Ian Wright’s Colourful Life

Illustrator and artist Ian Wright has unveiled a series of new commissioned works from his role as artistic ambassador for Keaykolour paper, all of which can be seen at Tent London

Illustrator and artist Ian Wright has unveiled a series of new commissioned works from his role as artistic ambassador for Keaykolour paper, all of which can be seen at Tent London

The artworks all take music as their starting point – a constant source of inspiration in Wright’s life, and all have been created using Keaykolour paper.

Wright had the names of various radio stations foil blocked onto different colour papers and cut and folded the paper to build up a multi-layered, brightly coloured boombox. “This was my interest in pirate radio – which is probably where all my musical knowledge comes from,” says Wright. “So I wanted to reference that in some way.”

The three new works form the basis of Colourful Life, a campaign from design studio Blast to relaunch the brand and its 29 paper colours.

“We’ve worked with ArjoWiggins for quite a few years,” explains Blast’s Colin Gifford, “and they asked us to work on the rebrand of Keaykolour. It was originally introduced in the 1970s but as a brand it hasn’t really done much in recent years. So we’ve rebranded the range and come up with the campaign idea to relaunch it and reintroduce it to designers across the globe.

“The concept Colourful Life refers to the history of Keaykolour,” Gifford continues, “the fact that it’s been around for a long time. So we thought it would be nice to talk about the idea of living your life in colour. We wanted to work with an artistic ambassador so we wanted to find someone who’d had or who lived a colourful life who we could work with over a year – the idea being that the project would represent a kind of year-in-the-life of someone who could work with Keaykolour paper.

“We were looking for someone with an international profile, someone that does original, experimental and innovative work in a variety of mediums, and who is interested in craft, process and pushing boundaries and who has a colourful story to tell. With the brief written, I called [illustrator and educator] Lawrence Zeegen as we go back a long way and instantly Lawrence suggested Ian Wright.”

“At this point it was kind of a two way thing,” says Zeegen. “I was mentioning Ian to Giff, but at the same time having to see whether Ian was going to be free and available to take it on. And as soon as I mentioned Keaykolour, Ian’s response, which was completely unprompted – what was so good was Ian was like “oh yeah, I’ve always used that paper” which was brilliant because he’s familiar with the product and has used it in his work before.”

“I think I was just ready to use paper as a material,” says Wright of the project. “Recently I’ve been playing around with some stuff for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, trying to make low-key stuff because I’m aware of the political and economic climate, so in a way getting to work with something as pure as paper was perfect. Also, I’ve not been asked before to work with a brand or work in a particular way with someone over a period of time so I thought that was really challenging.

“Most commissions you get maybe a couple of weeks to do it, and you work on it for maybe three or four days and you really run at it. What’s different about this one is that in the making of it all there was this personal time to let your head spiral out of control and really question whether it’s any good or not – I’m trying to think about what I can do, not only be commissioned, which i still like to be, but I have to invent my own thinking.”

For this piece, Wright meticulously rolled strips of coloured paper into cones so he could place them in a specially created clear Perspex grid of thousands of holes. “It was a bit like I was planting and pruning with this one.” says Wright of the process. “I have a bit of a fascination, visually and musically, for Jimi Hendrix – there was a drawing by Martin Sharp, from a photograph by Linda McCartney that I saw when I was at school and cut it out of a magazine. I’d created an image of Hendrix for an It’s Nice That project, and this project allowed me to reinterpret it.”

All three artworks are on show in London until this Sunday (September 25) at Tent London, Shop 25, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR.

Keaykolour is also releasing a series of making-of films in which Wright discusses each artwork and his approach to it. They can be viewed at keaykolourpaper.com. Here’s the first of the series of Colourful Life films:


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