Can sticking to one style be stifling? Supermundane’s new work shows how variety can boost creativity

Say hello to the artist Rob Lowe’s – and Bobbie, Roberto and Super Rob’s – latest body of work, that embraces all of his eclectic talents.

11 March 2024

The work of Rob Lowe AKA Supermundane has long been adored for its vibrant and flamboyant edge. Over the years, he has incorporated slogans and phrases into his work that should well be patronising, but just aren’t because they give you that warm feeling inside. ‘Be kind’? Of course. ‘Do what you can’ or ‘take a stand’? Absolutely. And ‘wear a smile’? Hmm it depends who’s asking. But to put it plainly the artist and illustrator has made a name for himself amplifying that which should be obvious, but for some reason, we don’t practise enough – whether it’s living colourfully, making the small things a part of our everyday, or just being more lighthearted and having some fun. He says it in his work? It’s probably true.

In his latest exhibition and body of work, Kin, Rob rejects the notion of being bound to one style. In a ‘solo group show’ of related types, the artist illustrator not only showcases the varying styles he’s been working with, but honours their disparity by giving credit to a series of monikers based on his actual name. So, you – of course – have Bob, then there’s Bobbie, Super Rob, Roberto, Bob Star, and a little on the wilder side, El Bobo, among many others. All in all, he is out to tell the audience that eclecticism in visual style or balancing a variety of styles or visual approaches is not a bad thing. But why would he do it, when in trying to send this message, he runs the risk of losing the engagement of his audience all together?

Rob says that “people like consistency and a feeling that creatives are mastering what they do”, which is astoundingly true. It seems as though today, style is more rigid, more strict, than ever. Never mind trying your hand at cubism, because people on Instagram won’t love you unless you stay in your blue period. “There’s a real unwillingness to take risks and if you have a consistent, proven style you know what you are going to get,” he shares. As he began to realise his admiration for those who concentrate on a specific style like “Bridget Riley with colour and line” he became evermore aware of his own aversion to it. “I’ve worked as a graphic designer, magazine designer, illustrator and now I’m writing more than ever, restriction has never felt natural to me. The only difference this time is that I’ve worked on them all at the same time,” he adds.


Supermundane: Kin (Copyright © Supermundane, 2024)

Kin showcases variety but it still has a consistent approach. “There’s my interest in movement, depth, repetition and flatness throughout, but also a celebration of the nature of the materials used,” he tells us. The works are made compatible by their use of the calligraphy pen and use of repetition that Rob refers to as a sort of “language”. From French curve templates which make flamboyant birds to improvised pencil drawings and simple lines that take on a structural stride, and colourful studies of movement and depth. All of the Kin types have names, including Flourishes/Typographic Topiary which takes its inspiration from fantasy books and heavy metal album imagery; Redundant Beauty – a style he first developed while on a residency at The Mill in France – distinguished by its grey background and opaque pencil lines that take on a geometric industrial spin; and Fancy Birds, and boy are they fancy.

For Rob, it goes beyond categorising and showing off his ability to be creative in many different ways (and create even more nicknames), it’s about his belief in its power to boost creativity. “I have been asked about my style often over the years, but I always prefer to talk about having an approach that I can use in different ways as opposed to a ‘style’,” he tells us. Using his own unique visual approach that incorporates flatness, “the pleasure of” negative space, colour and repetition, he instead puts emphasis on how mastering this approach allows him to create in any style he wishes. “Some do link back to my older organic drawings I made in the early 2000s and I stopped making them completely about ten years ago,” he adds, “I think the important thing, if you are going to make lots of different work, is that it makes sense and it’s not purely for stylistic reasons”.

Rob doesn’t have a concrete favourite category in the show. “It changes all the time. At the moment it’s the Typographic Topiary drawings, because they are so different from everything else,” he shares. But Kin isn’t about favourites or which style is most appealing to the audience, or even style itself. It’s a showcase of the artist embracing all of his varying artistic interests and creating in the moment – a practice that is proven to help artists evolve and develop when given the chance.

Kin is on at Number 1 Mare Street until 27 March, find more information here.

GallerySupermundane: Kin (Copyright © Supermundane, 2024)

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Supermundane: Kin (Copyright © Supermundane, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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