With the occasion of the London Design Festival, this year Chrom-Art presented ‘Twisted Lines’, a solo exhibition by Jacinto Caetano at RB12 design space in Shoreditch, London. We met Jacinto (JC) at the buzzing launch party last 18th September. The show runs until the 24th October; you are still on time to check the show everyone is talking about.
Chrom-Art co-founder Jacinto Caetano is a popular London based graphic designer and visual artist with a passion for photography and architecture and a solid and successful career in concept development and art direction in the world of advertising. His work became instantly recognisable since the re-branding of the London cycle hire scheme (Santander Cycles) otherwise known as ‘Boris Bikes’, where he created innovative designs of London’s most representative landmarks now featured on all 11,000 bikes. This project was about identifying graphically these buildings and make them look as striking as possible. Caetano developed his own technique to make 2D drawings look like 3D objects coming to life. This was the foundation for ‘Twisted Lines’.
Caetano’s true love for architecture is reflected in this exhibition through unique depictions of London and other international iconic landmarks. Twisted Lines is, so, the result of his restless life and his passion for the cities and their buildings all around the World. Caetano’s inclination towards design and visual arts started when he was a kid, obsessed with changing everything around him; he says “from moving round furniture in my bedroom to renewing the covers of textbooks. Basically, if it existed, I had to change it”.
In 2002, Caetano started studying a couple graphic design short-courses in his natal city of Seville and by 2004 he had become Art Director in a young communication agency in Seville called La Fábrica. After taking some time to travel around the world and living in Saudi Arabia, Caetano returns to graphic design in 2009 and enrols two years later in a top design school in Barcelona, ELISAVA. That same year starts a huge project decorating a store in North Miami. In 2013, after being in south Florida for a while he moves to London and joins the prestigious advertising agency WCRS, and his professional prestige climbs to new levels, especially after his designs and concept feature the Santander bikes campaign. Highly recognisable all over London, the red bikes show very sleek silhouettes of the main landmarks in the capital.
Other big successes so far have been the #NOFILTER and LoveHappensHere campaigns for Pride in London, wonderful messages with a freedom-filled ethos delivered by well-known advocates like Ian McKellen and Graham Norton and shared thousands of times in social media.
‘Twisted Lines’ not only has your latest works but it is also a recollection of some significant previous pieces belonging to other artistic periods. Do you have a favourite?
Here it is that question about choosing one… tricky thing! 😅 I would say all of them are really my favourite ones as every single one has a story behind.
Like the Centre Point Building, where I took my mum and my two sisters on our first ever trip together atop the now-closed Paramount Cocktail Bar the same exact day I presented the shots that showed the Chrom-Art logo would work perfectly over any background in my ‘Behind the Logo’ little show. It’s also one of the buildings created for the ‘Gates of Soho’ proposal of design for the hoardings at the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station I am working at the moment.Or like OXO Tower, not only one of my favourite buildings in the world for its creative way to advertise their brand through the windows in spite of the City of London rules of no visible advertising back in the 20s but also for being the venue where run with my Chrom-Art colleagues last year the international art fair TRIBE, as well as being there where I first launched the Twisted Lines series.
But this is the first time I have a solo show out in public even if it’s not a gallery, so I tailor-made it to the space to make it a great experience for the visitor. Although to not to look very busy just with the same creations, I used my old Schizophonographics–or crazy photos taken with my phone–in the show, as they are really very related with the first ones: these are buildings made out of lines, even if these lines are blurry lights taken with a phone camera.
I have to say I choose the buildings because of their meaning to me, the ones I have full stories to tell about. It would be pointless to create an artwork of a building I’ve never been at. So coming back to your question, as I said before, all of them would be my election.
Although with no hesitate, my favourite of all Twisted Lines series will always be the Shard as it’s the very first building I designed, part of the project for the Santander Cycles, where I created just through lines a striking, eye-catchy way to represent a collection of 12 landmarks that would be part of the new sponsorship look, making the bikes feel more Londoner (that was the brief). But sorry, the Shard is not for sale, you would need to ask Santander for permissions if you really want it! Although I think it’s better to wait until I do a re-edition some day…
‘Twisted Lines’ represents then an evolution of the concept you created for the famous Boris Bikes campaigns, right? What are the main features you have incorporated since then?
Well, it is indeed an evolution but to reply your question it doesn’t to be honest: the concept is still the same. Basically a different way to represent the discipline I’ve always wanted to study and I was obsessed for, the architecture, until I realised my ADD (attention deficit disorder) wouldn’t let me study six or more long, tough years of physics and all that stuff. It’s then when I became the self-learner I am today and started to develop a future as a visual artist and designer.
And yet the process is still the same too: first of all, I need to think what’s the best side of the building to be the one or which is the one I have most interest to do (like in Sagrada Familia, where my favourite side has always been the Passion Gate). Then, I need to analyse its perspective as I always tend to show them on their front as, at the end of the day, they are “portraits of architecture” and, like any other portrait, you must show their best side.
