July 2024

Pick Me Up

Words & Images: Craig Redman & Karl Maier

In many ways Rinzen epitomises the digital age that we live in, they’re breaking new ground all the time, and with the design collectives five members each ensconced at separate corners of the globe their reliance on modern communication is as pronounced as it gets. Which is interesting because their work is characterised by depth and meaning, and not just an undeniable aesthetic appeal – traits that are often overlooked as everyone clambers aboard the information superhighway. Rinzen members Craig Redman and Karl Maier converse about their creative development, meaning versus perception and double entendres.

Craig Redman: Karl! All good today?

Karl Maier: Oh, hello Craig. All good indeed.

CR: Take a deep breath and give us a quick breakdown on how we met and how Rinzen came to be?

KM: Alright. Well you and I met all the way back at art college. From pretty early on we were working together pretty closely on projects and quite naturally just continued to do so once we finished studying. Meanwhile, in order to actually earn a living, we were also working at a commercial design studio and that’s how we came to know Rilla, Adrian and Steve. Rinzen itself was born across many drunken evenings at the dawn of the millennium. We were all frustrated with our day jobs and for nothing more then a bit of fun we conceived RMX, which was basically a design remix project loosely based on the Surrealist’s ‘Exquisite Corpse‘ game that we went on to publish and exhibit. That was really the catalyst for us realising the potential of working collectively so we quit our respective jobs and here we are.

CR: That was 10 years ago now, it’s funny to see how our style has changed over that period of time. At University we explored more grunge style (admittedly it was a rather optimistic grunge), then it sort of moved into J-Pop and then to more complicated fantasy landscapes to eventually being completely simplified, which is where we are now. Do you think it’s because our work is trend related or it’s some strange natural progression?

KM: Very early on we really just absorbed everything. Which is only natural and a big part of the development process, really just trying out a bunch of stuff. Beyond that I feel that little by little we began to inject more of our own personalities and interests into what we were doing. When Rinzen began we started exploring illustration a lot more and a more narrative-driven approach emerged — the idea of creating these complete little worlds. Initially with Rinzen there was also a more collective style that we strove for, and whilst that remains true to a point, our individual styles have begun to emerge in recent years. Personally I still feel like thematically we deal with a lot of the same ideas we have in the past but the execution has altered and refined somewhat. I suppose it’s a bit like finding a better, more concise way of saying what you’d like to say. Doing more with less, that’s where I think we’re at right now.

CR: What’s next then? A blank sheet of paper?

KM: Yeah right, you know that’s pretty much the last thing you should expect. Invisible ink on the other hand…

CR: Ha. We’ve been developing this more simplified approach over the last few years and it’s good to be able to see it all together for the exhibition at Monster Children. We’re accustomed to seeing each other’s work in our Inboxes rather than on a wall, since you were stuck with organising most of the screen printing (ie. translating the file into an actual object) how did you find that process?

KM: Well for one they’re much bigger. Which, for whatever reason, always manages to surprise me. The process is very rewarding though, you’re right. More often than not we’re used to seeing things onscreen so the ability to interact physically in a space adds a whole new dimension. Pun intended.

CR: The way we email files to each other, it’s usually about once a week, is our way of updating each other on our lives and work now that we aren’t living in the same city. To me it’s totes inspiring (to steal the title of our show – a “pick me up”) to get such awesome work without warning. I think it’s because I’m no longer sitting at the desk next to you where we would see each other’s process and where the end result was inevitable. We’ve essentially worked together for 10 years, have you found the separation any different?

KM: Yeah, well obviously it’s a pretty big change after so long, though we were probably a lot like “Grumpy Old Men” by the end of it. I do think, and I imagine you agree, that with this distance our own personalities have emerged a lot more and ultimately I feel like we’re doing better work now — both individually and together — as a result. And with the added element of surprise, it’s definitely more fun trading these different pieces. It’s also become quite an important part of the way we work together and, on a more personal level, relate to one another. Over time it has come to resemble a conversation of sorts where imperceptibly one thing leads to another. I can’t recall us once ever actually discussing the work until we set about devising this exhibition and really looked at it all together, so it’s not a call and response kind of conversation, something more like trading quips I think. There’s perhaps a sensibility to it rather than a theme per se.

CR: Though most of the pieces in the show are relatively simple in execution there is always some hidden reference, even the title of the show has a double meaning – why make the viewer work?

KM: I don’t think the viewer has to work too hard. It’s intended to be very inclusive. There is a directness to the work, so it can be read and understood in an instant, but then there is also often a punchline of sorts that follows. Wherein a duality of meaning or understanding is apparent. Hopefully the works on show will delight rather than confound though. I’d ideally like to see people smiling when it opens.

CR: And the show is going to go to Melbourne too, right?

KM: Yep, that’s the plan. We’re trying to organise that now so stay tuned.

CR: I saw Rilla and Steve (two out of the five Rinzens) in Paris recently, it was cool to see them again, it’s been a few years. Have you seen Adrian (the final piece of the Rinzen puzzle) recently?

KM: Yeah we’re all so accustomed to speaking to each other via email that seeing a Rinzen in the flesh is a pleasant change. Adrian’s finishing up an amazing public art project in Brisbane, Rilla’s been working on her character Sozi and accompanying book, and Steve is putting together his album. It’s cool to see everyone working on these nice offshoots of Rinzen.

CR: Alright, I’ll let you get back to staring at Bondi Beach while I catch a feverishly hot train home and battle Subway rats.

KM: Always trying to rub it in eh…

CR: Any chance I get, bye!

Pick Me Up opens Thursday July 1 at 6pm and runs until July 16. Monster Children Gallery, 20 Burton St, Darlinghurst

Read our feature from issue two with Craig Redman who moonlights as Darcel Dissapoints.

Craig Redman & Karl Maier

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