Ian Anderson reminds me of Mazer in the top-selling book, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” by Gabrielle Zevin. A character named Marx states on one of the pages, “It’s the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption.”
In Anderson’s own work, the possibilities appear endless, and the artist’s capabilities—boundless.
It makes even more sense when he lists out his inspirations: Video games like Earthbound, Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy, with the sophisticated aesthetics of fashion designers Rick Owens and Hiroki Nakamura of Visvim. It all comes together when he tells me he enjoys Edward Gorey’s gloomy illustrations and the particular linework of post-abstract expressionist artists Cy Twombly and Paul Klee.
Anderson grew up in Antipolo and went to the Waldorf School, which follows a system of “learning through play.” Back then he would draw mazes and look-and-finds for his friends to solve. This early experience became the foundation for his art style. He says,
“I loved all kinds of games as a kid, as kids do. I wanted to have that sort of interactive component in my work. Mazes were perfect. Mazes are devious.”
When he initially made the mazes, he would start from the “start” and draw to the “finish” — but this predictable pattern created an uneven texture in the work that didn’t have the effect Anderson wanted. What Anderson strives for in his art is seamless, visual uniformity. He shares an overview of his process, how he now starts from the bottom and works his way up, similar to the way a printer functions. It’s strange to imagine, as if he has almost machine-like abilities of precision.
Things started picking up in 2016 after Anderson was commissioned for a mural of “Mazeway to Heaven” at Cartoon Network’s headquarters in California. He painted six stories of the office stairwell with a labyrinth of markers and acrylic paint, which was to become his signature, and instantly recognizable style.
Since, he has exhibited in multiple galleries around the world, such as Wieden+Kennedy in Tokyo. Just last March, he launched an exhibit at the new Secret Fresh space in Rockwell, combining his talents in both art and fashion. Most recently, Anderson held a sold-out solo exhibition at Leon Gallery International, “Noses in Roses” with a multitude of framed works and one of his painted mazes on the wall.
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As a continuation, Anderson is jumping in on a group exhibition the “View From Here” opening this weekend at Leon. These latest works are a direct nod to fashion, as he says,
“I wanted to capture that feeling of spectacle and glamor when I walk into my favorite store.”
Anderson is exhibiting many small polyptych works divided into sections on paper. Each piece is inspired by Damien Hirst’s “Pharmacy” series. He echoes Hirst by creating “a very sterile feeling with lots and lots of negative space,” with each vignette on paper allowing a glimpse of the drawn figures’ stories.
Perhaps most striking is a larger four-by-five feet artwork that grabs your attention with its incredibly minute detail. “Characters & Motifs 1-2186” documents 2,186 unique characters Anderson invented over the past five years. He puts the grand piece into perspective,
“I like to think of it like a children’s illustration book meets an Hermès scarf.”
Looking at each perfect line in Anderson’s mazes, and or his meticulously designed figures, it’s hard to take it all in. Each character tells a story in an artwork that becomes a whole universe — some strange, others familiar, but always with a mind-boggling twist.
Ian Anderson is exhibiting alongside Alfonso Recto, Angelo Quintos, Anna Bautista, Enzo Razon, Gio Panlilio and Kim Cruz in the “View From Here” at Leon Gallery International from May 27 to June 10, 2023.