Interview with Illustrator & Poster Artist Fab Gorjian

With our recently launched collaboration with artist Fab Gorjian, we thought we'd sit down with Fab to understand the thought processes and inspirations that influence his work. The three works can be seen as part of our modern art collection here: Modern Art Collection.

How would you describe your own drawing style?

I am a painter, but I feel very drawn to printmaking. Over a year of trial and error, I developed a way to paint which would display some of the key qualities of printmaking, but still remain a painting. After studying firsthand many lithographs from the early 20th Century at the V&A archives, I came to solidify what I find most beautiful in art: striking layouts, bold areas of subtly shifting colour, elimination of fussy detail, strong and defined silhouettes of people. But I also love a bit of mystery. So, I try to counter all this simple clarity with my composition, by zooming in on moments, leaving most of what's happening "off screen", and letting the viewer fill in the rest, such as with my match point illustration.

I have always appreciated that in art: being asked to use my imagination. Finally, I have learned how to incorporate what, in printmaking, would be considered "flaws", such as evidence of where the ink was rolled a bit thin, or where two sections of colour don't meet cleanly, but overlap or don't meet at all, leaving a sliver of visible paper - this is called mis-registration as seen in the images below. It is a joy to play with these effects; they are my homage to the great poster designers and lithography studios.

A lot of your illustrations feature classic tailoring, is this a style you particularly like?

Certainly. My illustrations come from my love of the old crafts which are still alive in London. It began with shoes. I'd planned to become a bespoke shoemaker, but soon realised it wasn't for me. I ended up working freelance with Cleverley's and Lobb's as a patina artist, and then with the Jaunty Flaneur, which brought me to Savile Row.

It's a truly special street, and I'm privileged to know the craftspeople and benefit from their wisdom and talent. They are always willing to help and advise. Everything I design, I try to match to their standards. I draw and re-draw every single detail of a garment until it is correct: the drape and fold of a particular cloth, the way a pattern behaves upon it, the garment's silhouette... I am extremely lucky that I get to see so much of the world's best tailoring and shoes close-up.

Where does the inspiration for your drawings come from?

There was a cartoon I obsessed over when I was a child, called Batman: The Animated Series. I thought, and still think, it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. Later I realised that they had based the designs of their characters and scenery on the graphic world of Art Deco. So, I have been drawn to this era and style for as long as I can remember.

Later, interwar advertising, specifically British travel posters, became a passion. The "posterised" style of flat colours and idyllic settings, (not lacking drama or dynamism), is something that I think appeals to many people. It makes us a little happier.

I personally believe art and design must play a large role, as part of our daily visual experience, in improving our spirits. I aim to do this, always, in my work. Another great inspiration for my ideas is elegance. It's such a powerful word, and it means so much. But, essentially, it's about simplicity, understatement, grace. It might become my life's work, trying to capture it as effectively as possible.

Are there any artists or illustrators you particularly admire or follow?

Outside of poster art, I love Japanese woodblock print designers like Utamaro and Eisho, and fine artists like Turner, Singer Sargent, Sorolla, Leighton, and Waterhouse. But among many posterists, like Fred Taylor, Andrew Johnson, Roger Broders, Cassandre, Abram Games, Cappiello, Geo Ham, Andre Marty, and many more, I would say the work and attitude of the great Tom Purvis stands out for me.

I have to stop myself constantly from imitating him, so much is his influence on me, and remember to follow my own path. The moment I first saw a lithograph up close of a poster he designed for Austin Reed is one I'll not forget. It shows a gentleman adjusting his boutonniere in a warm light, and it is breathtaking.

His travel posters are stunningly brilliant, saying so much with so little. But his work for Austin Reed must represent the height of male elegance. What I love is that he put his men in action, and let the clothes accompany, as it would be in life. Clothing is always on us, reacting to our movements, to our choices, and Tom Purvis was the first artist I found that beautifully depicted this in his work.

I toyed with this in some of my first experiments, showing just the lower-half of a man on a white background, and while I think they make good-looking images, they don't compare to a full scene; a moment where a man is raising a toast, driving a car, caught in the sun or the wind, and his garments morph and shimmer accordingly.

What drew you to collaborate on a collection with us?

It is very humbling to join the collection of amazing artists featured on Rampley & Co's illustrious squares. Rampley & Co have blazed a trail in terms of what can be done with a pocket square, and what kind of imagery can even go on one. To put fine art on cloth and then fold and ruffle it up so that only glimpses of it show is an inspired idea. It again explores what's happening "off screen". Aside from all that, it is a company with strong ethics and a passion for quality, things I strongly believe in.

The world's most famous posterist, A. M. Cassandre, once designed some pocket squares for Hermés, and example of which can be seen below. 

Originals of those have been auctioned off to significant fanfare. I guess I can conclude by saying: challenge accepted...

Fab Gorjian's three works can be seen on the following link: Modern Art Collection.