Interview: Chris Bianchi

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Digging into the local alternative arts scene, you would have come across some curiously-designed flyers that might have puzzled you, or set you on an imagination trip to a yet-unimagined world. A world made in blacks and whites, in old and new, in wicked and pleasant in lacunas and in plenty.

Born in Malta 1977, Chris Bianchi is an illustrator, subject for the eight REDWHITEmt interview. Selected as the official artist in residence for the Big Chill Festival 2011, Chris replied to our questions whilst indulging on the upcoming Bare Bones Tabloid/Magazine, produced by Le Gun Studio of which he makes part. Chris collects old photographs, books, and “a load of old junk”.

He self-published “The Spinners” 2003 and “Box” 2005. Welcome to a Macbook Pro meets iphone, illustrator who also teaches the same art. On Chris’s request we are refraining from editing his style of writing.

Your style verges into the surrealist world. What does really inspire you to create?
If you look at us from the perspective of another planet far far away we are in outer space.

What kind of satisfaction do you get in teaching illustration? What is a basic principle you want to transmit to your students?
Non didactic teaching is the way forward for me. I don’t agree with spoon feeding the students. I’m not there to tell them what to do, but encourage, push, balance, inform their ideas.

Your artworks are totally customised, including typography. Do you perceive letters as illustrations on their own?
Well it depends on the job and what the art director wants. In my own work or commissions where i need to do it all myself, i tend to play with type and make it interesting for me. I could just put it into InDesign and stick some type in but where’s the fun in doing that? I’m not a graphic designer; i think and look at type differently.

We’ve noticed you have collaborated with a number of publications. How difficult was it for you to achieve such commissions?
I usually get asked to be in publications, which never pays. It’s more of a promotional thing. I also publish a couple of magazines, which helps. Nepotism at its best.

Commissioned vs free illustrations?
When you draw for free you do what you want and you know when you are happy with something. With a client, they say when they are happy. You could be re-doing sketches 5 or 6 times sometimes, which is a nightmare, but the client has a vision and i like to see it through with them.

How close do you keep with Malta and the Maltese scene? Any project which you particularly like?
I try my best and would like to be more involved. I live in London which makes it hard but i recently organised a small exhibition in Malta promoting Bare Bones and i help with Kinemastik‘s short film festival.
I visit the Art and Design school in Malta and feed them with magazines i make; Le GUN / Bare Bones which, by the way, seem not to be appropriate for the students because there are a few drawings which display ‘the human form’ or have ‘unacceptable language’ They are kept in a seperate part of the library and students have to ask to see them! Why don’t some people in Malta grow up; this really gets to me. These Magazines are distributed world wide by major distributers and book shops and we never had this problem.

Do you think there are enough opportunities in Malta for professional creatives like you?
Not really, i’d like to think you can find an avenue for doing what i do and as times change i think its getting better. People are slightly more open. The generation coming up are the future. My fear is that the client has too much control and does not give the designer/illustrator the space to deliver their vision, so a young creative might have good ideas but after a few years in the business will lose the will to do something different, this happened to a lot of creatives of my generation who had to go overseas to do what they do best and they are now all working in leading agencies in London and beyond.
With grants and the ability for young creatives to study abroad i hope things will get better, if they ever come back at all. As for some sort of sub-culture in Malta i think it is strong and it is here where things really happen.
If only the forces give it a chance to grow, through sponsorship and engagement it could flourish into something really interesting. Instead they are taken to court for showing a Russ Meyers film or a few swear words in a university magazine.
George Orwell called it “thought crime”.

Can you tell us something about your experience while transforming the Concrete Hermit gallery to commemorate the 40 year anniversary of the first man on the moon?
It was cosmic, we came up with the idea of the queen being ruler of space we called it ‘Her Royal Cosmic Empire’ it was a bit of fun we also had a cosmic requiem mass on the last day where everyone present was sprinkled with gin instead of holy water it was slightly weird having the requiem read out by a friend dressed as a priest so we cut it short. I guess it was an homage to my catholic upbringing and Malta, being part of the empire.

In your blog Goodmorning Drawing you feature a number of illustrations produced on a daily basis. Are they an interpretation of your daily moods or experiences?
Maybe. Usually things i have on my mind or others which i recall from a good night sleep. I always draw when i wake up so i thought – why not make it a blog?
I stopped uploading images to the blog. I might just start uploading images to my current blog.

Chris graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2005 and has been living and working in London ever since. Visit Chris Bianchi here.

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