Through intelligent use of colour and reduced forms, the cheeky illustrations of Berlin-based duo Zebu serve to brighten up your day–one wall at a time.
From the bohemian streets of Kreuzberg to the iconic East Side Gallery, a booming urban arts scene has played a large role in Berlin during a period in which it had been trying to rediscover its identity. Throughout its complicated history, Berlin has become somewhat of a mecca for the modern art world, with its graffiti and public murals becoming a distinctive characteristic of the revamped German capital.
Zebu is the illustration design duo that epitomizes this street art culture. Consisting of Lynn and Dennis, both halves of the duo have their artistic foundations rooted deeply in Berlin’s graffiti and urban art culture, where the pair initially met in 2007. They initially began to simply paint next to one another, which led to small collaborations between the two. Before they knew it, they were working on pieces and eventually entire murals together.
“What we like about working on walls is that you have the opportunity to present your work to a wide variety of people,” Lynn of Zebu tells LYFSTYL. “This gives you the chance to inspire people who would maybe never go into galleries or look into designy books.”
Whatever the canvas, Zebu brings their signature energetic feel and intelligent use of bright colours that seeks to stimulate the senses and spur on a lust for life. Whether it’s their own art exhibitions, public murals or even exclusive fashion collaborations, the end result is always a dynamic work of art that is never boring, with the bright colours serving to artfully balance the reduced compositions.
“The way we paint is a result of the way see the things around us,” Lynn continues. “When we look at an object, shape or figure we feel the need to reduce its form and make it more abstract. We like to erase all the unimportant information and focus on the essence.”
While they’ve since expanded their repertoire as artists to all corners of illustration, their roots in Berlin’s world-famous graffiti culture remain apparent, most notably when it comes to the duo’s motivation behind their eclectic style. “Through reducing and abstracting the form of the human body we create figures which can’t be assigned to a specific gender or nationality.” Lynn explains. “Every person should have the possibility to identify with our work. We would like to depict a diverse society in our works, not a stereotypical one.”
Another external element that seems to push their work to the next level is their collaboration as a duo. While many artists traditionally struggle to relinquish creative control and effectively work with others, both Lynn and Dennis wholeheartedly feel that they work better together than separately.
“We sketch together, compose the composition together and discuss the colorings together,” Lynn illustrates. “The image-ideas and forms are always created together. There are hardly any projects we work on individually.”
Of course, at certain points of the work, the tasks are naturally split up. Both Lynn and Dennis, however, unequivocally maintain that cooperation is advantageous for them, with the benefits greatly outweighing any possible drags. The cheeky visual language they’ve created together, for example, is something they couldn’t have achieved as two separate artists.
“We can inspire and motivate each other, or one person can pick up the train of thought or the line of the other and continue it,” Lynn continues. “This way we are able to create a visual language which we could hardly archive individually.”
The duo has had their hands full as of late with everything from their own exhibitions to exclusive fashion collaborations, but their imprint remains true to its Berlin roots. Their popular Procrastination exhibition was even installed at the Vitrine 01 on the platform of Birkenstrasse, a popular Berlin subway station.
While the endless networking connections, great museums and are undoubtedly very beneficial for artists, Lynn maintains that the simply living in Berlin provides more than enough ideas on its own. “We get the most inspiration from our everyday lives,” she says. “Colours shapes and you discover during a walk by accident.”
Words by Braeden Alexander.
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