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Artwork by Viktor Hachmang, for VA/BF 2014 Artist Postcard Series

Q&A: Viktor Hachmang, (The Netherlands)

by Sarah Davidson

Viktor Hachmang is an illustrator and designer based in The Hague (The Netherlands). His work is a striking blend of the angularity and electric lines found in new wave graphic design, psychedelia’s acidic color scheme and the expert draftsmanship of the European Clear Line tradition of comics. He designed one of the postcards in this year’s VA/BF 2014 artist postcard series (co-published by Project Space Press and Paper Pusher), working from an earlier design created for VA/BF 2014 presenter Landfill Editions.

Project Space: How did you end up getting involved in the Vancouver Art/Book Fair?

Viktor Hachmang: I got involved through Hugh Frost of Landfill Editions [a presenter at VA/BF 2014]. I’ve worked with him on many occasions, actually; he’s always trying to get me involved. I think I’ve done most of my best work with Hugh. The design for the postcard is actually a design for a ceramic plate, which was produced by Landfill Editions.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.50.41 AMViktor Hachmang plate for Landfill Editions

VABF postcardsVA/BF 2014 Artist Postcard Series

PS: The postcard is a risograph printsomething you do a lot of. Can you tell me how you arrived at using that technology?

VH: I actually bought my own machine a few years ago, just to be able to do my own small prints. It’s not the most accessible technology, and it’s also very low tech. You have to know how to work the machine and which effects will work. I’ve always loved silkscreening and I did it a lot, but I just had no room for it, it was too expensive and the machine seemed like a good way to do something that looked like screenprinting but was a bit more affordable.

PS: Can you tell me about the image for the postcard?

VH: It’s about this guy, a cat burglar, and it references a lot of design objects, art objects and also Alien, the movie. It came to me sort of subconsciously. I’d just worked together with Hugh on Mould Map 3, which was all about the present, whereas this image is a lot about the past and also the future, sort of mixed together. I think it works nicely, and the circular image does something strange on the rectangle of the postcard.

PS: It’s interesting that you mention the combination of the future and the past in the postcard image, because it seems like that’s something that you do a lot in your work: you’ll reference moments in art history, but it’ll have this very space-age look. How did you arrive at that aesthetic?

VH: That’s actually a good approximation of what I do, more or less. The reason for it is because while it’s not just totally a nostalgia trip, it is, in some aspects. To me, making drawings is a very subconscious thing. When I look back at what I liked in the past, nothing has really changed since I was six or eight years old, really. I’m still into Tintin, the French Belgian comic, and I’m still trying to do what I like, and for some reason the retro space age comes up. I think the work of my dad, Jos Hachmang, who’s a monumental sculptor and makes a lot of rocket shapes, also has a big influence on my space-age aesthetic.

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Artwork by Victor Hachmang

PS: Can you talk a little more about your visual reference points? They’re listed on your website as: clearline comics (like Tintin), new wave graphic design and psychedelic art.

VH: The clearline aesthetic was a really big influence for me. There’s a really famous cartoonist called Joost Swarte—he drew a lot of things for The New Yorker, for instance. I first picked up his comics when I was about six or seven and they were pretty weird, because he’s a really famous underground cartoonist, so all his cartoons are actually made for adults. In the library I picked up his book and I fell in love with it, but of course I didn’t understand anything about it because it was aimed at adults. Then, 15 years later, I started remembering that it was actually really good stuff. Now when I’m drawing, he always pops up into my head, I can’t shake it off.

For the new wave graphics, what was really important for me was the discovery of Barney Bubbles, who is a British graphic designer. He did a lot of record covers, which I always liked. They’re full of strong angular lines and have this technical blueprint aesthetic. Another new wave graphic designer I like is named Mick Haggerty. He did some really ridiculous art work, for a bunch of terrible bands actually, in the 70s and 80s. It always looked good, in fact, it looks fantastic.

From psychadelic art, I’m influenced by the colour scheme, but also the collage aspect, like in Japanese psychadelia by Tadanori Yokoo. In his work especially, there’s this collage idea that you can mix a lot of different styles and ways of drawing, all combined on one page. That was also a discovery for me, and you don’t see that a lot nowadays. That was important for me, and I think it’s always present in my work in some way.

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Artwork by Barney Bubbles

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Artwork by Mick Haggerty

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Artowork by Tadanori Yokoo

PS: Has your work changed very much in the last couple years?

VH: Yeah, it has. I tend to shift styles a lot and it’s basically just from boredom. Especially in the beginning, like three or four years ago, I shifted styles like every two weeks. I was always studying: for me, trying to do something in a certain style, trying to understand how he or she works, what he or she’s trying to say, that’s a way to find out more about an artist I admire. That’s the main reason that I shifted through so many styles in the beginning. I’m a bit calmer now. I do a lot of this retro-futuristic style, which is very referential of the French comics and the very geometric stuff. Those are the main two styles I work in now.

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Artwork by Viktor Hachmang

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Artwork by Viktor Hachmang

PS: I feel like I’ve seen this look, this combination of very clean, graphic images and big areas of flat colour. It seems to be an aesthetic that’s very popular right now. Do you think there’s something particularly of-the-moment about it?

VH: I know what you mean, and I don’t know how I feel about that either. A lot of people are picking up on this sort of Memphis Group aesthetic, this sort of 80s thing, with lots of flat colours, very bright colours and then patterns combined with it. I did those things maybe two years ago, because I just enjoyed it, but at a certain point I noticed lots of people also using that 1980s aesthetic. I share the idea, but I think I mean something different by it. Nowadays lots of things are actually fuelled by Tumblr and things, and when I was doing those things I just found a Memphis book and decided to try it out. But I think it’s a good thing, because it brings back some humour and just a general lightheartedness to, especially, graphic design, which in Holland is always very conceptual and doesn’t have a lot to do with fun anymore. So, I think it’s a good thing.

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The Memphis Group aesthetic

PS: Did you ever read Raw, Art Spiegelman’s magazine? Your work reminds me of the ethos of Raw, in a sense, because I think the magazine celebrated the joyful side of comic art and also elevated it.

VH: I did read RAW, and I think it’s still relevant, even though it was written in the 80s. I share that spirit and aesthetic, I can’t deny that. The same thing goes for Robert Williams, the sort of high and lowbrow, but he is a bit more political in that sense, and the early Charles Burns things from RAW magazine are, still, very cool.

PS: What’s your dream project?

VH: It might sound very weird, but I would love to do architectural ornaments, like sculptures, and especially ones attached to functional architecture. Like gargoyles, or something. Hopefully in the next few months I will get to do some experiments in sculpture. So, now all I need is a building.