There’s nothing more frightening than staring at a blank piece of paper. Ask any creative, it’s a damning process. Interestingly, some of the smartest and most creative people are also the most doubtful. Perhaps this is because of the over-sensibility that comes with being attuned to the hidden variables that make a product, melody or design so great. Whatever the case, it makes work extra difficult when it comes to crunch time. Now take that anxiety and couple it with working alongside another mind in achieving the same mark, and many times it can be disastrous.
Berlin-based artist duo Zebu revels in this process. Made up of members Lynn and Dennis, Zebu creates a variety of work that spans murals and installations to traditional paint on canvas. Incorporating a look and feel that connotes the visual essence of the legendary Joan Miró, Zebu’s Jazz-like colors and compositions provide a much-needed smile in today’s crazy world.
I hopped on a chat with Lynn and Dennis to see the trials and rewards of working together.
How did you two meet and when did your art practice begin?
We both have our roots in graffiti and urban art culture. We met there around 2007 and started to work together. First, it was just painting next to each other, then small collaborations that eventually led us to work on a piece together. It was a process and it all came quite naturally over the years. With attending art school we drifted more and more into art and design and in 2015 we decided to form ZEBU as a studio to work together in these fields.
Art is such a personal affair, where dealing with figuring out how to express yourself is more than enough to handle. How is the artistic process like when working together?
We work well together as we do on anything else. We sketch together, compose the composition together and discuss the colorings together. Of course, at certain points of the work, the tasks are split up. However, the image-ideas and forms are always created together. There are hardly any projects we work on individually. Cooperation has many advantages for us. We can inspire and motivate each other. One person can pick up the train of thought or the line of the other and continue it. This way we are able to create a visual language which we could hardly archive individually.
Your whimsical figures, coupled with the harmonious choices in color evoke a very cheerful feeling that is a much-needed break from the craziness that surrounds our everyday lives. What is your process at achieving this end?
We are both people who like to structure things. You could say we are both very tidy (maybe a bit too much). We guess this need to structure things is articulating in our work by the need to create clear compositions, use bold colors and reduce the shapes of figures and objects to their essence.
For many of us, social media is the number one agent when it comes to procrastination. I’ve read that your past installation, “Procrastination”, encourages the act of drifting off rather than shunning it. What were your motives behind this concept?
The installation “Procrastination“ was a project on one of Berlin’s subway stations at the Vitrine01. In the busy environment of the subway, where people are rushing from one point to the other, we created a shrine which was celebrating the act of procrastination. The possibility of dealing with the installation should give the people the opportunity to take a break from their daily lives and explore something out of their bubble.
Graffiti was a big inspiration for the both of you, which in a way has translated in the many murals and public installations you continue to work on. What is it about working on the walls of the city that differ from working in your studio? Do you have a preference between the two?
What we like about working on walls is that you have the opportunity to present your work to a big variety of people. This gives you the chance to inspire people who would maybe never go into galleries or look into designy books. Also working on a mural is a welcome variety to the daily illustrator-life in the studio. While working on a mural we really enjoy to work on other dimensions and not being limited to small formats.
You’ve stated that nature and daily life inspires your work. Are there any moments or places in particular that you return to for inspiration?
There are no particular places we return to for inspiration. But simply taking a walk, no matter where, is often the thing to do when we get stuck in the creative process. Distance gives you the chance to look at your work in a different way and maybe you will discover the shape, idea or color combination by accident for which you were looking for hours on the drawing desk.
What has been your favorite amongst the projects you’ve worked on?
In 2016 we collaborated with the label ZUCZUG on a fashion and stationery collection for the Chinese new year. We went to Shanghai and Beijing and worked together with their design them. It was a fantastic exchange and it was super exciting to see how our work got interpreted into fashion.
But we also try to save about 50% of our time for our own projects, like zines, paintings, murals, exhibitions etc. These things give us the chance to experiment, develop our artistic expression, expand our visual vocabulary and also allow us to fail.
Is there a medium you prefer over others and what type of work do you both plan to dabble in the future?
We like to work with various mediums, the diversity during the work process is quite important to us. But at the beginning of every project is always a pencil.
For the future, we would love to get the chance to create a mosaic one day. It would be a super interesting thing we would like to experience.
Your work is all over Europe, but can we come to expect some in other parts of the world, such as the United States?
Traveling is a big and important part of our work. We always love to visit new places and source inspiration out of these trips. Last year we had the chance to work in Mexico and China, maybe 2019 will bring us also to the United States.
For more form Zebu, follow them on Instagram.