Axel is also a warm and free-spirited young man. It’s first through his impeccable music taste that I made his virtual encounter. It’s then with his series of photographs that I was introduced to another side of his creative mind. In the meantime, I was finally able to meet him in London where he’s lived for quite some time. A few years had passed when some of his first designs started popping up on my feed recently and I decided to get in touch to know a bit more about these somewhat intricate/intriguing figures of his. As it turns out, Axel has settled in Glasgow and specialized in telling stories on textile. Right now, he’s telling us a bit more about his own.
Hello Axel ! Please tell us a little about yourself: where are you from, where are you now?
Hi Jean-François! I’m from Toulouse, which is a super cute city in the south west of France. It's pink, sunny, and they make their own sausage. I moved to London 6 years ago, I stayed there 5 years before moving to Glasgow last December.
Have you studied illustration, or are you self-taught?
I am self-taught. I studied French Literature back in France. My mum went to Art school when I was little so I had a pretty creative upbringing. I've always taken drawing classes. I've never been a fan of institutions but I am thinking of applying to Art school in Glasgow next year.
What's your creative process? Are there any specific steps that you like to follow?
I like to shop around for textiles, spend time in car boot sales, find new materials I can experiment with. I like to stretch, dance around my room and take a long bath before I start to work. Music is a really important part of the process. I need my serotonin levels to be up before I grab a pen!
Do you like to experiment and try new techniques?
Always. I have a strong interest for physical objects and fun compositions. I've designed tattoos, album covers, and I made a few sweaters. I'm always ready to collaborate on projects if I get excited about them. I have been working on a wooden table for a while now. I call it my hangover table, I've been covering it with stuff that happens on nights out. I also take commissions!
What would you say has become your area of expertise now?
I enjoy working with fabric. There is so much you can do with it. You can twist, extend, dye, hang and wear it. I also really like the different ways it can interact with light.
I would love to know more about the narratives you create on textiles - how did you first start making those?
I mostly create unique, handmade curtains and design fabrics for interior spaces. My father used to suffer from a gambling addiction, and when he'd gamble the rent away we'd have to move out (more than 30 times in total). This got me thinking about the idea of home, and what that feeling physically stems from. After doing life for a bit, I came to the conclusion that accumulated experience is what creates that feeling of home. With just a marker and some ink, I began to translate that accumulated experience into narratives on curtains, then I started to gather similar narratives from different people, which I'd get by asking them to fill out a form on my website. Once the curtains are up, a place begins to feel a little more like home.
When creativity meets business - do you sometimes find it hard to put a commercial value on your work?
It's always hard to put a price on someone's life story, especially when the work is so personal.
I first was introduced to your vision through your photographs - would you say the two disciplines "interfere" with each other?
They capture life moments. The themes I follow are the same in both disciplines: home, belonging, identity, domesticity, miscommunication and loneliness. Movement and balance have always been at the heart of my work, and taking pictures is great training for those things.
Your drawings contain colourful, naive and irregular shapes - what is on Axel Gutapfel's mind?
Nicotine, ghost stories, hairy chests, South East London chicken shops, Scottish slang, rush hour and chewing gum.
Name 3 tracks that soundtrack your days lately
- Niagara - Pendant Que Les Champs Brûlent
images courtesy of AXEL GUTAPFEL
interview JEAN-FRANCOIS ADJABAHOUE
More to read