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William Luz: The Shape It Makes

Work / Publication

William Luz’s new publication shows how abstract art can sometimes make sense

William Luz makes up one-third of the much loved Nous Vous Collective and has recently released a brilliant publication, The Shape It Makes. Over the past few years, William has accumulated sketchbooks full of abstract forms. These drawings usually act as the starting point for more significant projects, but the illustrator felt that they “had a quality of their own”, which he wanted to expand on. “I’d been trying a few methods to replicate the quality of coloured pencil drawings in print and risograph seemed to do that perfectly”, he tells us. “I got in touch with Tan & Loose Press to see if they’d be into putting a book out with me”.

The Shape It Makes wittily explores how text can disrupt an image. Harmonious, child-like, colourful shapes are paired pleasingly with sentences in ways that can at times be didactic, funny, charming and poetic. “I am interested in how a title or piece of accompanying text can change an image, especially a more abstracted one," the artist explains. “Adding text to an image can have the effect of adding to a visual experience by making it more cerebral."

Abstract art can often be inaccessible; if a person doesn’t understand something, it can turn them off, bore them or make them feel ignorant. When William pairs a sentence with an image, he sets minds to work — the art becomes a puzzle for the spectator to solve and you see things you wouldn’t typically before. For example, the image placed next to “the shape of a tyrannical dictator” comically morphs into the head of Donald Trump. “Humour can soften abstract work”, the illustrator tells It’s Nice That. “It can make it feel a bit more human, less cold and reserved”.

Unusually, William did not create the images in response to the text but instead worked out what descriptions best matched the drawings, highlighting how abstract work can have a variety of meanings. The book intends to help people read this genre of art. He explains, it shows how abstract art "can be whatever you want it to be and it gently encourages a more playful and curious engagement with our visual world”.

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William Luz: The Shape It Makes