Alexander Chappell is an artist and designer from London. While the two disciplines are very different, Chappell has a simple explanation about how he finds a balance as a designer he answers questions and as an artist he gets to ask them.
This wasn’t always the case. Until recent years Chappell created work under the pseudonym ‘Twiy’ a persona he felt he needed to clearly separate art from design in his own mind. But as his career as a designer developed – co-founding ‘Colt’ a branding and packaging agency in London – a bridge between the two disciples began to emerge.
Colt’s work is focused on consumers emotional connection to brands and it’s Chappell’s work in this area that’s led to a growing interest in human behavior. And while he may not always have all the answers it’s in his art that he seeks them. He says “art is a conversation whereas design always needs a solution. Working on something where the results are open-ended is a cathartic experience for me and by observing others through portraiture I get to study people which feeds back directly to my work as a designer”.
The core question at the heart of his debut exhibition Nobody is whether a society that focuses so much on the external material world is losing touch with more basic human needs. The exhibition is a counter to some of society’s increasingly narcissistic tendencies epitomised by selfie culture and the pursuit of social media fame.
The lure of 15 seconds in the spotlight is contrasted by a group of people who like Chappell have all worked under pseudonyms at some point or rarely shown their faces. Chappell says “it’s been fascinating working with this group of ‘writers’ there are some real characters but one thing that’s really stood out is how comfortable everyone is in their own skin no matter what anyone might think of them. You can tell that they’ve found the right paths for themselves and those paths haven’t been carved by seeking approval from anyone else. The artists I’ve drawn directly oppose the transient reality of todays short-cut celebrity culture where talent substance or hard work are second to a big ego or big arse.”
Chappell has created a series of hyperreal graphite portraits that reveal the faces of previously unseen graffiti/street artists to the world. But he’s also chosen to cover them using their own public faces the tags that have become their trademarks. He says “The drawing isn’t enough. Accurately drawing someone isn’t the goal it’s the conversations raised by the work that interest me. Having the guys cover their own faces to finish each piece takes the process full circle. I wanted to suggest something that runs counter to the dominant trends of today and then leave it peeking it’s head out for discussion”.