Tired of Hearing About Masks? Not Once You See this Antwerp Duo’s Incredible Creations

Clouds blowing swirls of wind, gentlemen with fin-de-siècle mustaches, finely dressed generals with elaborate headpieces — such are the lost-in-time characters depicted in “An Entrance to Mention: the Park Pardon Principles,” a 52-page book about a fictional park and its inhabitants that Antwerp illustrators Bloeme van Bon and Geran Knol created together in 2014. The drawings form an enigmatic pictorial narrative, a bit Edward Gorey-like, that aims to immerse readers inside a strange fantasy world of the pair’s making. Their most recent project, however, aims to do the opposite: Schijngelaten is a series of one-of-a-kind papier-mâché masks that conjure the characters out of the book so you can insert them into your home. Knol and van Bon began making the masks last year, under a shared practice also named Park Pardon, and today they’ve launched the latest edition in the ongoing (and consistently sold-out) series.

The masks are made with cellulose pulp, formed around a head form, ball, or flat surface and then painted with a whimsical visage; for Knol and van Bon they represent a longtime practice of toggling not only between two-dimensional drawings and their three-dimensional counterparts, but between her work and his. After growing up less than 10 minutes away from each other in the villages of northern Netherlands, the two met as illustration students at ArtEZ, where they collaborated on a graduation installation that “combined publications with papier-mâché heads and life-sized figures,” they explain. That kicked off the Park Pardon project, which they developed further for their MA thesis at St. Lucas University of Arts in Antwerp in 2015. Upon graduation, “we spent time on our individual practices, where we both tried to let go of the expectations of what being an illustrator should be like,” they say. Yet they kept coming back to Park Pardon, and the way it let them “interfere in each other’s drawings so that they’d blend together, the spectator unable to differentiate our individual inputs.”

For awhile they thought Park Pardon would be a publishing platform for zines created by themselves as well as with other creatives, and they did release another publication in 2017 that’s still for sale through Printed Matter.” But eventually “we let go of that idea and decided to focus on making work together in all kinds of ways,” they say, which was fortunate since the Schijngelaten mask series may just end up being the work that brings Park Pardon serious recognition. The series began as a commission for the Antwerp flower shop Wilder, but earlier this year the pair started selling the masks through their own website, and found instant success thanks in part to the convergence of their oeuvre with a sudden fashion– and design-world fascination with fictitious face coverings. So much so that we’ve timed the launch of this story with the launch of their latest collection, knowing it won’t last long. You can see our favorite selections from the new batch as well as older ones, then head to the Park Pardon site to purchase one while you can.
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