himHallows explores infrastructure with his Brutalist-inspired patterns

Taking cues from the systems that run our cities and our passion for excess, illustrator himHallows creates meticulous repeat designs of industrial objects

Illustrator himHallows, aka Paul Hallows, took a less direct path into the creative industries having decided at 22 that his Physics with Space Technology course was not for him. “It was HARD, and I accepted I would never make a very good astronaut,” he says. 

Instead, himHallows fell back on his passion for pictures, with illustration having always been his “calling” throughout his studies. He began making posters for a friend’s band in Manchester, which then lead to other gig promo work. As a result of his work on the local music scene, more opportunities started coming in, and it wasn’t long until himHallows adopted his moniker and became a fully-fledged illustrator. 

himHallows’ approach is methodical and meticulous, and this can be seen in his work which typically contains clean lines, rich detail and thoughtful compositions. For the last year or so he’s been working on a series of repeat patterns inspired by the “unseen infrastructure around us”. Spurred by his “love of playing around with single objects” and tessellating Brutalist patterns, the result is a satisfying interpretation of the “infrastructures that underpin our cities”.   

Capturing the oddly hypnotic beauty of silos, shipping containers and air conditioning units, himHallows’ passion for all things industrial started at a young age. “I worked for my uncle’s building firm for a couple of years when I was younger, and the company spent a lot of time refurbishing warehouses. I was fascinated by the height of pallet racking in a high-bay warehouse or the scale of a distribution board,” he says. These days inspiration comes from the most ordinary of places. “The sight of some pipes walking through an industrial estate – I will detour to see one – or passing a motorway sets me wondering, ‘can I create something rooted in logic but absurd in scale with that?’” 

The illustrator’s creative process starts with a rough sketch to figure out composition, and straight after he gets stuck into the final work. “I only ever use pilot 0.3 and 0.1 drawing pens, a true creature of habit. Once drawn, they’re scanned in and I build the colours in Photoshop, creating multiple layers of block colour to overlap and add depth,” he explains. “Then it’s the brain-melting task of making the objects tile together, adding shadows or other connections to make them feel part of one piece. The pieces usually take a couple of weeks of work.”

While the series is ongoing, a selection of works are currently on show at Manchester’s Modernist gallery. Displayed as large prints, this enlarged scale adds another dimension to the illustrations. “I’ve spent so long building the designs but always seen them at the size of my laptop screen, so even I was a little surprised at the scale, which has kind of been the point,” he says. “The work is an examination of the scale of infrastructure, how we treat it like a system that can be pushed to infinity, but in fact that policy is leading to huge environmental issues.” 

This deeper undercurrent to himHallows’ work takes the reassuring mix of interlocking shapes and structures to a more sinister level, and highlights our tendency towards excess and a desire to push for more regardless of the impact. This mindlessness is emphasised by the precise repetition of the objects depicted.

At a time where industry, climate change and its effects are being seen, felt and predicted on a daily basis, himHallows’ work feels timely and it’s an interesting visual study of a growing problem.

Infrastructure by himHallows is on show now at Modernist Gallery, Manchester, until 23 September 2019; the-modernist.org