Artist turns negative space into a positive
Noma Bar's distinctive style has earned him accolades from around the world.
Noma Bar is happy to be back in London. He's recently been on the other side of the planet – to Japan, to oversee the construction of a treehouse he designed, and then to Australia for a speaking engagement.
It should come as no surprise work has taken him so far away from home. The graphic designer has made quite a name for himself since coming to London from Israel.
The graduate of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem has had his work commissioned for the front pages of major magazines and news publications; hung in galleries, museums and other public spaces; used in high-profile advertisements; and published in two books dedicated to his designs.
Lauded and frequently awarded for his work, he most recently received the prestigious Yellow Pencil award at the D&AD Professional Awards for his series of covers he did of the American novelist Don DeLillo's books.
Bar, whose oeuvre is most recognizable for its use of negative space – the space around and between the subject(s) of an image – developed his distinct style shortly after coming to London. Having studied typography in school, he found little demand for it in his new home.
"Agencies would laugh at me when I approached them about work," he told From The Grapevine about his early days in the British capital.
In a foreign country and speaking a foreign language, Bar gravitated towards a more universal form of communication: the image. Slowly, and over time, his own unique style surfaced, one that emphasized what isn't present as much as what is.
"There are a lot of ways to tell stories. In my case it's kind of to tell a story minimally – to walk a very fine line and have almost nothing on the canvas," he said. "If you want to know why that is, I think I'd need a couple of years with a shrink to find the answer, " he added, laughing.
Though the final product uses understatement to powerful effect, it's hardly a smooth process by which he arrives at his creations.
"My process starts from a mess. If you see my sketchbooks, they are quite messy and stormy, with many layers of things. Beyond these layers, or between these layers, you can see what is in the final product," he said. "So it's a little bit like distilling myself again and again and again to define the thing, and then stripping down and stripping down to peel away layers to find the final thing, which a lot of the time looks empty, but which I find much more exposed."
Today, Bar has made a name for himself working in many mediums. He is simultaneously considered a graphic designer, an illustrator and an artist. But for him, whether he's been commissioned to design a cover for a magazine, build a giant sculpture on a hillside in Japan, or is working on his own personal project, it all results from the same inspired place.
"I don't really see myself as anything other than a graphic artist. I work with different mediums but the same voice is behind everything I do."
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