Pictoplasma – a curatorial project best known for the exploration of contemporary character design and art – has moved away from the comforts of colourful pop aesthetics and launched PicTarot, a set of tarot cards available as printed objects or as app for the iPhone.

Artists involved include Jon Burgerman, Neasden Control Centre, Fluorescent Hill, Studio Aka, Tado, and Yupyland.

A tarot reading with an old woman in a deserted mountain village in Corsica in 2007 first inspired Pictoplasma’s Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler to create PicTarot. We caught up with Lars Denicke to find out more.

DA: What prompted you to create PicTarot?

LD: "It was not our choice to make. Tiring of beach life, we decided to explore the inner island, where we soon lost our bearings and found ourselves in a small, deserted mountain village. The only living soul around was an old woman sitting in the shade of a tavern. She brought out a deck of cards, which she started laying out in front of us in unfamiliar patterns, and launched into a discussion about our future paths.

"Our initial amusement soon turned to bewilderment, not because her predictions seemed to fit our personalities, but because most of the cards seemed to depict images of characters we knew from our research and previous publications. We both clearly identified something similar to the character Helper by the American artist Tim Biskup, and there was something uncannily close to Akinori Oishi’s drawings on another card. Even Motomichi Nakamura’s typical red-white-and-black design appeared as The Devil, and we were both shocked to find a character by Gary Baseman symbolising The Fool.

"Right in front of our eyes on an island in the middle of nowhere, all of the iconic pop-characters we’d been collecting and researching for years, were suddenly entangled in a strange, mystical system.

"We started our research in 2008. While unveiling the history of the symbols, we started to re-examine our own archives in a search for hidden meaning in these contemporary characters, and gradually recreate the version we had encountered in Corsica. It was almost two years before we had assembled all 22 cards of the Major Arcana to our mutual satisfaction."

DA: Did the idea for the iPhone app come before the physical deck, or vice versa? Why did you want to do both?

LD: "The physical deck came first, but once we had done the research and started the design, we understood this would make a perfect app. The physical deck comes only with the Major Arcana, whereas the app includes the other 56 cards, a regular deck of playing cards called the Minor Arcana. Only an app makes it possible to always be just a simple touch away from every card’s meaning."

DA: How did you pick the illustrators involved?

LD: "This was a long and very difficult process, which led to many disputes. We went through a lot of tarot readings with plenty of traditional decks to understand the specific meaning of each card, sucked up far too many esoteric and historical books – and only then started to think about which artist might push things a bit further and add to the established meaning."

DA: Did you brief them in any way?

LD: "No. Once we were set we were certain who would do which card."

DA: Which are your favourite pieces and why do like them?

LD: "The Empress by Amandine Urruty: this card is about letting things grow and taking care. We love the way this empress conveys it by taking care of a worm and swinging a pendulum over its head."

"The Devil by Motomichi Nakamura: the perfect card to represent the dark side in each of us."

" The Lovers by Ian Stevenson: while The Lovers in tarot stands for unity and joint ventures, this couple makes it obvious that love also implies that one's pleasure may also represent suffocation for the other."