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Since the first art toys appeared in the 1990s, the popularity and demand of urban designer toys has not stopped growing. Artists coming from the anime/manga, animation and graffiti arenas are consistently crossing from lowbrow to highbrow art, with frequent exhibitions and shows is the most prestigious contemporary art museums and fairs. Takashi Murakami, KAWS, and to a certain extent, Koons, are leading by example on how to be investment grade art whilst boasting your popularity with luxury global brands and social media.
Even the toy industry is split, as the growing category of collectible figures with multi zero price tags made by manufacturers like Kidrobot, that leans toward calling them art, are still referred as toys by its leading competitor, Funko. No matter how such art toys are labeled, consumer demand has made the sector a booming business. Sales of all collectible toys surged 33 percent in 2016, and again last year they have been a leader of growth in the toy industry, The global collectibles market grew by 14 percent to $3.9 billion in 2017, according to the NPD Group.
There is a new kid on the block for whom making toys is no game but a very deep rooted passion. His name is Luaiso Lopez and he brings a fresh outlook, polished craftsmanship and a range of characters, some new, some reinvented, that are lit with special souls that make them alive and instantly loveable. One of the reasons of this likeability is the frequent relatedness to our own feelings and states of mind. Whether you are going through the motions of the daily grinding routines like a Zombie Mario, or feeling under strain like Anxious Mickey. one can feel comforted by the shared vulnerability of these sculptures, that at the same time glow with optimism and vitality.
Luaiso Lopez is as much image making as storytelling. As the examples from the ‘Imperfect Symbiosis’ project show below, his digital illustration work, accompanied by his own prose, has a much darker and introspective narrative, attuned to Lopez’s internal creative universe of endless possibilities. This is what makes us so excited about Luaiso Lopez, the anticipation of what he could become.
Due to difficulties in school and social adaptation, Lopez spent much of his childhood taking refuge in the drawing, eventually he studied graphic design and became a professional in illustration and self-publishing.
He started in 2008 as a freelance with works such as covers of books or albums, getting published in several magazines and collaborating with well-known fashion photographers that got him interested in photography. In 2011 he won the Contemporary Art Contest of Alicante (Spain), successfully exhibiting a mixed illustration and photography project, which he later used to explore his narrative facet.
Throughout 2014 he developed self-taught sculpture skills, drawn by the culture of Art Toys. Key creations of this period are a collection of figures for the fashion designer Maria Escoté and the making of a giant sculpture of actor Tyrion Lannister’s head commissioned by Vice magazine for the renowned Sonar and Primavera Sound music festivals in 2016.
In 2017 he took part of an exhibition at the TOPIC Puppet Museum organised by the Art Toy Gama collective together with a large number of artists from the current Art Toys scene. Lopez also begun a collaboration with Pobber Toys in the production of a limited series of his popular piece Mario Zombie, which has just been presented at the Singapore Toy Show this year.
Inspired by pop, freak and his introspective travels, Luaiso Lopez creates a universe halfway between fantasy and reality, exploring the possibilities of illustration, narrative, and sculpture.
How did your artistic life begin? Who supports you more in pursuing your projects?
I think that my artistic life began at a very young age, I did not have very good social skills and I preferred to stay at home using my fantasies as a place of refuge.
My relationship with art is strongly marked by the countercurrent path that I have always taken. Being abstracted drawing at school was not well seen by the people around me, so I can say that despite the doubts, I always relied on myself.
How would you define your art?
I find it very difficult to define my art as if it were an object, I do not like to limit myself, it varies according to what I want to do at each moment. If we talk about recurrent visual styles you can see clear references to Western animation or Japanese anime, the graffiti culture of the 2000 also marked me a lot.
Does your work have a special message?
Each work to a greater or lesser extent tells a story, sometimes it can be something that worries me or turns me in the head. They can also be ideas that I need to capture in some way to see them with perspective. There is no defined message, it is rather what I find interesting to share the conversations I have with myself.
Where do you get inspiration from?
Most times the inspiration comes from a need, the need to express myself, I love the feeling of flowing with what I want to tell and really some wonderful things come out. On the other hand, sometimes I find myself working with little inspiration and without motivation, especially when I have to monetize my work.
In your work of digital illustration, what comes first, the image or the story? Is each image a different story or are they all parts of a common narrative?
First the image and then the story. Let’s say that the process is: thought, idea, visual image of the idea, and from there simulate a story in that context.
They are not linked directly, because each part of a different context, but they are all in one way or another own experiences so they are part of the same.
Tell us about the creative process in your sculptures, from the idea to the finalisation.
When a thought takes relevance in my head it is automatically looking for an escape, there comes a time when something inspires me, an idea occurs to me and I think: this may look good, I get excited and I start working, I draw a sketch and then I start to build while I’m working out the way that I think is the best way to carry it out. Sometimes halfway the idea changes, evolves. It also happens to me that once started later they do not seem so interesting to me, and I am left halfway.
How do you communicate with your fans and followers, and make your work known?
I work mostly with Instagram, it’s super direct and you can access a lot of people.
How would you define your regular collector / follower?
There is no specific type, but they have in common that they look for something different and special.
What are you working on now?
My idea is to continue with the series of Zombie Mario, I will also develop the universe of Mr. Pastanaga. On the other hand I would like to edit a book of stories with digital illustrations.
What are your artistic plans for the future?
I have no plans, art for me is a need that inevitably appears in my life, I guess I will continue creating while I still have things to tell.
Follow Luaiso Lopez in Instagram!