Vorpal Sword – the dreamland created by psychedelic power
London based graphic artist Will Sweeney
holds a solo show in Japan for the
first time in 11 years
Diesel art gallery presents ‘Vorpal Sword’an exhibition by acclaimed graphic artist Will Sweeney from 2018.3,2(Fri) – 5.24 (Thu). Vorpal Sword is the first major solo exhibition by Will Sweeney in Tokyo for 11 years. Will Sweeney is known for his diverse range of work from record sleeves, T-shirt and toy designs to fashion textiles, animated music videos and advertising campaigns for high end clients as well as his own psychedelic adventure comic ‘Tales from Greenfuzz’. The newly created work featured in Vorpal Sword represents Will’s ongoing fascination with post apocalyptic worlds, microcosmic evolution and fantastical technology. The title is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem, Jabberwocky (from Through The Looking Glass).
A retro/futuristic English landscape, mutated beyond recognition, is populated by mythical creatures and freakish characters, living in makeshift shelters, conducting strange rituals and harvesting the polluted soil. Meanwhile the urban centres have fallen to ruin and decadence, ruled by a twisted elite, who exploit the populace for food and entertainment. Monsters roam the landscape, real and imagined, only those able to wield The Vorpal Sword stand a chance of defeating them.
The new pieces are rendered in garish colour and in a larger scale than much of Will’s previous work,using watercolour, gel marker brush and ink, Will has developed a looser more freeform style in these pieces. Other work in the show includes a series of small scale paintings of tiny universes which display Will’s fascination with biological & medical illustration, depicting visions of worlds within worlds, cross sections of alien organisms and alien technology from eldritch dimensions. These paintings were generated from free flowing ink paintings, and refined with ballpoint pen to create an otherworldly atmosphere that suggests 1970’s science fiction art, coral reefs and primitive structures hewn from an alien substance.
In addition there will be a new animation piece made in collaboration with London artist/musician Subway Lung and several older, unseen pieces, sketches books and collected ephemera from Will’s archive.
The title Vorpal Sword signifies a vital creative energy, a life-force beaming directly from the subconscious which will vanquish monsters and destructive forces. The painting Energy Cannot Be Destroyed perhaps represents the idea behind the title best, a chaotic maze of mutated machines and strange objects burst and sputter volatile substances in a feedback loop of demented propulsion. The monsters of mundanity and inertia are defeated by the metaphysical blade of The Vorpal Sword. The life cycle goes on, cross pollinating and evolving.
There will be a range of exclusive special products on sale during the exhibition including two new limited edition silkscreen prints as well a new book zine featuring work from the show.
Photo : Miki Matsushima
― Please introduce yourself
My name is Will Sweeney and I’m a graphic artist from London.
--How did the idea for the title Vorpal Sword come about?
It’s a line from a poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Caroll. I’ve always loved this poem since I was a child and I thought that Vorpal Sword was a good title because it’s kind of ambiguous and it doesn’t have a strict definition. It sounds magical and intriguing.
-- Could you tell us about the focal point of the exhibition?
I don’t think there is any one specific focal point of the exhibition as it’s quite varied. My opinion of which piece is my favourite tends to change as time goes by. My favourite pieces at the moment are the really detailed water colour ball-point pen pieces like Germs Forming and Mustard Gas 2, because they represent a looser approach for me.
-- The artwork is based on the post-apocalyptic vision of England. Can you describe how the theme is reflected in the artwork?
I think that’s for the viewer to interpret themselves. It’s not for me to describe what’s going on in the pictures too literally.
--When did you first take interest in anatomical and biological drawings? How is your work influenced by these type of drawings?
When I was about thirteen or fourteen, I became interested in images of medicine and science. Also my interest stemmed from medieval engravings. Things like the image of a flayed man flayed man which was a much copied image of a human figure holding its own skin with veins and flesh exposed. I also like the idea from medieval alchemy of microcosm and macrocosm, so the human body could be like a city in a scaled down version. It functions in a similar way. The cells being the population, the circulatory system representing traffic and movement, the brain a giant computer and the heart the engine or power system.
-- You have used various types of materials in your work. Could you describe your working process?
With a lot of newer works in the show, the process would be that I would start in a very random haphazard way; applying water colour very quickly to a large piece of paper and setting myself a time limit in order to cover a surface. Then allowing this paint to dry and working into it with pencil crayon, gel marker, and then finally refining and realising the image in black ink.
-- Please tell us about the source of inspiration for your work.
Inspiration comes from many many areas, it’s very difficult to pinpoint one. Music, graphic design, books, architecture and also stories particularly. In general, I’m very inspired by stories and I constantly consume fiction and stories in many forms, comics, games, novels, films and radio.
-- Please name a few artists or movies that have been influential to you?
Time bandits by Terry Gilliam. Nemesis the Warlock, a comic by Pat Mills and Kevin O’niell. Also the work of Alan Moore. Recently I’ve been inspired by Michel Fiffe, who writes and draws a comic called Copra. I love 80’s horror films, particularly the work of Brian Yuzna and Frank Henenlotter.
-- You’re a keen listener of music as well. Any artists you’re into at the moment?
The last five records I bought: Rezzett LP, Tom of England ‘Care to destroy’ EP, Tommy McCook, ‘Superstar Disco Rockers’ LP, Young Echo LP, Hieroglyphic Being ‘The Red Notes’ LP.
-- What’s your impression on the Japanese art/culture scene?
When I was in Tokyo this time, I went to an opening of my friend Hiroshi Iguchi’show, Synthesizer, at SO Gallery. Hiroshi is a Tokyo underground graphic legend. There seem to be many great artists behind the scenes in Tokyo and it’s always exciting to visit and see their work. They need to be discovered for yourself.
-- As a regular visitor of Japan, do you have any shops or places that you always visit?
Tokyu Hands is always a must visit for art materials and creative technology. Big Love Records Harajuku. Undercover Store Aoyama. Pink Dragon Cat Street.
-- How do you spend your day off?
I don’t have days off!
-- Some fans traveled afar to your signing. How did it feel meeting them in person?
Very pleasant. That was a very nice surprise to find out that people wanted to make the effort to come and see the show from far away.
-- Do you have any upcoming projects or is there any project you want to work on in the future?
I’ve always wanted to work on computer game. My dream project at the moment is to work on a game for Nintendo Switch!