Rob ‘Supermundane’ Lowe’s output is truly prodigious, whether through his work as a graphic artist, art director (he helped create Anorak magazine and worked on Sleaze Nation, among others) or typographer. Rob’s enigmatic, organic drawings are in constant demand around the world, whether through his recent Details Exhibition at the Kemistry Gallery, or commission to create a unique cover for Wallpaper magazine. Despite this hectic schedule, Rob has still found time to create a signature piece for our exhibition in Newquay. We caught up him in the run up to the show to ask him some questions about his work.
Your work comprises a range of styles – graphics, cartoon, abstract, ink blots. How would you describe it to someone whose never seen a Supermundane piece?
I generally just show people my work as it’s a lot easier than describing it, but some words that could describe it are: mesmeric, optimistic, melancholic, movement, growth, human and sometimes humorous. Although my work covers various approaches I think there is a way of working and seeing the world than runs through it all. I’m very much interested in what it is to be human and how we view the world internally and externally.
Who were your early influences?
My very earliest influences were the albums covers of the heavy metal bands I loved in the early 80s and all the art that went along with that, mainly fantasy art.
I was also a fan of Monty Python so I guess Terry Gillam’s animation crept in to my brain as well.
At art school (I studied graphic design) my favourites were Paul Rand, Alan Fletcher, Herb Lubalin, Ed Fella.
What’s your most prestigious achievement as an artist?
I don’t really think of what I do in terms of prestige but I always wanted to do a Penguin book cover and I recently was asked to do one as part their Penguin Essentials artist covers.
I did The Diary of a Nobody. I also recently had a solo exhibition (as Rob Lowe) at the Kemistry gallery in London, which is a place I’ve always want to exhibit.
Do you own anything by other artists? And if not, whose art would you love to have?
I don’t own any originals but I have a Max Bill screenprint that I really love and several other prints: Mike Mills, Simon Peplow, Marcus Walters, Matthew the Horse.
If I could own any originals a Max Bill painting would be a dream to own but that will always be a dream.
Can you describe the piece you’ve done for the Newquay show?
My piece for the show is a signature Supermundane piece. These are always unplanned and are made in a very organic way, reacting to the lines I make and allowing these lines to dictate the way the piece develops. I continue to work on the piece until I’m happy with the overall composition. The way I draw my lines also brings to mind waves ( although they are not ) which seems to fit very much into what this festival is about.
What would you like people to think when they look at it?
I don’t have anything specific that I want people to think, more that they get lost in the way the lines work and flow together. Often people see things in the shapes (fish, birds, waves, monsters) but really it’s about how the lines work together that I am interested in and the visual effect that is produced just through the simple use of lines. The more you look at it the more depth seems to appear.
What inspired it?
This way of working has developed over many years and it comes from early drawings in my sketchbooks. Often people say it looks Japanese (in fact I was told once that by someone that they thought I was a Japanese girl) but it’s just coincidental.
What other projects do you have on the go? Where might we see more of your work?
I’m currently working with the V&A on their Friday Late promotion, which is fun as they want it to have very a Supermundane look. It’s a year long project so it will be interesting to see where it leads.
I have been working on a new personal project called “It was you that made me” which is a very colourful look at our need to produce gods. I have a zine of monoprints out with Nieves, which is a more overtly dark than my usual stuff. I also design a quarterly food magazine called Fire & Knives which allows me to go a bit mad with hand-lettering, which is another one of my loves.