How and Nosm have collaboration down to a science. The interdisciplinary artist duo, comprised of twins Raoul and Davide Perre, is perhaps known most widely for multi-story murals found in metropolises world-wide, though the brothers also work in printmaking, painting and installation art. Dominated by a minimalist, high-contrast color palette of red, white and black, How and Nosm’s works appear abstract from afar. But when one approaches, the geometric shapes reveal multitudes of characters that add a narrative quality to the otherwise design-oriented pieces. The brothers share a unique philosophy regarding their artistic practice. Their individual egos are almost non-existent, their communication, nearly telepathic. The creative process is an entirely shared experience where teamwork is paramount. How and Nosm currently have an exhibition of hand-painted monoprints at Pace Prints in New York City titled “Way Things Are.” We chatted with the brothers about their creative process and latest body of work. Read our conversation below.
I am curious about your work flow and dynamic as twins who work together. Is there any medium one of you is more proficient in? Do you divide up duties for a work of art or do you share everything equally?
Proficiency is achieved in any medium, technique or size we collaborate in regardless of the project.
Being born as twins, raised together and also sharing the passion for art, our connection and its dynamic is highly unique, hardly comparable to the standards of other duos working together. There is a mutual understanding in solving issues regarding a project without exchanging too many words. Our similar and shared life experiences demand little communication and since we can relate to them equally our ideas are naturally harmonic.
Neither of us is the leading force but instead our focus is on teamwork so that we both together can be successful in our daily work routine. The individual ego is set aside which enables us to make the most professional decisions regarding our work and business. That is very important to us because, in the long run, the positive outcome of our work ethic will naturally benefit our personal lives and our family.
So if we feel like a drawing or layout from one of us is stronger neither of us will take it personally or be offended by it. Accepting that certain drawings are simply better fitting for an outside mural or a painting guarantees the high level of quality that we always try to gain as a team. It is not like we always share the work 50/50 constantly, but more of a joint effort to help each other out to eliminate weaknesses. By teaching each other, we can evolve even faster. When it comes to office work, tasks are divided depending on interest or relationship to the client. Just like this interview…
Your work is known for its level of detail. Do you keep sketchbooks?
Of course we do keep sketchbooks. Those who claim not to are just plain liars. Constant sketching and drawing assures that we push our boundaries and ideas rather than being repetitive because of recalling memorized ideas and composing them in a different way. Plus, we can create much more complex drawings that way. In our situation, we prefer drawing on loose sheets of paper than actually into a size limited book. Many of our layouts contain multiple drawings combined together which obviously make them unusual in size.
We have to plan our studio paintings in such way because of their extreme detail. Then again, we do many sketches for pieces, throw-ups, tags on napkins, magazine pages, paper table cloths or whatever is available at the moment while on the road. Many ideas are just scribbles. Then again, there are many works for which no drawings exist. It always depends on the situation.
How much of your work is pre-planned and how much room do you leave for improvisation or spontaneity?
That really depends on how much time we have on our hands to try new things out. If we have a deadline for an upcoming project, there isn’t really any time to fool around given the complexity of our work.
If there is no such time pressure we can play around with new and different ideas.
But usually most of the line work for our studio paintings is laid out beforehand, and a rough background layout exists as well. No colorations or details are ever planned ahead. That is all improvisation. And as the painting evolves, a lot gets changed and added to, making it a human experience and not some computer-rendered piece of artwork. For that we have Kraftwerk from our hometown Düsseldorf. Spontaneity is what makes each of our paintings a special and unique experience. And that energy helps to keep the excitement going to create new works.
Has there ever been a time when you wanted to forge separate identities as artists, or the partnership ingrained in your artistic practices?
Well, there hasn’t ever been a time where we wanted to go different path to express ourselves individually nowadays. Before, we used to paint totally individually from each other and simply unify our own creations by a joint background. For many years, we each painted our own names until the last six years. We had gotten to a creative point where we wanted to create a new identity for us but still remain with our original nome de plumes. That is when we retired How and Nosm and gave birth to HowNosm, and so unintentionally making them history. That also goes for the individual studio paintings. So logically the need for self-glorification has faded. It’s great to create a new monster with double its strength.
In your artist statement for current solo show, “Way Things Are” at Pace Prints, you talked about breaking up the monotony of everyday life by striving to switch up one’s daily routines. How do you apply this philosophy to your art practice?
To be able to approach our creative work process differently, we change somewhat our daily life routine by eating something different each day or just by listening to new music. This kind of behavior and thinking forces you indirectly to act different and see your work in a new light.
The main idea behind this thought is to dare to create differently and to be willing to change without any restrictions or expectations by collector’s demands. Always creating what we feel like expressing at the moment and not out of trend, and so staying true to ourselves. There is no doubt that every hard worker has its own daily routine which can be comfortable, but there is always a need for challenge. And that solely depends on yourself. You are the creator of your own world and its temporary happiness.
Do you think this philosophy of mindful living could lead to a larger social shift or even a revolution?
Actually we don’t believe so. It is more of a helpful guide line for the individual to make the monotony disappear. Because real happiness only exists when each and every single one of us is free and happy. Even though it seems that nowadays many want equality and change stirred up by a revolution, it is merely wishful thinking. Such a move requires physical participation and the will to challenge the oppressors, which always comes with necessary violence. We are not underestimating the power of the word but its strength always leads to physical confrontation. And to avoid that, educational curriculums have to severely change so that youth understand what love and life really means… Every day can be beautiful.
How and Nosm’s “Way Things Are” is on view at Pace Prints in NYC through April 5.
Installation at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, Mexico