Get up-close with Peter Strain's spellbinding mix of typography and portraiture

Get face to face with some striking homages to film and catch some new works by the Belfast illustrator.

Illustrator Peter Strain has been turning heads for a while now in cinema fandom circles, with original film-inspired works commissioned for clients such as Film 4, The Guardian and Pottermore. His inimitable style is made up of a striking mix of typography and art, with portraits made up of quotations taken from the object of homage in question, and this week sees his latest exhibition TYPEface hit London streets.

An exhibition of hand-finished screen prints and original drawings, TYPEface is a reflection of the enormous influence film and music have on Peter's work, and will include the debut of a new series entitled HIDE/FIND, inspired by Peter's own personal lyrics.

"The objective for TYPEface was to change up the content and make it more personal rather than too much of a shift in the style," Peter tells Digital Arts. "I wanted to really push the idea of containing all the elements in distinctive shapes, particularly profile headshots."

"I tend to stick to more limited colour palette when I can so almost all the new pieces are monotone with just some splashes or colour to reflect the content of the lyrics which are quite reflective and mournful in places - but with rays of hope sprinkled through."

The lyrics used in the pieces come from Peter's dabblings in songwriting, with the artist working out vocal melodies with guitar for songs that firmly remain under lock and key. His lyrical heroes range from Matt Beringer, Michael Stipe, Leonard Cohen to Bob Dylan. 

"But my favourite lyricist is Conor Oberst," he tells us. "He has an amazing way of weaving interconnected stories and ideas into one song and a knack for creating cutting emotional moments and desperate aggression in his writing and performance."

The faces used meanwhile for the new pieces are far removed from his usual portraits of cinematic legends and iconic characters.

"For the main figures in each I reached out to some friends and a few models to pose for me," Peter says. "For HIDE/FIND in particular I was lucky enough to work with a brilliant photographer in Malachy McCrudden and an incredibly talented model, Niamh Cunningham."

"I always like to keep the visual information contained within a shape so I wanted this striking profile and these two knocked it out of the park."

"I like to create figures, portraits and shapes using hand rendered typography," Peter says when explaining his work as a whole. "I feel my style works best when there's a strong composition and attention is payed to the hierarchy of visual information."

"For me, this organisation allows for the drawings and lettering to be more organic and free-flowing."

TYPEface is running from 3rd of September to the 15th at Coningsby Gallery in London; see more of Peter's fantastic work on his official homepage.

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