Visual lampoons run a fine line between being too obvious and falling into gimmicky territory, or too self-consciously clever and falling flat on their faces. Faces are the speciality of Israeli graphic illustrator Noma Bar and he walks this fine line with all the precision of a highwire expert.
A former cover artist for our W*097 Secret Elite issue, Bar’s latest commission was courtesy of BAFTA, for whom he created illustrations depicting the nominees for Best Film, now on show together with work from his recent book 'The Many Faces of Noma Bar' at BAFTA’s Piccadilly HQ.
The success behind Bar’s images lies in his ability to meticulously position icons relevant to the famous (or infamous) subject, capturing not just their recognisable expression but also telling the story behind their notoriety. This skill is no mean feat even though often the feat is quite humorously mean.
Take his depiction of Pavarotti as the tied end of a balloon – a tiny, open-mouthed head emerging from a vast black body; or Charlie Chaplin, whose morose features are formed from the lace of an outsized shoe, wrapped around a fork – a nod to the seminal scene in The Gold Rush when the comedian ate his own shoe.
The block colours, graphic shapes and play on negative space, combined with the precise positioning of the icons makes for incredibly simple, instantly recognisable, but deeply clever images. As commissions come thick and fast, we quizzed the illustrator about his daily working life to find out how he keeps his own head above water.
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Harriet Lloyd-Smith was the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.
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