Visual trends: September 2014

Discover what should be inspiring you this month from the wider creative world. In this first in a new monthly series of features, Laura Snoad identifies the hottest and most pervasive creative trends. She brings together the best new work, projects and exhibitions from around the UK and beyond – across art, design, photography, music, film and more.


The Memphis Group’s Fisher Price colour palette held a tight grip over the creative community this summer, with the playful legacy of these Milan-based 1980s product designers popping up in the form of bold, African-inspired patterns, black on white squiggles and pastel hues.

If you’re looking for colour inspiration this autumn, the V&A Museum’s exhibition dedicated to fashion photographer Horst P Horst is a good place to start. His surreal, almost kitsch vision combined strong primaries with geometric shapes – you can see where directors like David Lynch borrowed their uncanny swatches from.

Read on to learn more of this month's top creative trends.

Aside from colour, Horst also had an excellent eye for slightly unsettling lighting and composition, leading to shots of striking beauties with eerie undertones – pretty amazing when you think his heyday as Vogue Paris’ photographer was in the 1930s.


Dutch artist Krijn de Koning's Dwelling installation at the Folkestone Triennial similarly combines 1950s sweet-shop hues with angular architecture.

Both this Labyrinthian walkway and Horst’s iconic imagery are striking examples of how to use shadow to add geometric stripes of additional hues to flat block colour, something that would lend itself well to 3D paper projects or set design. You can catch it on Folkestone’s seafront until November 2.

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The South African hip hop scene is going through a real purple patch this month, with new launches from producers and MCs Spoek Mathambo, Okmalumkoolkat and supergroup Fantasma. Visually Okmalumkoolkat leads the pack with his video for Allblackblackcat (below), which is a surreal take on a Zulu cleansing ceremony performed on male family members before funerals.

Darting from shamanic costumes for the internet age (check out Koolkat’s CD-adorned headdress) to the crisp suits reminiscent of the Republic of Congo’s La Sape community (a sartorially dressed movement of Brazzaville-based dandies), the result is a nightmarish lesson in style. Perhaps most interesting is the checkered masked dancers that bounce around alien-like.


 If you feel like you’ve seen them somewhere before, a similar idea pops up in Shangaan Electro pioneer Nozinja’s video for Tsekeleke (below), also directed by prolific Johannesburg-based talent Chris Saunders. Here the dancers’ faces have been removed in post-production and filled with disorientating static and flashes of Nozinja himself. Character designers and illustrators take note.


But if it’s something else that’s ringing bells, take a huge geographic and cultural sidestep to the Tate Modern’s current exhibition dedicated to Russian constructivist Kazimir Malevich. He too obscured the faces of sitters with geometric shapes, and created unsettling, futuristic costumes for his operas, long before sci-fi was even a thing, inspiring a host of other creatives to do the same, not least fashion designer Martin Margiela.

Spanning architecture and ceramics as well as the famed Black Square painting, expect to see Malevich’s colour schemes (or lack of them), shapes and surreal characterisation echoed in the coming months. Although the Tate’s Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition might have been the more populist, it’s the Malevich show, which runs until October 26, that has a lot more take-home potential for creatives.

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Chris Saunders’ Allblackblackcat video also exhibits another visual trait set to make a big impact as we move towards the witching season. Grunge-inspired photography, created by combining poor background light with a strong flash, is becoming a common theme throughout AW14 lookbooks, especially when combined with tropic and verdant foliage.

For a good example, take Hackney-based shoe brand Miista's autumn collection, shot in the Barbican’s conservatory by Philip Meech and styled by PC Williams. Not only does the photography lend itself well to a transition between the seasons, where the darker nights seem to jump rather than creep up, but by here obscuring the model’s face it creates an interesting anti-fashion stance, tying in nicely with the prevailing nineties trend.


Results from a number of projects where creatives have started experimenting with designing their own printers have been revealed this month. Eindhoven-based product designer Olivier Van Herpt developed a piston-based extruder that 3D-prints complex clay objects. Using computer-based modelling software, the machine is capable of immersive precision and can create intricate patterns like weaves.


On the more gruesome end of the spectrum, artist Ted Lawson has created a unique nude self-portrait using a specially designed robot that prints blood.

Fed intravenously to a CNC machine, the blood is then printed by a robotic arm which has been pre-loaded with a specific design. Although perhaps too visceral for professional use, it shows the importance of rethinking and redeveloping tools as well as the content created with them.

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Another technological advance that could have huge impact on designers is Omote, a face-tracking and projection mapping project that allows you manipulate a face in real-time. A collaboration between Japanese artist Nobumichi Asai, make-up artist Hiroto Kuwahara and digital imager engineer Paul Lacroix, tiny metallic markers allow the projector to identify where a previously 3D-scanned face is in relation to the beams of light, meaning a whole host of visual affects can be projected on the moving surface.


You only have to take a look at Jesse Kanda’s incredible artwork for alternative pop siren FKA Twigs, who release her debut LP last week, to see the potential of Omote in a performance context. Just as Kanda has digitally distorted and tinted Twig’s features (from a light Bambi-fication for the LP’s cover to a full four-way disfiguration for the teaser campaign’s posters), using Omote it could be possible recreate a similar effect for the artist on stage.

Even if this seems some way off, keep your eyes glued to FKA Twigs these coming months. If Kare’s artwork and the Nabil Elderkin-directed video to sexually charged single Two Weeks (below) are anything to go by, there’s a exciting visual strategy behind the star that is sure to have a knock-on effect on the mainstream.