Serana Angelista’s work expands beyond the conventions of graphic design in colourful fractal patterns superimposed onto their messages in text. Bridging dimensions, fractals occur in both nature as the repeating geometry seen in trees, snowflakes, hurricanes and rivers, and in mathematics as the calculation of a single equation over and over. In Serana’s work, the fractal pattern is composed of the oval seen to repeat over the words, seemingly infinite. The oval is stretched and pinched, pulled into angles or fitted into fine-lined corners, adorning the typeface but elaborating into a life of its own. The artist’s patterning brings texture to typography, turning text into images.
For the Not an Assignment group show, the first exhibition of their work at Hama Gallery, Serana presents a deck of eight posters, each with its own unique trio of colours. The selection of these colours – one for background, one to fill and one as outline – strikes a delicate balance. Beyond their own artistic intuition, Serana considers the technical requirements of typography’s accessibility. The combination of the colours should not make the letters move and hereby trouble one’s vision, and their contrast should support the work’s legibility.
Serana’s phrases consider the experience of queerness in the context of hegemonic social structures. Absent Examples refers to the chronic lack of representation of queer living, specifically the absence of examples of everyday life. Empty Abundance covers the other side of this coin: the exhausting ubiquity of heteronormative culture.
The written message is striking, as the contradictions implicit in both oxymoronic phrases immediately challenge their reader to pause and engage. The written message invites participation through analysis and word association – the reader may feel recognized or stimulated into further reflection. But this provocation is not only textual: Serana introduces typography as an aesthetic experience, and the use of language in their work takes it beyond the visual sense. Interpreting the text, the reader internally hears the words and as such each work has its own sound.
Serana says their work emerges from the questions lurking around in their head, first vaguely, then executed with hyper focus. Their digital process allows for the exploration of their constantly renewing media: typography is increasingly kinetic, composed of pixels rather than paint pigments, relying on ever evolving technology. The work finds a certain permanence in print, screen-printed on Folia photo cardboard. When printed, the posters are easily read in the tradition of AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) and revolutionary artist Emory Douglas, centring the powerful correlation between images, text and resistance.
Serana began to draw in response to the television news stories that their father would watch twice a day. Their internal reflection of their experiences was always visual: “I never had a diary. I drew.” At age 15, they chose graphic design, landing a place at the Willem de Kooning Academy. Once there, they lay the technical and theoretical foundation for their craft, but mostly navigated around the Eurocentric curriculum to pursue their autodidactic inspirations.