The cohesive synergy of Expanded Eye is as astounding as their oeuvre of artworks on skin, large sculptures of wood, playful stained glass mosaics, and ceramics. Their manipulation of physical space is poetic. The calming hues of color and mastery of myriad materials imbues a folkloric halcyon world bathed in bronze, azure and malachite shades. Their inventive talent is not only a tenacious unity, but a gift of visual narration in a palpable language of their own invention.
Jade and Kev, the duo partners that have built their Expanded Eye movement, were kind enough to speak on what it truly means to be a tattoo artist in this day and age, how they hope to progress preconceived societal notions of artistry, and what informs their beautifully curated creations.
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves? What your background is and how you met/decided to work together?
We are Jade and Kev, originally from London. We met when we were teenagers and went to the same art college and art school, Norwich School of Art and Design, to study illustration. We spent 6 months traveling around S.E Asia a couple of years after graduating and decided to try and make art for a living upon returning. We got ourselves a studio together and at first worked independently, then began to collaborate on street art projects, and slowly started to critique each others work and merge our styles. This organic transition and collaborative thinking paved the way for us as an art duo - thus Expanded Eye was born. This was around 2011.
The artwork Expanded Eye puts out is reminiscent of so many great art movements like Neo-expressionism, Informalism, and Cubism, but also blends a folk art/outsider art aesthetic. How has your aesthetic evolved over the years?
Our aesthetic is a culmination of many years of experimentation and finding our own voice and unique form of expression. We are inspired by many artists and movements, particularly 20th century art - Surrealism, Dada, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, as well as a plethora of 19th-20th century African sculpture, but are also influenced by so much more - life, our surroundings and environment offer infinite inspiration. Ultimately it is the symbiosis of 2 minds working together for many years as we continue to experiment and evolve our practice. Nowadays our aesthetic is second nature to us- it is our visual language that flows out of us and how we express and tell stories which we continue to evolve across new mediums.
There is such a singular and unique voice within the creative output of Expanded Eye. Each piece is very obviously yours. What is the process like in collaborating together? What is the process of getting a tattoo from you and how does that differ from your other artistic endeavors?
Each tattoo created is our visual interpretation of concepts and stories provided by the client which hold significant meaning to the individual. We do not have a set way of collaborating but often work independently to start with, sketching rough conceptual ideas. We then discuss/decide which parts work best and then work together to evolve the concept and aesthetic of the final image. We love this marriage of words and images and spend a huge amount of time and energy during this process. Working solely from words and not from any aesthetic direction allows us the necessary creative freedom to achieve our best work. We are fortunate enough to receive a lot of requests which means we can select the projects which inspire us most attracting a broad array of people with the most fascinating stories from all corners of the globe.
When making installations and self-initiated work compared to tattoo designs for instance, we do not work from sketches, rather we let the artworks evolve from the materials at hand. We normally cut many different shapes from reclaimed wood, furniture and antique doors and find a composition from the pieces as a starting point. It's very fluid and natural for us to work together and enjoy this process of unconscious evolution, especially when working large-scale. Different mediums allow for different explorations.
Does Expanded Eye have an artistic philosophy? What are the underlying themes of your work? What narratives do you hope the audience can pick up on when viewing your oeuvre?
Our philosophy is to create art with purpose and intention. To push boundaries and change people's perception of what tattoo art can be; to show tattoo artists can be artists! Using our visual language to create our own vision of reality. to tell stories through images and explore the complexities and wonders of life and the human condition. to express the inexpressible, the unfathomable, the timeless. Hope people will see and appreciate the authenticity and not steal or copy our hard work.
Last year you moved from London to Lisbon. How has the relocation supported your growth as an artistic duo? What was the impetus behind the move?
We spent 3 months in Lisbon in 2018 for an art residency and exhibition and immediately fell in love with the city - the stunning architecture, the beautiful antique tiles, the surrounding nature and hidden venues - the colours, people, patterns, food, quaintness and vibe of the city was a breath of fresh air coming from London and inspired to relocate as soon as we were able. As mentioned before, we are massively inspired by our surrounding environment and can’t think of a better city to inspire our work.
If you could only listen to one record, read one book, play with one toy, and watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Yussef Dayes live on the drums forever. Haruki Murakami books always. Film: The Fall for its spectacularly surreal storytelling settings.
Do you have any projects, collabs, travel plans, etc. planned for 2020 that you’d like to share?
This year is already filled with amazing projects . Currently working on a big installation and then head to USA to prepare for our solo show 'Edge of Forever' opening on 5th June at Pittsburgh Glass Centre which sees us expand our practice into stained glass and mixed media sculptures and installations. Murals and big and exciting project happening in Lisboa in autumn … stay tuned. In-between we plan an epic road trip with a friend through Morocco and will be tattooing in Lisbon from October onwards.
Article note: The copyright of all images and artworks belongs to ExpandedEye.