Viktor Hachmang’s Bookshelf is “a physical database of obsession”

24 July 2019

Illustrator and comics artist Viktor Hachmang never fails to please with his beautifully intricate illustrations. From Migrant Journal to page after page of visual delights in his own publications, The Hague-based artist’s graphic work is inspired by a myriad of intriguing influences, from traditional tools to Japanese woodblock prints.

For Viktor, “choosing a run-down of my favourite books is no easy feat.” Luckily for us, we are treated to a dive into some of the illustrator’s most prized possessions; from his precious printed objects to those publications he returns to time and time again for a thorough leaf-through. Old and new, Viktor takes us on a tour of the comics that have influenced him since childhood, and some contemporary books to boot, too.

A couple of years ago, Viktor endeavoured on the task of designing a bespoke bookshelf for his studio. It functions as a visual and textual depository for “all the things I’ve been interested in since the start of my career,” explains the designer. “It’s a physical database of my obsession,” Viktor says of the importance of this custom designed shelf; “It is simply an indispensable part of my process! When I’m stumped for ideas, there’s nothing like picking a random book from your shelf to see if there’s something to spark up some inspiration – something that’s very hard to do on the internet.”

Tadanori Yokoo: The Complete Tadanori Yokoo

Though I’m currently in the beautiful porcelain town of Arita, Saga Prefecture in Japan, I am beaming my bookshelf to you through the magical powers of New Media. Here, the genius of Tadanori Yokoo looms large over me. Is there anything in both high and low Japanese culture that his sticky fingers haven’t touched? The dexterity with which he moulds seemingly innocuous elements – whether they’re photographs, matchboxes, tin can labels, snippets from ukiyo-e prints or even own drawings and paintings – his powerful and humorous graphic designs are simply astonishing.

I love the bawdiness of this hefty 1970’s tome. It’s a catalogue raisonné that arrived surprisingly early in his career; the arrogance of youth. It comprises of his works up to that point, complete with reference materials and preparatory sketches and even a full-on glamour shoot of a young Yokoo, fashioning himself as Japan’s answer to Andy Warhol. But Yokoo is so much more: apart from being the enfant terrible of Japanese design well into his eighties now, first and foremost, he’s a true craftsman.

Kiyoshi Awazu: Awazu Scrapbook

Without Awazu, there might have never been a Yokoo to begin with. Kiyoshi Awazu lay down the territory. Affiliated with the Metabolist architecture movement, and as poster and title designer to Japanese New Wave cinema directors, Awazu worked in-between the then-fluid fields of avant-garde arts. At first glances, the Awazu Scrapbook might look similar to The Complete Tadanori Yokoo as it’s identical in format and uses largely the same concept. But the simple crimson on cardboard bric-a-brac lettering points to a slightly different aesthetic; here Yokoo’s big-city glam is exchanged for Awazu’s much simpler, more rural approach. Classic Japanese pop design with a slightly earthy undertone!

Fortunato Depero (et al.): Depero Futurista 1913–1950

It’s mind-boggling how artist-designer Fortunato Depero has managed to stay a somewhat minor figure in the arts outside his native Italy. Sure, he was affiliated with the politically dubious Futurist movement, but the things he did were very striking and still look fresh to this day! Depero is an Art Deco Gepett, obsessively creating toy-like mannequins – Pinocchios for the Machine Age! Next to that he also designed children’s furniture, romantic faux-naive tapestries and, most surprisingly, modern day glo posters and logos. His biggest claim to fame: the Campari bottle!

Gerda Breuer & Isabel Fargo Cole: Wilhelm Deffke: Pioneer of the Modern Logo

Another one of those politically dubious characters is Wilhelm Deffke. Because of his connection with the German National-Socialist Party during the 1930s, his name has been largely forgotten. The legacy of his graphic design lives on though in the guise of one of his best known marks, the Zwilling icon, or in some of the most famous corporate design logotypes that have been affected by his influence. His obsession with clarity and readability, reducing a figurative motif to its bare minimum, still feels completely fresh in this day and age (though it might smell a bit funny, considering his political leanings).

Edgar P. Jacobs: Blake & Mortimer, Het Gele Teken (The Yellow “M”)

Choosing between Hergé’s Tintin and his former assistant Edgar P. Jacobs’s Blake & Mortimer is a recurring dilemma in my life. Having been brought up on these Franco-Belgian classics, it’s hard to take a pick. But Jacobs’s The Yellow “M” is one hell of a comic book! Set in mid-century London, this book has the feel of an Agatha Christie crime novel. The plot may be ludicrous and convoluted, but it’s an incredibly satisfying read. Rarely has a comic been produced with such an immaculate vision. Also, Jacobs was notorious for altering panels long after publication, sometimes even years after the initial print!

Yuichi Yokoyama: Color Engineering

Yuichi Yokoyama is without a doubt among the most original and interesting comics artists working today. His output never ceases to disappoint! Yokoyama’s world is inhabited by Schlemmer-esque figures in fantastical outfits, traversing geometric landscapes full of interesting scenes and sounds. As the title points out, the colours in this book are great, working with sickly sweet pastels and acidic pinks, cyans and yellows. These Neo Manga, as the artist likes to call them, aren’t stories as such – they’re simply registrations of events in Yokoyama Land.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

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.

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