She’s the one and only proponent of 'Odermatt Brut’, with her recent Zürich show an explosive tapestry display fuelled by Americana. But Odermatt’s design work sizzles with a list of influences that reads like the cast list of a particularly freaky episode of the X Files. I was keen to find out more about her eclectic style, so I spoke to her about it. Here’s what went down:
Hi Corinne, first off, can you tell us what your key influences are?
Life. My foolish heart. Rock and Roll.
My grandmother’s sewing machine. Being on the road. Everyday life. Growing up sandwiched between the foothills of the Alps. The old weird america. Blues. Outsider Art. Folk traditions. Vintage Memorabilia. The grass on the other side. Dreams. Found objects. Hoodoo. Packed bags. The rabbit hole. Coney Island. Antiheroes, Freaks & Outlaws. The ride into the sunset. The moment when serendipity strikes.
Where do you research for your art work?
Apart from what I see and sponge up in everyday life, a lot of research happens in on- and offline archives and on extensive travels.
Sometimes I search archives, sometimes I would find stuff on flea-markets, sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. Serendipity has always been a loyal companion. It happens a lot that I stumble upon something in a completely unexpected place and manner. It can be an object, a picture, a story, a topic, a song that attracts my attention... and from there I start to dig deeper until some kind of new obsession sparks.
Do you count yourself as an illustrator or a designer, or both?
Neither really. The thing is that I find it harder and harder to pin down my own work.
I kept trying to come up with a word because I noticed that people sometimes get a bit puzzled upon asking me what it actually is that I do... I just wouldn’t know where to start when asked this question, ha ha
Anyway, at some point I gave up trying to figure out what to call myself and began to tell people that I am just Corinne and I’m a jack-of-all-trades working in the realms of art, design and nonsense. I eventually made a joke out of it by creating five different business cards with different job titles; like that I can chose my „profession“ depending on the situation I’m in.
I am currently using the one that says; Corinne Odermatt – Fueled by heartblood.
Do you find it easier or harder to art direct your own illustration?
Things hardly ever fall into place from the very start and directing my own work is mostly a struggle. With every new (self-directed) project I inevitably get myself into an unpredictable state of Limbo. It can be downright dreadful. At least until I see the light, ha ha.
What’s this Pandaemonium Gitano artwork all about?
It’s a Record Cover that I made for my good friend Rock Gitano who works as a DJ and plays music in the realm of Gypsy Folk and Punk.
I chose the title Pandaemonium Gitano because Rock himself is a dare-devilish person, living in his own chaotic but intense world, and therefore the word suits him well.
He is a true gypsy himself; Born into a jennish-family, he grew up in a circus family and lived in wagons just like the one on the cover. The drawings were inspired from old illustrations from circus magician shows.
Black Smoke Medicine Show
This project is a collaboration between me and long-time collaborateur Anita Zumbühl.
In 2013, Anita and I were awarded Central Switzerland’s New York studio residency. This enabled us to spend time digging in New York’s archives to investigate the subject of travelling medicine shows: a phenomenon in early America which blended performance, charlatanism, entertainment and healing.
We then started our own Medicine Show and invented a whole saga about the Black Smoke Family. Based on this story we built a whole visual and ideological world around the the medicine show, until it became its own multidisciplinary and participative little cosmos. The magic happens in and around our black smoke mothership, a painted small caravan, with which he have been moving around the country for the last three years.
And tell me about your latest exhibition, what’s the story behind it?
I started working with textile techniques about 10 years ago. I always liked my work as a graphic designer, but the feel of creating things with my own hands went missing.
When I first started experimenting with textile materials I wondered whether I could use my graphic skills and blend them into a new form. I went from raw (hand printed) fabric-patchwork to very small delicate embroideries to large-scale quilted flags.
What I liked about this work is not only the tactile sense, it is also that when working with needle and thread, your possibilities to design something are very limited. You have to make similar decisions to when you’re drawing or painting; it’s a linear reduction, a slow analog process.
The exhibition at Trace Gallery is a conglomeration of older, small textile and paper works, recent flags on a much larger scale, and textile objects.
Most of textile works are nearly always made in the spirit of collage and recycling inherent in making quilts. I employ those techniques to make high-contrast images. The explosions (One Day We Will Part) could be the big bang, while they also echo ecclesiastical textiles designed to appeal to broad congregations.