Every Gamer Should Read: Geek-Art: an Anthology & Geek-Art: Pop Culture Now
You can’t spend 24 hours a day lobbing incendiary grenades at terrorists in CS:GO or waiting in vain for Fortnite’s long-delayed Season 3 to finally start. You’ve got to sleep, for one thing, not to mention eat—and no, chasing a fistful of Flintstones Gummies with a can of Monster Assault does not count as a meal. Reading is optional, of course, but if you can tear your eyes away from the screen for a few minutes, you’ll find that there are some pretty great books out there that even the most die-hard gamer can appreciate, covering topics from the history of video games to the bleeding edge of ESports.
This week’s picks:
Thomas Olivri runs the website Geek-Art.net and has to date published four anthologies of work by artists who draw inspiration from the realms of video games, anime, and fantasy movies. (The books were first published in French and subsequently translated into English.) Let’s focus on the first two.
In his introduction to this first anthology, Olivri makes a passionate case that Geek-Art (which he invariably capitalizes and styles with a hyphen) is related to but distinct from pop art and street art. The basis of Geek-Art is, he argues, fan art.
As soon as they were able to use a pencil or computer mouse, this generation of illustrators and graphic designers were inspired to draw their idols, whether it was He-Man, Super Mario, or Darth Vader. Artists have always created works inspired by the popular culture around them. For centuries, the primary source of inspirations for Western artists was religion—the Egyptian, Greek, or Roman pantheons, the Old or New Testament—as well as ancient and contemporary folk tales, legends, myths, and heroes.
Today, these heroes are named Mario, Ripley, Luke Skywalker, Link, and Peter Venkman. Geekdom is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, a bottomless well of references, heroes, mythical objects, memorable scenes, and consuming passions. Pop culture today has its origins in artists who spent their childhoods with joystick in hand, in the arcade or watching VHS cassettes, or poring over the work of their favorite science fiction authors.
If Geek-Art: An Anthology proves one thing, it’s that the artists featured draw inspiration from far beyond the edges of modern pop culture. Steve Bialik, for example, reimagines scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy in the style of 18th-century Japanese woodblock prints. As Olivri notes, this makes perfect sense given George Lucas’s debt to classic samurai films.
Just as eager at mashing together disparate elements is Jonathan Koshi. He draws Mario, Pac-Man, and others as Day of the Dead–style sugar skulls. Ditto Murat Palta, who uses the format of the Islamic miniature to depict scenes from A Clockwork Orange and Inception.
For a little fun, check out the two-page spread of headshots by Robert Ball, featuring his works Fifty Baddies and Fifty Goodies. Recognize them all? Congratulations—you’re a geek. (I mean that in a good way.)
The second volume of the series helps cement the notion that there are really no boundaries to the creativity of those who work within the sphere of Geek-Art.
Matthew Olin, for example, creates portraits of superheroes. He does so using only typographical elements, half-tone dots, and a few well-placed spots of colour.
Victoria Mercer incorporates even more of the written word. Her “Don’t be shy” is a three-dimensional portrait of The Hobbit‘s dragon Smaug. The piece is constructed entirely out of pages of the book itself.
Beyond an eagerness to play with form, what ties Geek-Art practitioners together is a healthy irreverence for their subject matter. It’s an irreverence that could really only be rooted in a deep love of and nostalgia for pop-cultural totems.
France’s Soasig Chamaillard is irreverent in more than one way. Her series of statuettes portraying the Virgin Mary includes one (“Hello Mary”) with the head of Hello Kitty. In another, the figure of a beatific Pikachu clutching a Poké Ball stands in for the infant Jesus.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what Chamaillard is trying to say with that one. It is fun to look at, though. And in the end, isn’t that what Geek-Art is really all about after all?
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