Words Speak Louder Than Actions. 14 September 2012 Why the work of Shahir Zag is so much more than a bunch of slogans.

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than a beautifully laid out sequence of words, writ large on a blank piece of paper. It marries the two things I most enjoy in my job: great copy and great design. 

 

When we moved into 36 Great Queen Street we found ourselves with more wall space than we knew what to do with. But the character of the building – 18th century, so not a straight line or even surface in sight – meant that we were scratching our heads about what to put up.

For several weeks two large poster tubes stood by the (sadly-but-sensibly not in use) fireplace. Ryan had been to Liberty and bought two Anthony Burrill prints. At first I wasn’t sure about them. One proclaimed ‘Think Of Your Own Ideas’ the other ‘You Know More Than You Think You Do’. I recoiled slightly from the motivational/inspirational tone. However, they were lovely.

Two more smaller prints followed; these reassured me that the Burrills could be laced with irony or taken seriously, depending on one’s mood and they read: ‘Art Is What You Can Get Away With’ and ‘I’ve Had A Lovely Evening, But This Wasn’t It’.

The four prints were framed and put up in places where they could be noticed or not depending on whether you were looking, as is the way in London with interesting details, they only register if you physically look up.

Browsing my reliable i-need-to-buy-a-present-for-someone-nice website How Kapow the other day, I noticed two text based prints that looked like they were relatives of our set of four. They were telling me that it was time to add to the collection. So what would it be?  ‘Drink More Gin’ was tempting, but not something we need reminding about really.The second statement was ‘Good People Drink Good Beer’. Like beer itself, this one had a little more substance to it, a whiff of the country pub and another element that is hard to put your finger on - ‘subjectivity’. Yes, we’ll have one of those please.

To go back to the beginning, I have always loved the use of text in art. From my favourite painter Cy Twombly’s childish scrawl to Bob & Roberta Smith and almost everything in between; but it’s always been a visual art thing. I have neither the double barrelled surname, nor the necessary blue-ish hue to my blood that would allow me to professionally infiltrate the visual arts world. So when text and art combinations of such an astounding quality and calibre come through the unashamedly commercial world of advertising, it makes me very, very happy. Shahir Zag makes me happy. He makes me feel like my work can be creative, that I can use my brain to make something and that that something can be made of words and that the process of doing this is an action and that it's absolutely fine if the purpose of this action is to sell tickets. Bathos? Not a bit. I’ll end with one of Zag’s many gems: DON’T BE SO EASILY DEFINED.
 

Clair Chamberlain, Director, The Corner Shop


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