The miniature dreamscapes of Izzie Klingels.
Izzie Klingels leans over a sheet of paper, her hand moving rhythmically as she covers the page with a flurry of precise marks. Tightly knit whorls and obsessively tiny dots form intricately inked tableaux of lacy masks, androgynous faces and floral arabesques. They recall the work of Persian and Indian miniaturists. You can’t possibly get close enough to take in all the detail, even with a magnifying glass.
Klingels is a fine artist, contributor to graphic design agency DUMB EYES and illustrator at her company Les Yeux d’Extase, which produces a range of items, from clothing and accessories to prints and hand-screened cards.
One of her most popular pieces is a vanitas—a form of morbid, cautionary imagery that signals the inevitability of death. Printed in velvety fluorescent pink ink, it pops from the page like a radioactive sugar skull. But instead of bone, the skull is made of clustered daisies and sunflowers, with starburst blossoms for eye sockets and jagged, flower-petal teeth. It’s reminiscent of Arcimboldo’s anamorphic portraits composed of fish or fruit. The image typifies Klingels’ sly sense of humor and feminine delicacy, which add levity to her otherwise dark subject matter.
“I always want to create an image that is really luscious and alluring but also quite deadpan,” she says. “Vanitas painting fascinates me as a genre: rejecting materialism by luxuriating in it!”
Like many artists in the Northwest, Klingels is inspired by the lushness and borderline-mystic opulence of the region’s natural surroundings—from old growth forests and mountains to the city itself. “There’s a version of nature here that’s relentless, mute, threatening and impervious, and I find that very compelling,” she says.
In her native London, Klingels studied fine art at Chelsea School of Art and began working commercially as an illustrator in 2001, working for clients like Vogue and Topshop and providing live visuals while touring with Death in Vegas and Beth Orton. Since moving to Seattle, she’s focused her energy on noncommercial projects, mostly video art and drawing. This month you can see new work at SOIL Gallery as part of the exhibit Text Editor.
The glamour of the fashion and music industries is intertwined throughout Klingels’ work. Asked about her inspiration, she mentions Grace Jones and Die Antwoord’s Yolandi Visser in the same breath as African textile stalls in Brixton Market and 18th century fashions found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Nothing is out of bounds.
Whether on the street or the dance floor, she’s mixing vintage silk kimonos with sequin-studded stiletto heels and neon handbags, or nuclear pops of color with delicate prints and a giant white felted Vík Prjónsdóttir scarf in the shape of a handprint—a piece she recently picked up at the Nordic Fashion Biennale. Whether it’s through fashion, art or music, Klingels has that enviable “It girl” ability to casually synthesize and bestow an air of stylistic cool.
Klingels’ work is available for purchase on Etsy (etsy.com/shop/LYDEX) or around town at Marigold and Mint, Elliott Bay Books and Ghost Gallery. Photo by Nate Watters.