drawing a recurring tool in his practice, French graphic designer Rudy Guedj’s work spans print and exhibition design as well as publishing. His theoretical and conceptual approach to design, however, also reaches into more fine art-based pieces including animation, murals, prints and installations.
“I am often inspired by small anecdotal, yet surprising moments in daily life, often related to how space is organised,” Rudy tells It’s Nice That. Coupled with his love of artists like Magritte, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Guy de Cointet, Rudy’s work is versatile and investigative, with a signature visual language.
Rudy initially wanted to pursue illustration but after failing to gain a place on his course of choice, he decided to study graphic design in his hometown of Lyon, later progressing to the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, where he is now based. “It was only after leaving France in 2010 that I started to realise how graphic design could be approached much more personally, not just as an applied practice,” he explains, “the fact that graphic design can be quite versatile and personal is what attracted me the most I think.”
It was one of Rudy’s exhibition identities – a prominent part of his creative practice – that first caught our eye. Titled Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam, the exhibition was held at Het Nieuwe Instituut this year and presented a series of letters written by international architects. Each one had been invited to write a letter to the mayor of Rotterdam, addressing pressing questions and desires they believed played a role in the making of cities.
Inside the space were two very long tables, each ending with a desk to suggest a dialogue between the architects and the mayor. On the first table, Rudy combined the signatures of all the architects into an expressive drawing resembling an abstract cityscape. “Blowing up the signatures and using them as the modules for the drawing was a way to emphasise the intimacy of the signing, exposing it as a sign of engagement and implication,” Rudy explains. On the other table, stacks of the 50 letters were lined up, again to resemble a cityscape, yet much more rigid in order to reflect the bureaucracy of the mayor and the city hall.
Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam perfectly represents Rudy’s approach to design – one that sees him using illustration, although not as an illustrator per se. It’s an approach that is incredibly conceptual, breaking out of the printed page, using it as a building block and narrative device in of itself. “I like to play with that blurry transition between figurative motifs and their abstracted representations,” Rudy continues, concluding that, “some images can be read and/or named, while others follow a more abstract logic that refers more to their own construction process than the motive behind them.”
In his latest venture, Rudy has started Building Fictions, a publishing house which will allow him to create collaborative works. The first being Tummy Ruble (To Me, Rubble), made in collaboration with Will Pollard, Building Fictions will look at how “design, artistic, architectural or literary practices amongst others can possibly work together critically to produce stories which can reflect on the real world and its spaces while using fiction as a frame”.
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