Thinkspace is pleased to present ‘Took It Easy,’ from English, Paris-based illustrator and artist Ermsy. Fascinated by American pop culture as a readily accessible, visual vernacular, Ermsy’s take on its beloved illustrated characters is both satirical and participatory.
The use of familiar characters provides Ermsy with a set of pre-established imaginative boundaries within which to work. Like a hot-boxed descent into an alternate universe of nostalgic psychotropic Saturday morning cartoons, his world is a playful subversion of familiar, pop cultural fodder.
In anticipation of ‘Took It Easy,’ our interview with Ermsy covers the controversial topic Nike or Puma, detox, and that pandemic life.
SH: For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
ERMSY: I’m an artist / painter / illustrator / maker, and I live in Paris, France. I had a formal education in graphic design and did graffiti art for a long time since my early teenage years.
SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
ERMSY: My inspiration came from everyday life, social media, comic books, the art world, and just about anywhere. I just like making images that I think look interesting. Mixing ideas, styles, and character universes. During the lockdown, I suddenly had a good amount of time to get into making the work for the show. It was a very creative period for me.
SH: What was the most challenging piece in the exhibition and why?
ERMSY: Probably the Turtles piece, which took the longest and needed careful planning.
SH: What is your most and least favorite part of the creative process?
ERMSY: I like all parts of the creative process! If I’m working for myself just to make a random piece, it’s a pleasure from start to finish. I get a big kick out of that.
SH: Who are some of your creative influences?
ERMSY: I would say right now, Marvel Comics, particularly Gold, Silver, and Bronze Age. I’ve also been getting into prewar American comics which have some incredible art and ideas in them, but stay in obscurity.
SH: Your work includes a lot of pop culture icons. What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up? Did you have a childhood hero?
ERMSY: My work is definitely a reflection of the kind of pop culture that was around when I was growing up. My personal heroes changed from one month to the next, there was so much to discover then and many marketing trends came and went quite quickly. I didn’t have a whole lot of ‘stuff’ growing up so anything I could find, I’d hold onto tightly. I hoarded comics and toys. I was a huge Star Wars fan and still love the original films, but it feels a bit hollowed out nowadays.
SH: Nike or Puma? What’s your favorite and why?
ERMSY: Nike every time.
SH: What is the most rewarding moment thus far in your art career?
ERMSY: Hard to say, there’s been a lot of cool moments so far. I released some prints with Bart trapped in an ice cube a few years ago, which sold out in hours. That was a good feeling, and made me think I was on the right path and making a living out of it was possible.
SH: If this body of work inspired a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, what would be the name and the ingredients of this sweet treat?
ERMSY: I’d call it “Sugar is a Hell of a Drug”
The ingredients would be Haribo and Crystal Meth. I’ve tried to quit sugar this year for the most part, and it’s no joke. Harder than quitting smoking I’d say!
SH: We are in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s an unprecedented time, and it’s a weird time – What is your approach to life during this time?
ERMSY: In the beginning I was fascinated by what was happening. I was following daily death tolls and I’d consumed too much media which was telling us that it would be much much worse! There was a really gloomy mood and the streets were almost empty. It was bizarre to say the least. The supermarkets were being picked dry and there was an atmosphere of fear! It felt like a glimpse of the apocalypse, luckily that wasn’t the case.
In Paris we’re coming to the end of the lockdown. The restaurants and parks are open again and life feels almost back to normal. I carry on as normal and stay optimistic.
SH: Are you sticking to routines, or making it up as we go? What does quarantine life look like for you?
ERMSY: Quarantine life isn’t much different from normal life for me! I spend a good amount of time in my studio every day, working on various projects simultaneously.
SH: Favorite thing you’ve watched, listened to, and ate in the last 30 days? Or since days don’t matter anymore, since the “shelter-in-place” orders came down.
ERMSY: I watch and listen to a lot of Youtube while I’m working. I like the Ancient Architects channel or Shaun Attwood’s True Crime podcast which has some interesting characters on it.
Another good thing I’ve discovered was NPR Tiny Music Desk channel on Youtube. I’ve been working through those and finding out about some amazing artists
Online Schedule of Virtual Events:
Saturday, June 27 at 12:00 noon pacific time we will post the professionally shot video tour of our new exhibitions to our Instagram TV
Saturday, June 27 from 1-2 PM pacific time we will go live on our Instagram to tour our new exhibitions
Sunday, June 28 at 2 pm pacific time we will post a full set of installation photos from both exhibitions to our Facebook and blog
Monday, June 29 at 4 pm pacific time we will share a link to the self-guided virtual tour of our new exhibitions on all of our social networks