For British artist Pref, the art of decipherment is as integral to his murals as the expressively layered designs. Known for looping and layering blocky text to give the illusion of floating forms, contrasting letters wriggle, tilt, overlap, and cast bold shadows. His training in graphic design spurred an abiding fascination with typography, and while much that field is oriented toward clear communication, Pref is interested in literally twisting messages. He meticulously arranges each letter to form puzzle-like compositions, encouraging the viewer to work out a word or phrase. “The wording for my pieces are usually autobiographical,” he explains, “like clues and relics from my past or a commentary on current times.”
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British graffiti artist Pref (previously) transforms words and sayings into visual interpretations of their meanings or messages—forming the word “undo” into a knot, or layering the phrase “all over the place” on top of itself to take up as much surface area as possible. With added shading and perspective the words appear as if they are 3D, like his piece “It Is,” which forms a a narrow grey cube when the letters are stacked. Some of his monochromatic works on paper (which you can see below) will be included in the upcoming group exhibition Control and Disorder with Gary Stranger, Elliott Routledge (Funskull), Georgia Hill, and William LaChance at Galerie 42b in Paris. The exhibition opens this Friday, December 14, and runs through January 19, 2019. You can see more of Pref’s recent work on his Instagram, and buy prints through his Big Cartel.
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British graffiti artist Pref explores words and common phrases through unique multi-layered murals. His 3D text is used to create amalgamations of quippy sayings, often placing one word inside of another to give a piece multiple perspectives. In the work below a turquoise “more” subtly shifts into a salmon “less” simply by a twist of the viewer’s head.
Since he got his start nearly two decades ago, Pref has been interested in challenging graffiti’s aesthetic, working with typography to bring a more accessible appearance to painted text. At first the street artist worked with the negative space between letters, which eventually became letters themselves. This transformed into his signature style of combined texts, which he has been exploring since 2010.
“Since then I have pushed and experimented with this idea of overlapping words, seeing how many I can fit into the space of one word, and then slowly boiling it down and simplifying this idea to become more legible,” he tells Colossal. “This in turn lead more to the use of ‘typography’ throughout my style as you see today. I have always been interested in the idea of graffiti speaking to the general public, rather than just other graffiti writers, and readable letters or a more ‘typographic’ approach has been a good route to that.”
Recently Pref partnered with fellow typographic street artist Gary Stranger to launch a collective titled Typograffic Circle. The group unites artists working in the type-based street art subgenre, and their first self-titled group show is on view through June 3, 2018 at London’s StolenSpace. The exhibition features work by Georgia Hill, Saïd Kinos, All Type No Face, along with Pref and Stranger. You can see more of Pref’s recent work on his Instagram and buy select prints through his Big Cartel.
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Editor's Picks: Design
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.