Mixing the reassuring vibe of midcentury public information posters with the odd peppering of medieval composition and character, Riga-based illustrator Roberts Rurans has a style that’s joyful with the occasional cheeky undercurrent. His work for egg brand Eva humorously calls to mind the overbearing wholesomeness of The Sound of Music, while his posters for a concert series at the Fon Stricka Villa are more cerebral, combining relaxed characters with abstract shapes that nod to the transportive nature of listening to and visualising music.
Since we last spoke to him back in 2017, Roberts’ style has evolved considerably. He still creates bulbous, friendly figures and his pieces still have a sense of movement from their gravity-defying composition, but his painting technique is sharper and colour palette more vivid. “I’m more open to the inclusion of details and I’ve gotten better at painting technique, which makes the final pieces look more ‘finished’ and refined,” Roberts tells us about his newer projects. “I think my work is becoming less geometric and more loose with the inclusion of fluid and irregular forms.” He’s also increasingly looking to Medieval art to inspire his practice. “I love the naive yet incredibly rich compositions Medieval artists made,” he explains. “Their willingness to break the rules of proportions and perspective in order to emphasise the meaning is something I’d like to learn from.”
Redefining his colour palette has also shaken up the feel of his images. His penchant for warm tones has meant that many recent projects have a sunny disposition, with occasional unusual hues thrown in “to spice things up a bit”. A recent book about insects is filled with brightly hued bugs, while an illustration for the New York Times plays with vibrant primary colours. Roberts tells us, “I think balance, contrast and brightness is what I’m looking for when planning the palette for an artwork. My colours have to be lively and well balanced – not too bright overall nor monotonous, so that they’re able to not only catch the attention, but also keep it for a moment.”
This is something very visible in Roberts’ new publication (extra) Ordinary, a petite A6 book published by Kuš. After watching his daughter create an imaginary circus from inanimate objects, he was inspired to create a comic that showed the power of imagination. “For her there’s a dual world,” explains Roberts. “On one hand it’s just a matchstick box, for example, but on the other there’s a whole range of possibilities of what that could represent visually or symbolically. Hence the title (extra) Ordinary. The fantasy or ‘extra’ part in brackets, as it’s a potential universe hidden in plain sight.” With projects in the works for a publisher in Korea and some projects in the realm of healthcare afoot, we can’t wait to see where Roberts’ adventures in Medieval composition and symbolism lead next.