As this years category winners are announced for the World Illustration Awards, judge Tristan Manco takes some time out to talk to us about Bristol’s golden age, where in the World to see the best street art and what makes an award worthy illustration
Jonny Glover – Newham Centre for Mental Health Mural
After 2,300 entries from 64 countries, the chosen 15 winners of this years World Illsutration Awards now hang proudly in Somerset House, London. This year’s winning enteries were chosen by 24 esteemed judges including commissioners, publishers and artists. One of which, was Site Art specialist and Street Art enthusiast, Tristan Manco. A lover of illustration since his comic fuelled childhood, Tristan has kept a close eye on the evolution of Street Art since the early emergence of Banksy. With a small library of books under his belt, the WIA judge also works closely with the Mexican restaurant Wahaca to source and develop their in-store artwork. We caught Tristan on the phone as he completed his mid-afternoon chore of vacuuming the living room and asked how he found himself a life of illustration…
essential journal: Tell us a little about yourself and your career?
tristan manco: Above all I think it was a love of illustrated books and comics that got me interested in art; from 2000AD to Asterix, Tintin and other works by Continental European comic artists such as Moebius, Philipe Druillet, Joost Swarte and Miguel Angel Prado. At school I would make comics with my brother and friends to sell in the playground and later in comic stores in Bristol. This journey eventually took me to undertake a visual communication degree at Wolverhampton University. On returning to Bristol I got immersed in the club scene, making flyers, visuals, murals and T-shirts and generally getting involved in anything creative I could find. It was a golden time for Bristol, when bands and sound-systems like Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size were becoming known. With this experience I got to know the people at WOMAD festival who were looking for an in-house creative to make posters, leaflets and work on educational projects. It was a key moment, that lead to me working for WOMAD and partners Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records for the next seven years – which led to designing album covers, making animations, video and multimedia…
What makes an award winning illustration and why is it important to award illustrators and their work?
The World Illustration Awards (WIA) are particularly important for the genre, since it’s a commercial artform that doesn’t get the same recognition as other creative industries, such as graphic design, product design or animation. Yet illustration is everywhere, in advertising, interiors, book covers, gaming – in many forms too numerous to mention. Some of the UK’s best known illustrators such as Quentin Blake are national treasures but the general contribution of illustration to the creative economy gets overlooked – in part because of its ubiquity. Having judged this years WIA, it is a difficult selection process to award those most deserving – with so many factors to consider; originality, craft, aesthetics, its purpose or how a project connects with it’s audience. It can be difficult to measure projects that are vastly different against one another – in which case size and quantity are not the measures instead you have to go for quality, soul and integrity.
You work a lot with site art. What is site art and how does it differ to street art?
In part this has been an accidental career for me, as a documenter and advocate of Street Art I’ve had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of artists, many have become friends and naturally one wants to promote their work. I first had the opportunity to curate exhibitions and street art festivals whilst I was working for Pictures on Walls (Banksy’s screenprint publishers) between 2007 – 2012. This eventually led to being asked by Wahaca to help curate their site-specific art programme. Wahaca are Mexican food specialists inspired by street food and in a similar way they have always felt a synergy with street art. In part it reflects the vibrant mural art that can be found across Mexico but also the programme is open to artists across the world.My role is to suggest suitable artists for different sites, for instance some spaces might work well for an abstract painter while in other locations we have opted for three-dimensional installations. For each site we use a different artist so that every Wahaca has a unique feel. Our artists come from a street art background so they are use to adapting to different places and conditions, working with interior murals is not greatly different in that sense. Commissioned work is of course legal rather the transgressive roots of street art, but our intention is for our artists to have a free reign with their creativity – our briefs are open in that way. Wahaca began to branch out of London, including a new site in Liverpool, which was a pleasure to work on. I was able to invite Lapiztola, an artistic duo who come from Oaxaca to paint works inside and out. They work primarily with stencil art and many of their works have social themes, commenting on topics from drug cartels to workers rights – at the same time their work has a beauty and charm to it. It felt gratifying to give these artists a platform for their work and add a level of depth and authenticity to the site.
Sam Ki – Yen Town The Last Unpolluted Territory
Since 2002 you have penned eight books on street art and countless articles. How have you seen street art evolve in that time?
Street art has certainly evolved a lot in that time and it’s hard to describe its evolution concisely. I began to consciously document its rise from around 1997, when I first started to see Banksy stencils appearing in my neighbourhood in Bristol – it was very different era. Graffiti and street art in the 90s spread through magazines, videos and from what you saw when you travelled around in person. Today we experience so much of it on the internet – it wasn’t until 1994 that the first graffiti website, Art Crimes finally appeared. Media was old school, I first documented street art on slide film, there were no good affordable digital cameras then – today millions of street art images are shared via Instagram and other platforms. The internet revolutionised street art, kids from all over the world could see what others were doing – a picture of a sticker in Sao Paulo, Brazil could be seen by another street art fan in Indonesia on easy sites like Fotolog. It became a big movement amongst young kids to make posters, stickers, paint walls and do things differently to the graffiti and street art of the past. They also had new tools – access to digital applications to help make stuff that earlier generations didn’t have.
For me 1999-2004 was a golden age for street art, it felt so fresh and exciting. It was more innocent in some ways, while artists were then having exhibitions, making T-shirts etc the art market for Street Art was not yet established so the art had more of a personal passion rather than pandering to a commercial market. Among the street art pantheon Banksy has undeniably had the biggest impact on the scene – consistently pushing the goal-posts with exhibitions, pranks, experiential installations and even a blockbuster movie. His accessibility and appeal helped build a recognition of the street art movement. In my books I have charted the changes in the scene over time – in the past there were crazes for stickers and stencils, today it’s all about large scale murals and their social impact. These days Street Art has entered academia with many people choosing to study it as a topic for theoretical PhD studies – while from my very first book my interest has remained focused on the creativity within the movement. As long as it stays creative and relevant then I believe it will still continue to capture my imagination.
Where’s your favourite place, in the world, to experience street art?
It used to be Barcelona in the late 90s early 00s, I regularly hung out there – until I got to travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil – which remains my favourite city to explore and experience. I was lucky enough to visit there seven times over the years! Although I’m long overdue and another trip. Mexico City and Bogota are also fantastic places to visit for street art.
What do you have planned for the second half of 2017?
For Wahaca I’m working on a site in London with a Mexican artist this month and later in the year we’re opening up in Birmingham too. I have recently launched a new design agency, looking for new premises currently and by the end of the year I plan to revive my T-shirt business which has been dormant for a while. Staying positive and creative! EJ