“It’s about making language visual,” respond the three members of Nous Vous when I ask them about their distinctly French name, which translates to We, You. “Well, it rolls off the tongue nicely, too,” laughs Jay Cover, who founded the London-based trio with William Edmonds and Nicolas Burrows back in 2007. “But aside from that, our external influences tend to be design manifestos where the process is conscious of the audience and collaboration.” We, You — there is a certain anonymity to their practice, reflected also in their European website domain (nousvous.eu), placing the group nowhere specific, perhaps in an effort to avoid defining their collective body of work.
As image-makers, drawing is the pivotal tool to their craft, and all three like to hand-render as much as possible. “We like to mix it up; we get bored quite easily so tend to borrow each others processes,” says William, pointing out his recent foray into ceramics, which was ignited after dropping in on a local pottery class at Hackney City Farm. His wares are manifestations of his drawings — graphic dimensions and trademark wavy lines that oscillate between sculptural and functional. While Nicolas is predominantly a print-maker, incorporating collage and assemblage, and Jay a self-confessed “tinkerer” (which currently includes toy-making, drawing and mark-making), there’s a common current that unifies and pulls their visual practice together.
To the viewer, this instantly resides in their use of color. William cites Memphis, 80s-inspired plastic-brights, and more sculptural ceramics like those of Peter Shire as references, whilst for Jay and Nicolas, it’s about taking a mental note of everyday, of odd and accidental color combinations. “Sometimes it’s about throwing yourself a curve ball and trying to work with it.” But it’s exhibitions that best serve as a test bed for their collective framework. Their recent Flim Flam Flum solo exhibition at London’s KK Outlet in January saw the brilliant interplay of their collective works — illustration, print design, animation, set design, and ceramics; individually distinct, yet witty in color, form, and play when combined.
In between regular commercial commissions for illustration and cultural clients — including Nike, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Tate, and The Gourmand, to name but a few — the gang are happiest when making things for themselves. “I was drawing with a router and it accidentally moved and I like how it slipped,” says Jay of the logical progression born out of a new process that he’s recently been working with. It’s an intervention of process, sure to be one of many in the collective’s ever-evolving practice.
For the young, French graphic designer and Royal College of Arts grad Marine Duroselle, a relationship to pattern and shape is both instinctive and intuitive, owing in large part to the vast array of objects she was exposed to as a child. Growing up in Peru, her mother an anthropologist specializing in pre-Colombian textiles, Duroselle was continually surrounded by rich fabrics, threads and other types of South American crafts; a period of post-adolescence spent living in New York, on an exchange program at the School of Visual Arts, only further emphasized her interest in textiles and color.
We discovered Cave Collective by way of their jewelry, which we spotted at the boutique No. 6 in New York, this past October. In late November, we shot founders Cat Lauigan and Alex Wolkowicz in their Greenpoint workspace. Then, by the end of January, we found out that they'd dismantled most of the studio and jewelry line, that Lauigan had relocated to California, and that both artists were focusing on their individual practices until they figured out what to do next. And yet by that point, we knew enough about Cave Collective to take the news in stride — ever since Lauigan and Wolkowicz began their collaboration in 2010, it's been an endlessly shape-shifting and exploratory project, one that's seen them living thousands of miles apart for nearly as long as they've lived in the same city.
Is it possible, in this day and age, to have a new movement in design, à la Art Deco, or Memphis? That was the question we posed to our panel of emerging designers a few weeks ago at the Collective Design Fair here in New York City, and the consensus appeared to be no. (As one participant claimed, "Everything just looks like the internet now.") But this week, a new group show opened in London, curated by Printhouse Gallery's Ruth Hanahoe and illustrator Saskia Pomeroy, that claimed one such new movement. They call it the New Abstract, and they've brought together different media in the visual arts — primarily prints, paintings, and ceramics — all united by a certain aesthetic and informed in some way by the process of making. (To be fair, a lot of the work does look like the internet; perhaps Tumblr is this generation's aesthetic movement.) We're still on the fence about whether the name will stick, but the curators do make an excellent case for the commonalities that tie the work together.