The Icinori universe has something of a Lewis Carroll-esque nonsensicality – human and animal hybrids, implausible scenarios, a topsy-turvy world where everything is mismatched. The closer you look at their pieces, the more hidden intricacies you discover in the web of the image, subtly and surreally contrasting against their minimalist, silkscreen aesthetic.
French illustration duo, Mayumi Otero and Raphael Urwiller, combine their individual talents to create the distinctive style of Icinori. Their work can be seen on book covers, magazine covers, and posters, including several for French music festival, Rock en Seine. Their muted colour palette – dull, block colours typical of screenprinting – gives their images an aged look; a sort of more refined and sophisticated Cat in the Hat style comes to mind when looking through the illustrations of their book Issun Bôshi. Icinori clearly finds inspiration in the world of Japanese art, combining it with a contemporary aesthetic to create a world continuously as perplexing as it is mesmerising. Issun Bôshi tells the story of the eponymous one-inch tall Japanese fairy-tale character, much like Tom Thumb, through a series of primary colour screen-prints.
This may give the duo an impression of children’s illustrators, yet much of their other work would beg to differ. Look deeper and you will find animals featured in almost cruel and vulgar scenarios – dolphins being made into balloon animals or tigers being skinned at a tiger factory. At times, you find yourself so in awe of the image’s surface that you overlook the sinister undertones hidden beneath the screen-printed layers: especially when paired with their deeper, almost murky colour scheme. But this unexpected and at times shocking multi-layering is all part of the Icinori charm.