Théophile Bartz’s creative career began with graphic design. But after studying it at university and working in the field for a couple of years, a growing sense of dissatisfaction started to set in. “I felt the need to detach myself from the conventions of communication that I’d never been able to truly express myself through,” he tells It’s Nice That. So Théophile had a decision to make: quit the creative industries altogether or find a new way to feel creatively fulfilled. “So I dove into my work,” he explains, “and I experimented daily with the tools I knew and felt comfortable with, and developed an approach to creativity that was my own.” This exploratory phase led him to illustration, a discipline which provided the “freer artistic approach” he desired and “the opportunity to really show who [he] was.”
Now, years later, the sense of release that illustration first ignited in Théophile shows no signs of letting up. Bursting with colour and wonderfully bizarre, the results of this explorative and carefree approach are absolutely joyful. The hours Théophile has dedicated to this incessant experimentation shine through in what has grown to be a distinctive visual language defined by a palpable sense of curiosity and playfulness.
Contorting shapes in ecstatic colours dominate Théophile’s pulsating compositions and define their hallucinatory tone. Seemingly alien yet strangely familiar these forms feel reminiscent of any number of peculiar phenomena. Resembling anything from plants in a mythical forest to caterpillars or bacteria wriggling under a microscope, exactly what these shapes represent is a question Théophile remains largely unfazed by. “I’ve had a particular interest in plants and microorganisms,” he muses. “The work I do now comes from a frustration I’ve always had with my inability to represent reality at a satisfactory level. At first, this frustration pushed me towards more abstract and geometrical shapes and eventually led me to these organic forms which are neither real or accurate. The fun is that they can be whatever I or the viewer projects onto them.”
As a creative process, Théophile’s is unapologetically fast-paced, emphasising rapid experimentation and intuitive decision-making. Reflecting on the importance of this aspect for both him and his work, Théophile says: “After years of trying to bend to the rules of marketing, the most important thing for me now is being able to be spontaneous and satisfied with work that would otherwise be considered mere doodles. And although I make things rather quickly, at the end of the day I can be proud of my work without having gone through a million introspective processes.”
But in a saturated creative field, trusting in this explorative and instinctual process can be difficult at times. “You often feel drowned in other people’s stuff which can make it hard to work without comparing yourself to others or longing to achieve what they have,” he explains. Nevertheless, it’s an approach that Théophile sees as immensely valuable and one with which he’s determined to persist. He concludes: “I’m still experimenting, but I think I’m going in a direction that’s my own and that brings me a real satisfaction because I looked for a process I wanted to explore daily and I have fun every single day.”