Following a successful print launch at Moosey Art, we spoke to L.A based UK sign artist Ornamental Conifer. Discussing the power of words and letters, being an artist in the Instagram age and his upcoming projects.
Ornamental Conifer’s focus on vivid typography catches the eye. Whether a clever pun or a visually striking proverb, his work demonstrates the aesthetic power of language.
Conifer, who spent a transitory childhood in several European countries, says his fascination with typography stemmed from a love of the comic books he had as a child-in place of games consoles. The loud type-face of the comics showing just how visually striking words can be.
After a series of part time jobs, in which he regularly spent more time drawing on bits of material than working, Conifer studied graphic design at the University of East London. After a period working freelance he moved to Los Angeles.
He tells me he draws his inspiration for his phrases and imagery from the everyday. Overheard conversations, shop signs and song lyrics. Conifer combines these seemingly prosaic influences with powerful artistic typography and a good amount of wit to create thought provoking pieces. Work he hopes, is both funny and anger inducing.
He wants this emotion to be immediately obvious in his work: ‘’My artwork isn't the type of painting you have to stand and look at for hours, contemplating the meaning, it’s more like a punchline’’.
Conifer is an ardent believer in how the duality of language affects the way a message is perceived: ‘’You can make a peaceful phrase appear aggressive simply by tweaking the letter formations.’’
It’s not just words and letters that Conifer likes to shake-up. He enjoys working on a wide variety of materials, especially ones which provide a tough challenge: ‘’ I absolutely love painting on glass, it’s really unforgiving. I also love leather as the texture and grain forces you to work very slowly, it has a therapeutic element to it’’
A noticeable theme throughout Conifers work is motorbikes- he has used helmets, jackets and bike themselves as a canvas. Yet he acknowledges that this intertwining of passion and art was becoming restrictive and is now taking his work in a new direction.
Part of this new direction is into online clothing- his prints are available on jackets and t-shirts. However, the move into a more online market raises mixed feeling. Despite the benefits an online presence provides he has reservations. He stresses that although art is so easily accessible online it doesn’t give the same meaningful interaction as when seen in the flesh.
As to social media Conifer feels that the emphasis on likes has clouded people’s perception of what is good art. Feeling people now judge the quality of someone’s work on the amount of likes they receive, rather than artistic merit.
When asked about the rise of emojis in language he replied: ‘’I feel guilty when I use them… I’m scared about the future of both written and verbal language.’’
Rather than new forms of language, Conifer is focusing on new materials and new projects. Moving on to larger pieces with new water-based paints instead of enamel and even some work in 3D. The latter he hopes to include in his upcoming show in Tokyo.