The Nobrow shop, tucked between the hipster hubs that line Great Eastern Street, has been running for two years this winter as both an independent publishing platform for illustrators and graphic artists, and a gallery space. Its multi-functioning space has been as carefully engineered to entice visitors, just as their books are designed to have the pages turned.
Nobrow came across Brecht Vadenbroucke, the star of their current exhibition, via a comment the latter had left on Flickr. This fortuitous discovery brought the extraordinarily talented Vadenbroucke, who hails from Ghent, to London, as one of the most recent additions to the international Nobrow family. A modest 24- year-old, Vadenbroucke’s astonishing work which includes drawings, paintings and ‘zines, is testament to the Visually remarkable. The scattering of paintings on show are simultaneously reminiscent of the Flemish school, with their saturated apocalyptic landscapes, and yet totally unique in their zany juxtaposition of culture and nature. Oddly proportioned figures perform circus feats, bizarre creatures work on apple macs, pyramids, parrots and robots all vie for attention. There’s nothing pretentious nor fashionable about Vandenbroucke’s work, and that it is really good.
You can’t quite put your finger on what it is that makes Vadenbroucke’s art so impressive; though the high level of his craftsmanship is ostensible. This work contains a heady mixture of surreal elements, mixed with humour, which point towards insanity, euphoria, solace, death, alienation - and fun. It is this dichotomous aspect which makes them so effective. At first glance his paintings might seem detached from reality as we know it, but they are assiduously laden with satire, revealing the absurdity of everyday life while simultaneously revering pop culture.
Not all illustrators will appreciate Nobrow’s approach, but Vandenrbroucke willingly expresses his gratitude and admiration for what they do. “I love all culture - I don’t see a difference between pop culture and underground culture.” His refreshing attitude is certainly tangible in his creations.
-- Charlotte Jansen, writer living in London
(All images courtesy the artist and Nobrow. Images: Bouncing Jungle by Brecht Vandenbroucke Brecht Vandenbroucke installation view at Nobrow Gallery)