Then I go and take pictures of it, and google some others in high resolution to be able to see how their shapes work. Most probably I’ll have to do is to look for the original plans of the building, as the photos you can find of them are never perfectly focused, rarely high resolution, they are lens distorted, or are not frontal shots. So I need to use the plans as a base to build a sketch I can follow and then, start drawing the lines that will define the main profiles. The one to the left will be the thinnest and the one to the right, the thickest. That’s the norm and this is the way I make the illustrations look like 3D as the thicker lines, when closer to each other, blend together on a white shape so it looks like the sun light is reflecting and so, the magic happens.
In addition, I still keep the A1 size (as it’s the perfect canvas size to look at them and perceive their details, and I’m still printing only 10 of each so they’re in a limited edition basis) and A3, in an unlimited edition. The only things that have changed are the new formats I started to use (larger formats to appreciate even better the lines), and also new materials where to print them at, like leather skin.
Working with new materials such as leather is the result of collaborations with the design and fashion industries in your natal Spain. How this collaborations came about? Where do you see these taking you in the near future?
I’ll have to tell you a secret then! At the moment I’m creating a leather goods brand. I recently partnered with Caro Caralt, a stunning fashion designer from Barcelona, and with Javier Gallego, the CEO of MOVEX, the Centre of Technology and Innovation of Leather in Ubrique, south Spain, a small village very well-known for its tradition on the manufacturing and crafting with leather. I’m afraid I can’t reveal anything else about the project, but the fact of having my flat fulfilled with plenty of pieces of leather of different sizes, colours, textures and thicknesses is been definitely key for this show.
The thing about printing on leather has been in my head for quite a while. I might have seen a few things within these last years that have been brought to this project, I reckon. I’ve always admired Assaad Awad, a very good designer and friend I made when I was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, back in 2008. He’s got his own brand now and it’s based in Madrid, where he works in his workshop. He’s amazingly creative and has even designed jewellery for Madonna shows and Lady Gaga videos.
Another influence I’ve had for sure are the guys from TODOMUTA. I met Laura and Sergio a few years ago at their lovely studio in Seville and they showed me some patterns they were printing on paper and some of their product designs with leather: very inspiring and motivating at the same time. Their work is really conceptual, we will work together soon. I hope.
But definitely the work that has influenced me the most this time was a piece of art by my ex-partner Jon Castizo. It was an abstract screen-print on leather. I remember that week in Estampa Madrid in 2001 as if it was yesterday. Thanks, Jon. RIP.
In the next months I want to start experiencing the print on different new materials, like transparent vinyls and fabric. They might go backlighted? Who knows.
You are also a well known creative professional in London’s advertising industry. What opportunities this creates for your pure artistic side?
Am I? (blush) I wish! 😂
What I would say is I’m lucky enough to be part of WCRS, an agency that produces a great work providing it always with a very human side. We have worked with a lot of pro-bono clients and charities, like Pride in London where I’ve had the honour of being the Lead Designer on their two biggest campaigns, having total freedom in terms of linking creativity with art, like collaborating with graffiti artists at the #NOFILTER manifesto video. Seeing your LoveHappensHere logo coming to life in a billboard in London Stratford or even spreading love in Times Square gives you a splash that instantly pushes you to keep creating. I can tell.
I’m very lucky to be surrounded by great designers and creatives in my agency, what it’s great too, it keeps you going. But honestly, I can’t thank enough to the management team in WCRS for being able to provide me always with a ‘yes, do it’ on almost every single request I’ve made. Since the very beginning they have always fully trusted me and empowered my talent, bringing it to the next level. Even when my English was still amazingly poor.
It is there where I managed to create the one I consider my first show in London ‘Life is a Journey’ where I put together a collection of the best shots I took on board when I worked as a flight attendant, looking like they were plane windows. And it is there as well where I presented the identity for Chrom-Art, as part of the branding project ‘Behind the logo’, where in collaboration with photographer Eduard Mill I showed how the new logo could work over any background, trying to be the more flexible possible as a placeholder where all kinds of art would happen.
I can see you have a lot of meaning behind every single artwork and, generally, every single project you do or get involved with. So tell me then, which is your favourite piece of art along everything you’ve done until now?
Is this a revenge after the first question? Haha. Ok, here it goes: trying to not to seem very transcendent I’ll say my favourite piece of work is and always be the next one to do. The effort to make it happen, starting with the chats with your friends trying to explain your ideas, following by the hours and hours spent online trying to find out what’s the best way to do them and getting enough information to feed the concept, and finishing with the compilation of details put in action to make the show happen in the best way possible, without forgetting the riffraffs with the people involved on resourcing/production, and of course, not leaving behind the fact of you being able to tell the viewers exactly what you want to tell.
Each project you do is different from the other, but they all feel part of your self you, and this is one of the more–for not saying the most–exciting things in the world of art. Fingers crossed to have plenty of time (and money) to be able to create the best of my projects. The best of myself.
Until then, let’s just enjoy the journey.
To find out more about Jacinto Caetano’s work, visit his portfolio at jacintocaetano.com.
Come see the show at RB12 Showroom in the new Shoreditch Village
6 King John Court – London EC2A 3EZ (right below the Citizen M hotel, entrance by the pedestrian square).