Imagine being inside the world Vincent Van Gogh created, or taking a ride in the subway and watching Virgin Mary traveling with Jesus. Norrobey merges pop culture, classic art, and everyday situations in humorous bizarre collages.
For centuries art has had a special place as one of the most elitist forms of expression out there. Even today, no matter how much popular culture has merged with art, it continues to have this air of high brow superiority for a broader audience. It’s clear that technologies at our disposal like social media as well as the immediacy and reach we have now had unprecedentedly brought us closer to diverse art forms but somehow this elitist nature still prevails. I remember reading about how the line dividing high and low culture (or in a less snobbish term, popular culture) has been blurred with the passing of the time. Yet, if you follow any art magazine you’ll encounter so many articles of critics ranting and being so offended when they see more evident mergings. So, the question here is, who decides what’s high or low brow art? Who is entitled to consume it? And, does it really matter if these borders disappear?
These are the questions that came to my mind when I came across the works of visual artist Norrobey. He focuses mostly on creating collages blending characters and elements from popular culture (like movies, television, or even public figures), as well as everyday situations, with classic art masterpieces. The result is, in my opinion, highly tasteful and humorous images that can appeal to a person’s interest. This, in my opinion, is a perfect example of what people often call the democratization of art.
I asked the artist about his opinion on this matter. I also wanted to know what inspired him to do something that might not be entirely new, follows a pattern and particular view and taste in his work that makes them basically neat products. For him, it’s clear that this line no longer exists, or at least as we could imagine: "It depends on your point of view. If you look at that line as a collage, you can’t see the line. That line has disappeared." I’d say that the matter here as I posted in the question is who decides who’s entitled to enjoy and appreciate art. At the end of the day, basically every piece created throughout history has its own legacy and thus were entitled to consume it as we see fit.
If you think about it, what really gets elitist critics mad is the desacralization of what they consider elevated, and the fact that the general audience is getting closer and closer to these forms of expression makes them feel threatened from that special place they’ve secured for themselves as the most cultivated and sensible beings in the world. However, that doesn’t really mean anything, or at least in this modernized world, being an intellectual and liking popular culture shouldn’t be opposites, and these images are the best proof of this.
When asking Norrobey about why he decided to focus his career in this matter, the answer is pretty much what we’ve been talking about and that’s the interest of people in consuming all sorts of cultural and popular products, either if they’re those sacred art masterpieces or the crappiest movie out there. As he says,"[he does] it for fun. People also like these harmonized works. I like to make people be happy." People like looking at products that harmonize their different tastes. Not only that, I do think that beyond that, these works that are extremely shareable and comic could also be a window of opportunity for others to consume classic art in a more approachable and less judgy way.
I’ve always believed that humor is crucial to understand the world. Products like the ones Norrobey creates, are a great example of how the world has to evolve. That’s a combination of diverse elements that the modern world offers to us all at the same time. The term Norrobey uses to explain his work is actually perfect to understand our modern interests and realities, and that’s menemen, a traditional Turkish dish merged with so many elements. As he says, the best way to describe his work is "menemen. Sometimes as Van Gogh’s colorful brush prints, sometimes as a complex collage. Eat menemen!"
If you want to see more of his hilarious collages, take a look at his official Instagram account: @norrobey
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