Communication designer and conceptual artist Hedi Xandt, whose prints we featured recently, has one of the freshest perspectives in art and design today. His campaigns stand out as provocative and groundbreaking in a sea of conventional advertising, and his personal works are dark, deep, and captivating. His portfolio includes work for companies like Lancome and Apple and encompasses a wide variety of subjects, aesthetics, and media forms. We wanted to know more about this young and upcoming artist, from his vision for the world of advertising to the inspiration behind his intriguing art.
Trendland: Much of your art is in traditional media (sculpture, painting), but your client work is more digital-based. Do you prefer either one to the other? What do you feel allows you more creative freedom?
Hedi Xandt: If I preferred one thing, I wouldn’t do the other. Everything I do is met with the same attention and care, this is one of my principles. Of course, there’s subjects you prefer over another, like it’s more recreational to actually paint on a canvas than designing a business card. Client work always has a budget, naturally, but even in that case I can present a great idea, even if it’s boiled down to a more conventional result. As a matter of fact, a lot of my artwork which is not under the name of Hedi Xandt is digital. Mostly photomanipulations, digital paintings and animations from another phase of my life that I believe to be still out there in the internet, I guess. But I don’t associate myself with them anymore and nowadays, I prefer the tactile sensation of a brush or pencil, a tool in my hand and the real interaction with my artwork.
At the same time, I am crazy in love and totally immersed in the creation of digital artwork that can be materialized in real life. 3D-Design and Printing is the future of art. I have seen studios that print every kind of material, even living cells. It’s literally limitless… and there you have your answer! I believe the amalgamation, the synergy of digital and traditional media is the essence of (at least my) creative freedom.
“I believe the amalgamation, the synergy of digital and traditional media, is the essence of (at least my) creative freedom.”
TL: Do you prefer personal or client work? How is the development process different when doing client work compared to personal work?
HX: Personal work is definitely more emotional. All organic and natural shapes create a deep fascination in me. The shapes, the materials will never bore me and I dare to say, they will never become de-mystified to human kind. I could stare into the face of a skull for hours, for example, and always see new things. That being said, it becomes clear that my approach to a client’s commission can’t be applying a dark theme to everything and throwing some bones into a logo. When I work on (commercial) projects, I aim to understand the world of my client and “work in his spheres”. I believe that a good concept knows no certain style, and definitely not my personal one. I kind of have much more to give than that. Client work is about rational approach, logical thinking, finding a solution to a problem. I’m less an artist than a problem solver in these cases.
TL: Your work for Apple – the exhibition booth – was quite different from your usual illustrations, sculptures, and graphics. What were the challenges working with physical space as a medium?
HX: The challenges are clearly that you have to cope with an overwhelming amount of pre-fab corporate identity and a strong brand communication. As an intern, I worked on exposition projects for BMW. They basically ask you to create the greatest concept ever and then they come with a long, long checklist and tell you what you can’t do. That’s agonizing, but also a challenge I came to enjoy. In the case of the Apple booth, I had a very small space which couldn’t be extended under any circumstances. It had to be outfitted with a VIP lounge, storage room, tables for product presentation, a special zone for the brand new items etc. So the challenge was – fitting an Apple Store into Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs – space itself.
TL: Your personal work is visually striking and energetic, but also has a dark, almost morbid element to it. What inspires this aspect of your aesthetic?
HX: Darkness is rich of emotions. I love the blur, the mist in our heads when we experience things we cannot explain. Have you ever held a skull in your hands? It’s magical. So light, but strong. Intricate and almost fragile in appearance, yet it serves us a lifetime as support, a case for our mind. I will never understand how someone can not find it beautiful. Things like that fascinate me, the layers of our existance, but also the almost godly alienation from nature that comes with knowledge and technology.
“I love the blur, the mist in our heads when we experience things we cannot explain.”
TL: Your sculptures are almost surreal and realistic at the same time. Does your inspiration come more from thoughts and abstract concepts or from the real, physical world?
HX: Both! Our minds can dream up the most amazing things. But only when we can sense them, see or touch them, they have the quality to really widen our horizons. I think that you have to infuse something known, something from the “real world” with a new, abstract “spark” in order to create a work that people can – emotionally and intellectually – relate to.
TL: Do you see art and advertising as separate or intertwined? Does having to create artwork and designs in order to sell a product ever stifle your creativity?
HX: I really don’t like this question. A lot of people will probably disagree or hate me for what I say, but I think there’s no difference. Art creates progress, visually and in the minds of people, and advertising has the money to spread the word. I have to say that art for me is a big chunk of craftsmanship and the love for creation. Good adverts showcase wonderful artists and their skills – both in concept and execution. I understand though that many would disagree. There’s just too much things going in this world that are called “art”, so I’m not going to enter that discussion now…
TL: Where do you see communication design going in the next few years?
HX: Digital, digital, digital! Images will finally begin to move, not just in videos. Print and online will merge in awesome ways. Emoticons will become a language on it’s own. We will have technologies we can’t even dream of now so it’s useless to discuss that now. But! A good striking logo and perfect typography will never change, not even in 300 years. So I really hope to see more skills in that sector!
“The question for me is: When will people stop knowing what’s real, and what’s just virtual? Dissolving everything, that’s my goal.”
TL: How do you see your own work evolving in the next few years?
HX: I will try to push the boundaries of making digital artwork become real even more. I’m planning to acquire my own 3D-Printer so I can experiment more, especially with my sculptures. But I also want to go back to painting, with the knowledge I obtained working digitally. The question for me is: When will people stop knowing what’s real, and what’s just virtual? Dissolving everything, that’s my goal.