The work of the catalonian graphic designers Dkillerpanda has a dark component that comes, mostly, from 19th century culture. Most of their characters are writers (Goethe, Poe, Mary Shelley), or characters taken from dark folk tales, even taken from Gothic Novell. Apart from these characters from the 19th century literature Dkillerpanda has created a singular series: “Le monde secret des automates”. In this series Dkillerpanda creates new characters by taking elements from the 19th century european culture. This series was exhibited in Café Lil (Barcelona) in March/April 2007. Also mention that, close to the images, there is a text that describes a story in which you can locate each character.
The leading role is Profesor Fahnenfluch (1827 – 1904), fond of travelling to strange places of Europe. He is going to find there all kind of weird people: rare, fantastic, sinister, odd, twisted, devious… The Proffessor, whose main hobby was to create automatons, is going to create mechanic beings inspired by those people.
Indirectly, we can mention a possible source for this exhibition: the tale Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffmann, where we can find also the Professor Spallanzani that creates Olympia, a so perfect female automaton that the main character, Nataniel, falls in love with her thinking she is real. This tale, representative of the sinister in 19th century, could be connected with this series of Dkillerpanda.
The series is composed by eleven characters, all of them showing the attributes of the identity of Dkillerpanda –simple geometric elements, head very big respect to the body, circle eyes, etc.- But this series is new in one important point: the use of the colour, just because their main production is black and white. They use the colour in a very right way: they don´t use flat inks, they use textures that don´t imitate skin or dress, they are dirty, we could say noisy textures. I think there is influence from circus in the use of the colour, even more when they use colours very saturated. In this way, the characters have strength and power.
I´m going to talk only about few of these characters and I want to start with the spanish one: the silly boy, punished to wear a pointed hood in which you can read “silly boy”. He had to wear it till he learnt the lesson. He took three years. This character reminds me one of the mockery elements used by Spanish Inquisition, that survived till beginings of 19th century. We can see this hat in paintings as Auto de fe de la Inquisición (1815-19) by Goya, there are two prisoners that wears capirote. So, it seems adequate to put this element in the spanish automaton.
Another interesting character is the piranha-man. Apart from the big and fierce mouth with sharp teeth, he has a second and terrifying mouth placed in the stomach. This second mouth is an attribute of the Devil. From Middleages till Renaissance is frequently to find Devil’s paintings with this second mouth, as the example of Livre de la Vigne Nostre Seigneur (1450-70). This time, Dkillerpanda have chosen a medieval element to define one of their characters.
Mr. Saw comes from London. He has a nice squared moustache and gel hair, so he looks like a Charleston dancer. He was expert playing the saw, and every time he played he invented a new way of playing with new melodies, even better than the previous. But in August 15th 1888, he played his best concert and received an ovation over twenty minutes, and after it he beheaded himself in front of the audience. In 19th century was usual to play the saw but it´s not common to hear it nowadays. There is a contemporary band that still plays the saw, The Tiger Lillies, which look and lyrics have many elements from 19th century. I think Dkillerpanda, that knows this band, probably has taking the saw from them.
Maybe in later posts I´ll talk about more of these interesting automatons because they are very rich in meanings and it´s not easy to find so complex characters in contemporary Art.
If you want to see more images by Dkillerpanda: