Invader: Prints on Paper

22. 12. 2020 - 15. 08. 2021
440h/invader_space_dragon_mozaik_ljubljana.jpg
Invader: Space Dragon.

For more than twenty years, through his uncompromising work, creative passion, and commitment to the ethical principles of his medium and concept, Invader has helped to make street art an ever more important part of contemporary art. Invader is an artist, an individual, a movement, an app, a game, and a lifestyle. He is a phenomenon in the world of street art, and he has become a global art star.

For the very first time, the exhibition at the International Centre of Graphic Arts offers viewers the chance to experience the fragmentary nature, the diffuseness, and, from a global and conceptual perspective, the precise formulation of Invader’s artistic idea through his works on paper, by which he playfully and wittily weaves his web around the world.

Curator: Božidar Zrinski

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Repetition, Variation, Evolution

For more than twenty years, through his uncompromising work, creative passion, and commitment to the ethical principles of his medium and concept, Invader has helped make street art an ever more important part of contemporary art. Invader is an artist, an individual, a movement, an app, a game, and a lifestyle. He is a phenomenon in the world of street art and has become a global art star.

He first exhibited in Ljubljana in 2006, at the invitation of the International Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC), as part of the group show Street Art: Stencils, Posters, and Stickers – A Low-Tech Re-action. He presented photographs and a large world map showing all the places he had so far “invaded” with his distinctive mosaics. This was also the first wave of his invasion of Ljubljana. Interestingly, in this action his occupation of the urban space included the interior of Tivoli Mansion, where MGLC is based. A few of his mosaics are still visible today in the centre’s offices and public areas. Now, almost fifteen years after this first wave, he has returned for a retrospective of his prints, which reflects his creative focus and distilled artistic expression. He frankly admits that while printmaking is not his primary medium, he is conscious of its historical role and the potential of the classic “edition”, which has helped to democratize art, made great works of art more accessible, and encouraged the passion for collecting. His prints allow him to disseminate his ideas and images, if only in limited copies, through a variety of social channels and exhibition spaces. The mosaics are essentially public monuments, markers intended for anyone and everyone, but they are static works tied to a particular place. While prints may reach only a limited number of viewers, they inhabit a different kind of exhibition space, which may be either public or private – a gallery, museum, or private home. In his thinking and in his creative diffusion in the different settings in which he appears, Invader creates an art that is connected to life, which attracts the attention even of those outside the art world.

Invader’s prints are for the most part self-published works made in conjunction with specific exhibitions and actions. But it is important to note that from 2005 to 2015 he collaborated with the acclaimed London publisher and printer Pictures on Walls (POW), which was dedicated to producing and promoting street art in the form of original print editions. Working with POW, Invader enhanced his prints using a special relief printing technology, which allowed him to bring out the image’s mosaic-like structure along with each pixel separately.

Invader’s work expresses his interest in the beginnings of the digital world’s pixelated visualization and the public’s gradual acceptance of the various devices that have radically changed our reality. The television screen, the computer monitor, and the smartphone are just a few of the devices that have helped to shape and influence the image of popular art, culture, the computer games industry, and our forms of personal communication. Most of his prints reflect this concern and are connected to his study of the basic types of the main figures and characters from the early period of video games and digital visual representation. With regard to Invader’s revival of these popular characters, we should note his interest in pixelation and the lo-fi aesthetic, whose retro look takes us nostalgically back to the history and beginnings of digital imagery design, thus preserving interest in this part of our cultural and technological heritage.

In 2017, for the exhibition Hello, My Game Is …, Invader published a screen print with the interesting and evocative title Repetition, Variation, Evolution. Featuring one of the basic character in his mosaic work, this print can be understood as a manifesto. It illustrates his work process: by making small modifications in the execution or construction of the character, he points to the quantity, multiplicity, and abiding presence of his idea.

Invader’s “Rubikcubist” prints constitute a particular category. Using a palette limited to the colours of the famous Rubik’s cube, they present iconic images from famous album covers (Rubik Low Fidelity), works from the world of art history (Rubik Masterpieces), and well-chosen portraits of villains from the movies (Rubik Bad Men). The series shows the versatility of his method of simplifying motifs, which can turn almost any image into a uniquely visualized picture composed of only six colours.

Another major category of prints include those in which Invader applies his general concept of invading spaces. This can mean placing characters into famous artworks like the prints of Edvard Munch, or the series he created for his Art4space project, when he was able to have one of his mosaics launched into the stratosphere. Here we can also place prints in which Invader’s characters are hidden in an apparently abstract binary image. By placing his characters into an already existing visual image, he alters the content of the original message so it becomes more vivid, direct, and clear: This is an invasion.

His art-making is supplemented by various kinds of published works. City maps have always been an important tool in his artistic process. In most cases, his installation of on-site mosaics is followed by the creation of a special map that shows where they all are. These “invasion maps” are individually designed limited-edition art publications. We can understand them as a somewhat unusual city map, which not only indicates the locations of the mosaics but also offers a unique visual presentation of the city or region under invasion. The maps reflect the visual expanse of each city and provide a sense of its shape and image. Just as every city is itself original and unique, interesting and appealing, so too are Invader’s maps. They present a range of the visual culture of the territory he invades, with its characteristic and distinctive forms and features. The maps show us the territory as Invader sees and experiences it. If we follow the markers on the map, we discover for ourselves his movement through the city. Not least of all, we can read the maps as part of a game, a hunt for hidden treasures. They point to something secretive and extraordinary, something we must find and see for ourselves. And most importantly, when we place them side by side and compare them, it is clear that every invasion map is the result of a particular physical experience of the space and the way this experience is expressed in printed, artistic, and visual form.

A special place in Invader’s art is occupied by his self-designed books, in which he presents and explains his work in fuller detail. They include both catalogues, which present his exhibition and studio work, and “Invasion Guides”, which are, it is were, the final act in his invasion of a particular city. They contain documents, plans, lists, stories, memories, maps, and carefully selected photographs of all the installed mosaics. These guides are especially noteworthy as they were conceived in their entirety by Invader himself. We can understand them, then, both as documents and, as Invader himself says, works of art.

The exhibition at the International Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC) in Ljubljana offers viewers, for the first time ever, a chance to experience the fragmentary nature, diffuseness, and, from a global and conceptual perspective, precise formulation of Invader’s artistic idea, by which he playfully and wittily weaves his web around the world.

Božidar Zrinski

This text appears in the catalogue Invader: Prints on Paper, Catalogue raisonné 2001–2020, published by Control P Editions in conjunction with the exhibition in Ljubljana.