Conversation with Silvia Prada

By Joakim Andreasson

Silvia Prada, one of Spain's most prominent contemporary illustrators, stepped into the art scene in early 2000's by producing works for the late THE FACE magazine. She has since become one of the most coveted contemporary POP illustrators, and has exhibited her large-scale drawing and poster installations in galleries and cultural institutions worldwide including Colette, MoCA Shanghai, MUSAC and Deitch Projects. Her most recent project is THE NEW MODERN HAIR: A STYLING CHART, a book and edition that pays homage to the barber shop and comments on the production of the male identity as it pertains to visual and popular culture. Here, we candidly ask Silvia about how the project came about, her collaboration with (MALIN+GOETZ) and the importance of SKIN.

Hi Silvia! I know you're in Spain right now. How is it to be back?
It's good! I needed to have my mom's food.. Yum!!

Nothing better than a home cooked meal! Did you bring her a copy of your new book THE NEW MODERN HAIR: A STYLING CHART? What does she think about it?
She is falling in love with every man in the book. She said that they are all so handsome and she wants to have a date with The Sportsman, LOL! But she changes her mind everyday and now she prefers The Capri.

My favorite, as you well know, is The Flat Top. Very sexy! So can you tell me about what made you divulge into the world of barber shop portraits? How does it resonate within the broader scope of your work?
That portrait is my favorite too.  It is so powerful and he has a great look. Well, first of alI, I am through my body of work defined as a portrait artist. I've always been interested in all kinds of male subjects within POP culture. This time, however, it was time to work with references that have strongly shaped me as a child given that my father is a hair stylist.

That is so fascinating and explains a lot about your work, how you actively define select and iconic moments not only as events, but as aesthetic observations. Now you have me imaging you hanging out with your father in the salon and criticizing the client's looks as if they where contenders on America's Next Top Model...LOL! Kidding aside, how do you think this experience trained your aesthetic eye? And your chosen artistic path?
Everything having to do with my father's salon was such a big deal for me. I grew up around magazines. Not only men's magazines but also women's and 70's lifestyle magazines, and amazing publications such as Reader's Digest. I used to spend so much time in the salon flipping through all this imagery and smelling special scents and hair products. I think the most important impact of this experience was observing my father's hands working on someone's hair. That is definitely what made me choose my artistic path. It is such a contradiction that he never liked the fact that I wanted to be an artist. He wanted me to be a lawyer like my brother or a doctor like my sister.

The combination of your stylistic training and exposure to media really explains not only your chosen discourse, but also your very select approach in documenting POP and contemporary culture. What was your editing process in the creation of THE NEW MODERN HAIR: A STYLING CHART? Was it mainly visual? Because let's face it, all the portraits are VERY attractive...LOL...Or is there a more profound message behind the project?
I'm proud to be a decorative artist. I defend the idea of promoting beauty as a healthy behavior in the arts. There are already enough artists trying to save the world's problems through their work, and this is the message I choose to communicate. The following is quite funny to say, especially in this interview for (MALIN+GOETZ) , but i think there is nothing more profound than skin, even when skin is superficial.

I love that! And that is quite a fitting transition to the site-specific drawings you made for (MALIN+GOETZ)'s three US stores in conjunction with the launch of your book. What role do the geometric shapes have in these drawings? And why and how do you choose geometry to enhance the subjects in your work? These have become quite the signature trademark for you.

I love to work with geometric references from art and design movements that have contributed so much to contemporary culture. I choose to connect their visual language with select moments, especially ones that are very specific and distinct, and that have a prominent place in people's cultural awareness. This is what defines something as POP or popular. I always use these references and interpret them with utmost respect. The shapes allow for my subjects to be put into a temporal framework beyond the immediate.

Yes, and they are so beautiful on their own, and almost command a certain manifesto in your work. A part from the book, you also created a limited and numbered art edition in form of a foldout poster. Can you tell me a bit about it?
The poster its a very intimate and delicate item, and actually contains the original idea of working off a typical barber hairstyle chart. I really enjoy these charts in barber shops. Especially vintage ones as each style has a specific purpose.

I love it too! It is truly a collectors item. And the book also feature genius texts complementing each drawing by Miguel, Michael and Holly, close friends of yours who are editors and hair stylists. Will this project take on a different form in the future? Maybe an exhibition?
Totally! A show is planned and will feature all the visual references that I collected to make the book, Also, a book featuring women hairstyles is on its way!

THE NEW MODERN HAIR: A STYLING CHART, limited edition and numbered book and foldout poster is available at (MALIN+GOETZ) stores and online. SILVIA PRADA for (MALIN+GOETZ) artwork is currently on display at their New York and Los Angeles stores.

Joakim Andreasson is Founder of cultureEDIT.

All images courtesy of cultureEDIT.