• Artist Profile: Nicosmonaut

    written by Sofia Fernandez

     Nicolás Vásquez Martinich – or Nicosmonaut, his pseudonym – is a Chilean graphic designer and illustrator who creates surreal images that nestle somewhere between dreamscapes and the macabre. He tricks the viewers’ imaginations, and even, perhaps, his own, by his emphasis in rejecting narrative coherence and the limits of reality. Nicosmonaut’s illustrations are a game of exquisite corpse he plays with himself. It’s as if he lets his mind wander while his hand draws, and in this disconnection lies the allure of his images: he allows his viewer into his mind, into the places and scenes he knows, and also the ones he doesn’t, enamoring his audience, bringing them closer. There’s simply no chance of looking away, because the closer his images are studied, the more detail is found.

    Although Nicosmonaut works successfully with bright colors when he feels the need, as seen in Los Marineros Gigantes, his interest seems to steer more toward crisp, daring line-work and strange details – like, in this same illustration, the fanged, phallic, breasted figure that protrudes from the ear of the character on the right. This is what Nicosmonaut does best, and most clearly; he unfolds details but provides no context.

    Los Marineros Gigantes

    Color, in some of his other illustrations, is left as a supporting player, a cacophony of muted tones that support the piece but do not detract from it. In the ethereal Kainophobia, he opts for soft, harmonious tones, so that the audience can let their eye wander the lines of one three-eyed creature on to the curlicue formed by the smoke. He goes for the same effect in The Dog 3, where the strange details, the dismemberment of the figure, the T-bone steak tail, the lit match, all impact the viewer first. Only after taking in all of the details Nicosmonaut offers would anyone think of his use of color. 

    Nicosmonaut is also adamant in using the same iconography. He enjoys the shape and malleability of light bulbs, and is able to make characters out of them with tremendous ease. In Lesser Florican, bulbs stare down at the bright-yellow, patterned bird, the central figure, one bulb turned into a whimsical character from a dream by the addition of a tiny, floating hat. And so goes Nicosmonaut, the hat being another of his preferred details, worn by one the three-eyed felines in Kainophobia.

    Lesse Florican
    Lesser Florican

    However, his most natural figures, the ones that at a glance would be the simplest to find in the tangible world, are the ones that bring attention to the most repeated aspect of his work. The Dog 3, already mentioned once, features a peg-legged dog whose legs appeared to have been sliced. Similarly, No Name 2 depicts a sad, disjointed man smoking a pipe and wearing a bland suit, his forehead and shoulders sprouting with fungus. In the quizzical Fusion, a woman and an almost mechanical humming bird inhabit a dark, starry world, alone, but for the face seen under her sliced torso, where her pelvis would start.

    This constant repetition of elements suggests that there may be a much more concrete raison d’etre for these images, but Nicosmonaut does only that: suggest. Is the audience to assume that they are but disjointed office workers with rotting insides, dreaming of one day smoking a pipe? Or is society plagued by giant, animalistic sailors who speak to each other in dialogue bubbles that never deliver the message successfully? That, perhaps, Nicosmonaut will never answer, but his viewer will remain searching his illustrations, transfixed by his minutiae. 

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