Drawing has always been a daily practice for the graphic designer and illustrator Sathyan Rizzo. Born in Apice, a small town in the south of Italy, growing up they remember “a lack of stimuli” in general, though drawing always proved to be one of few activities they really enjoyed. Surrounded by decorative churches, their early creative memories are flooded with these religious paintings which cultivated their creativity. As a teenager, they studied oil painting due to this influence, and they later graduated with a degree in fine art from Bologna.
Gradually, with time, Sathyan started to incorporate more contemporary media into their work. Having grown up in an era where everything started to shift from analogue to digital, they slowly started to immerse in online creative communities such as Pixiv or DeviantArt, which helped expand their visual vocabulary, “and get in touch with certain imagery that I could have never found otherwise.” A stark contrast to the pious imagery they’d grown up with, at first, being exposed to such anti-artwork was an “aesthetic shock”. But Sathyan was intrigued. They immediately began to dig deeper for more kinds of material, and the more images they downloaded, the more their imagination was set alight.
The digital illustrator remembers collecting hoards of images filling up entire hard drives. Brimming with album artwork references, posters, screenshots and so on, Sathyan adds: “I unconsciously began to create a vast, chaotic and disconnected moodboard that is still an important part of my research today, and also of my identity and taste.” They classify their work somewhere between the analogue and digital, in a liminal threshold and basks in hybridity. Mixing together a variety of media including 3D graphics, airbrush, digital painting and traditional hand rendered drawing, their work is deliberately ambiguous. Sathyan says on the matter: “my intention is to keep the creative process unclear.”
Mixing as many mediums together as possible, the illustrator’s work evokes a sense of suspension balanced between seemingly random contrasts. To add to this effect, Sathyan is always looking for more unlikely combinations. For instance, they like to search for old graphic editor softwares to use as a contemporary tool, and then use them with other visual elements with an airbrush or with CGI. “The final result,” they explain, “is a heterogeneous and dirty texture obtained by combining different techniques which are apparently irreconcilable.”
As mentioned previously, there are a myriad of things that influence Sathyan, evident in the tumultuous way they create their work. Recently, they've been particularly drawn to the inspiration behind video games, and intriguing character design or backdrops to inform their practice. There is also “vintage adult cartoons, obscure sci-fi movies and fuzzy auras'' which can be added to the healthy list of contributing influences. And, to top it all off, Sathyan mentions 80s queer and counter-culture magazines (which they have a large collection of), Japanese fetish magazines and erotic mangas like Yosuke Onishi’s works which pull together to create a bubbling mass of visual glory which meets at the intersection of vintage nostalgia and cutting edge excitement.
Sathyan’s work is not just for them however, they also collaborate with fashion designers, editorial platforms and publishers where they lend their unique style of work to other causes. For instance, they recently created a visual novel to be published and distributed during Milan Fashion Week for the designer Marco Rambaldi. “This work features three characters put inside an opaque place frozen in time,” they describe, “interacting with a piece of clothing from the designer’s collection.” A plotless tale which “displays an uninhibited world and a desperate search for intimacy,” the project sees Sathyan’s retro-futuristic work collide with the fashion designer’s collection.
Elsewhere, they’ve also collaborated with Frankenstein Magazine, an independent collective which hosts artists and illustrations from alternative circuits. There, Sathyan was able to further an interest in comics and storytelling, interrogating a story by Costanza Candeloro for its third issue. In a mix of hand drawn manga and an erotic 70s style, Sathyan captures the dark short story in their brilliantly unique way.
As for the future, they hope they can continue to develop their own visual style while collaborating with an exciting array of artists, designers, art directors and more across the board. Nurturing a multi-disciplinary style which can be applied to almost any and all kinds of projects, the online and physical world is Sathyan’s oyster, and we can’t wait to see what they do with it.
GallerySathyan Rizzo (Copyright © Sathyan Rizzo, 2021)
Sathyan Rizzo: Amor Tv (Copyright © Sathyan Rizzo, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.