Austrian graphic designer and artist, Andreas Scheiger, has a saying on his blog: Life is a bad game but at least the graphic rocks, which I’m suspecting sounds better in German but is a wonderful mantra whether you’re creative or not. It is certainly one from which he lives by, creating thought-provoking, out-of-the-square artworks. A graphic designer by profession, he has always drawn, painted, sculpted and now, with his works, ‘aspires to create a visual impact by simplifying a complex concept’.
Take his ‘Evolution of Type’ pieces which are, he says, ‘inspired by The Alphabet and Elements of Lettering book by the pioneering and vastly prolific American type designer Frederic W. Goudy … who believed that letters were a record of man’s history and development, and that each possessed an essential and organic form’. Andreas rescues vintages letters and morphs them into anatomical specimens. They definitely have a strong whiff of Victorian science about them!
Then there’s his corrugated cardboard portraits that are eerily lifelike and change their appearance according to the light and his ‘Upcycle Fetish’ works which are inspired by Picasso’s bicycle bull’s head art from the 40s. Andreas turns old bicycle parts into’taxidermy’ wall art that also double up as bike racks and various types of hangers. Genius!
I tore Andreas away from his handlebars to find out more about him and his work …
How do you juggle your graphic design work with your art?
Graphic design is my home base. I could not live without it even if I could not make a living out of it. But I also love to tinker and I enjoy experimenting with materials. Hence my objects drift towards graphic design, I think.
Tell us about your Upcycled Fetish work. Where did the idea come from, what inspired you and how did you go about creating them?
I love vintage racing bicycles and I own a couple of them. When I came across Pablo Picasso’s “cabeza de toro” [a ‘bull’s head’ made from a rusty bike’s handlebars and seat he found on the road] that shook the art scene in 1942, I thought: That´s cool, I could do that with leftover bicycle parts. And maybe it can serve as a bicycle hanger?
I started collecting discarded seats, stems and handlebars from dumps, scrap dealers and used bike workshops. I cleaned the parts from decades of dirt and rust. I invested in a Bosch router and learned how to mill the mounting plate from wood leftovers. Screws, nuts and bolts, bails – again it was about experimenting and trial and error. With each handlebar and each saddle being of different shape and fitting there was no routine procedure. Originally I planned to build bicycle hangers but not all of the stems and handlebars were suited for this. While working with the old bicycle parts I imagined the history of it and its previous owner. I was fascinated by the variety of seat/handlebar combinations and in the end I created 25 individual “Upcycle Fetishes”.
You live in Vienna – how does the city influence what you do and is it a source of inspiration?
In Vienna I am surrounded by history and culture. In the past decade Vienna has become popular among students from all over Europe, which adds a buzz to the modern Vienna with its pop-up galleries and stores. I think the average Viennese has a love affair with the past, you will find antique stores and flea markets all over town. These are great sources of inspiration.
Your “Evolution of Type” works are inspired by the Victorian era. Can you tell us more about this, and tell us what, or who, else inspires and motivates you?
“Evolution of Type” was inspired by a quote of the famous typographer Frederic W. Goudy: “Of all the achievements of the human mind, the birth of the alphabet is the most momentous”. Immediately the picture of a living letter formed in my head. It seems to me that much more care and dedication was given to forming and arranging letters in the Victorian age. And more: A printed letter had its material parent in the form of a metal or wood type. Printers used to price their prints by numbers of letters and typefaces used. With desktop publishing this esteem for letters has declined. Not with professionals but in everyday life, such as shop signs, business cards etc.
There is a large number of artists whom I admire: Brian Dettmer, Greg Lamarche, Nick Dewar, Jeff Meadows. They come from different angles of art and design and if I was forced to state the common denominator I would say, their work involves putting new life into old visual ramblings. I am motivated by people who put love, care and knowledge into their work.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment?
When I realised that more and more beautifully built letters vanish from old store fronts, I planned to rescue as many as I could. But then I found out – ‘who’d have thought?’- there is a museum devoted to preserving and documenting letter forms, the Buchstaben Museum in Berlin. Wonderful.
Have you got any new projects or ideas you’re working on?
Too many! I want to continue upcycling and I plan to stretch “Evolution of Type” – lots of experimenting with material involved here.
Thanks Andreas! And if you wish to see more of his work or even buy your own Upcycle Fetish piece, visit him here.