Bonkers GIFs, curious collages, and very bright colors are the order of the day for Berlin-based illustrator and designer Ruohan Wang. Creating work on the fringes of Tumblr-style mania and supremely sketchy character illustrations, she has amassed an impressive and varied body of work considering she only graduated from her Master’s in illustration at Berlin University of the Arts last year.
Though her illustration style is packed with whimsy and humor, this playfulness belies a staunch work ethic—while still studying in 2015, Wang set up StudioR3 as a space to work on projects that combine illustration and experimental media. In the projects under the Studio R3 bracket, Wang invites artists from various disciplines to collaborate on works that have experimentation and “personality” at their core.
Wang grew up in China, and cites her father, an architect and building materials merchant, as one of the early catalysts for her later ventures into the creative world. “I was able to access all kinds of stuff–when other kids were playing Lego, I had already started to use smaller materials to build up tiny houses or necklaces,” she says. “After drawing pictures of these, I’d deconstruct them and put everything back. Although at that time I had no idea about composition, these experiences inspired me in handwork art, drawing, and design.”
In the lamentably post-Lego phase of life that forces you to choose a specific discipline to study, Wang went for illustration, though her work now has something of a conceptual bias. In her graduation project, Gravitational Waves, a collaboration with Xiaolu Yu, Wang moves away from animation traditions of “a series of actions in common sense,” and instead presents images that “are not predefined, but triggered by the loudness of live audio. Sometimes it creates interesting and surprising motions that are unreal, but very artistic. It’s a combination of animation and generative art.”
Wang’s work thrives in this sort of experimental environment, but perhaps that’s thanks to her attitude towards creating, which remains constant whether she’s tackling a client brief or a multidisciplinary personal project. “I consider drawing not as job, but as challenge to myself to try new things that I’m not familiar with,” she says. “I’m always exploring, so there’s seldom duplications in my work. I know that’s not great for attracting an audience, but it’s my attitude. When I’m on an emotion explosion, I can do lots of things in a short time.”
Her “explosions” bounce off the webpage in a vast array of GIFs. For the artist, making her images move is a way of imprinting them more firmly on the viewers’ memories—“it’s easier to build up a relationship between the human and a GIF than with more cold, static art styles.”
Common themes seem to include human bodies severed at the waist, tickling, and surreal juxtapositions (a candy-loving ape beneath a ringing bell? Sure.) As well as feeling original, it’s also extremely funny. “I think people can find humor and sarcasm behind the simplicity,” says Wang. “The humor mainly comes from the absurd scenes in my head. I like to draw illogical things. Some beautiful things in real life don’t really connect with me, but these sort of collisions interest me more due to their uncertainty and absurdism. I think there is a combination of dystopia, Dada, Surrealism, anarchy, and nihilism inside me.”