Solo exhibition by KKADE / Pascal Flühmann

Broken Fonts II is the second solo exhibition at The Trace Gallery from Bern-based typographer and founder member of the Schwarzmaler collective Pascal Flühmann, a.k.a. KKADE. The artist had his first ever solo show at the gallery in the summer of 2013; since then he has been increasingly sought after in commercial and urban art contexts. This exhibition demonstrates the intervening evolution in KKADE’s craft as he focuses increasingly on the creative potential of complex typography.

Broken Fonts II is made up of two complementary groups of work: a ‘sammelsorium’ of works on paper, and larger works on canvas. The smaller works, several of which relate to commissions, are made largely in fineliner pen; these can be self-contained drawings or may be digitised and enlarged into other formats. KKADE’s works combine a variety of key influences: Swiss graphic traditions such as the crests on the buildings of his city, art deco ornamentation or contemporary insignia from North America, such as those associated with the West Coast tattoo and gang culture. Many diverse companies have appreciated the skilfulness of this combination: KKADE has been asked to design tattoo parlour logos from the States to Australia and enjoys an ongoing collaboration with the Californian gallery, clothing label and art supplies store The Seventh Letter, for which he has designed clothing, exhibited and created a mural in Los Angeles. A quite different, but equally apposite, collaboration for Emmentaler AOP cheese and Leo Burnett was to create a text design revelling in the multiple languages and cultures of Switzerland: a finely woven fabric of text, painstakingly drawn by pencil into a medallion design.

The dense lines and the architectural and organic elements in KKADE’s works build caesurae into the process of reading them. These are quieting pauses – something gloomy can be tempered with positivism. ‘Hello darkness my old friend’ quotes the opening lines of the Simon & Garfunkel song The Sound of Silence. The singers’ light and melancholy folk-rock harmony is grounded by the form and weight of the crisp letters, and the significance of the topic of sadness or depression is granted recognition. Larger works explore this balance between text, timing and tone still further, to make powerful statements such as the gold on black canvas ‘Be brave, clench fists’. The idea that control and restraint are essential to strength of character is emphasised by the mesh of hard lines that underpin the central motto.

KKADE’s texts are inspired by music, film or simply conversation. The central work in the exhibition is ‘Midnight in a Perfect World,’ which borrows its title from a DJ Shadow track. Here rigid form is abandoned for a flowing, harmonic, flag-like curve. A perfect world is an unattainable ideal, but sometimes, in the dead of night, we can recognise and celebrate just how good life is. |  Photos: Janosch Abel