Jelly Presents: Tishk Barzanji

Tuesday 24 September 2019

We quiz Tishk on life after his big ‘launch’ into the commercial world of illustration.

Tishk Barzanji creates stylish, architecture-infused art that exudes sophistication and surrealism. After discovering Tishk and his work on It’s Nice That, we asked him if he wanted to join our Futures roster – and we’re extremely glad that he did.

Our resident Illustration Agent, Sarah Morris recently quizzed Tishk about life after joining Jelly, recent projects and public talks, as well as his plans for the future.

Back in 2017, when things were really starting to take off for you, you were interviewed and featured by It’s Nice That. What’s your journey been like since then? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned over the last couple of years?

It’s been a very exciting journey since that interview. I designed the artwork for the Film4 Summer Screen and have also made some great connections in the industry.I’ve learnt that managing time is very important, as is working on projects you are passionate about. Those are the projects that bring the best out of you. I’ve also learned that sometimes work can be quiet, so using those periods to strengthen my work is something I that I have learned over time.

Your journey into illustration is really interesting and isn’t a particularly traditional one, tell us a bit about how you started out.

I was studying Physics at university up until my third year, where I fell ill for a period of 8 months. This gave me time to take a step back and get back to the things I enjoyed. So I started creating art to pass the time. This was just a therapeutic process and I never imagined I would be doing work for clients. But here I am now!

How would you say that your past experiences and background have informed your style, work, and what you choose to illustrate?

The moments in my life have shaped the way I see the world – particularly the moments with loved ones and random instances of everyday life. I wanted to show the human side of life in a raw and open way and this has shaped every aspect of my work. At the beginning of my practice, I observed my surroundings and sketched people on the streets for inspiration. I then started photographing the brutalist architecture around London that spoke to me. My favourite location is Trellick tower where I spent a whole day taking photos of it from different angles. This was the beginning of my focus on how space is used.

You’ve got a truly unique process; how did you develop your illustrative style?

I began by looking at what the physical world is made of and that’s basic shapes, like circles and triangles. Therefore, I started creating work made from basic shapes and then I built on these to create my environment, so it was a relatively long development. There was definitely a long period of trial and error until I was happy with the composition and structure of my work.

Two years before I began creating any work at all, I spent a few months over that summer reading about colour theory and how colour creates atmosphere. I became obsessed with this and created multiple groups of colours to use in my work. I also found some colours from street markings and everyday tools as well. Often when observing a space or building, light and shadow was always what really made that scene. So I tried to replicate that mood and atmosphere in my work as I wanted the viewer to feel the environment.

In terms of your working process, can you tell us a bit more about this? How do you create these beautifully surreal worlds and what are your inspirations and influences when creating them?

My work  actually has many elements from the past that I have studied. I sketched people around London and now I create the figures in my work based off that.

The piece starts off like a drawing, then I paint sections of it which I then scan to a 3D model. I taught myself how to 3D model during the summer when I was ill, just watching videos online. My inspiration is everyday life and I’m inspired by small details. The way people communicate or even the moments in my life that changed my journey. The key moment I believe that played a first big part, was when I moved to the UK as a refugee. That was a big culture shock but also a very good change. New culture, new surroundings, it was all very inspiring seeing the different cultures, it made me look at small details in life.

The second moment was when I fell ill last year of university. I didn’t leave my house for 8 months. This gave me time and space to think about what I wanted to do and I made art as a therapeutic process to heal. From then on it became part of my life.

Recently you spoke at Nicer Tuesdays, where you gave the audience an insight into your work, background and yourself as an artist. How was that experience for you? Is this something you would want to do more of?

I was extremely nervous before my Nicer Tuesdays talk, because it was my first public talk. After the first few minutes however I felt really comfortable. The response I received after the talk has encouraged me to take up more talks. So watch this space!

You’ve also worked with artist Jorja Smith on some animated visuals for her Glastonbury set. It’s incredible to see your work come to life in this way through the movement of light and shadow and 3D dimensions as an extension of the mood and atmosphere. Do you see yourself exploring this more in the future and are there other ways you’d like to explore bringing your work to life?

My favourite commission so far has to be working with Jorja Smith. Taking my work into animation has been a big step up. It was a great feeling to see it on the big screen. I enjoyed the whole process of putting it together.

This is definitely an area I want to explore more. There are so many possibilities within animation and I want to create great visuals that take the viewers into a different world. To explore this further, I want to create sets for the viewers to actually explore the spaces in my work. This would involve recreating parts of my work as an installation so viewers could walk through it – also to have sound and light to make it a 4D experience. Initially this would be for an exhibition space but ideally I would like to then expand it beyond that.I believe VR would be interesting to take the viewers deep into my work, so that’s also something I’m looking at in the future.

We’re also obsessed with your latest work you produced for the new Rose Hill development in New York. For those who are yet to see this, are you able to tell us a little about it?

I was tasked by Rockefeller to create 6 illustration pieces for a new luxury apartment being built in New York. This is to be used both within a brochure and around the building. Each piece was to involve certain aspects of New York, such as Madison Square garden.

Rockefeller was such a great project because they gave me a lot of creative freedom. It was interesting because the project really developed my style significantly. I started to focus more on the small details and was able to expand on the colours I used. Overall it took about 3 months to complete all 6 pieces. Lots of sleepless nights.