Renowned international wallpaper company, Cara Saven Wall Design has an artist range called CS&Co, where they invite their favourite artists to bring their unique styles to the wallpaper world. “I don’t actively seek out new artists to join our range,” wall design specialist Cara Saven says, “I wait for them to cross my path.” Scrolling on Instagram she came across a painting of a giant red lobster protruding from a person’s mouth. It was by the multidisciplinary artist and designer Koooooos. She and her husband had just watched and loved the absurdist dark comedy The Lobster so she bought him the painting as a gift. He hated it, but she was undeterred.
Koooooos’s style turned out to be exactly something Saven was looking for in that it was a fundamental departure from anything already in the CS&Co artist range. Described once as ‘gently grotesque’ which has kind of stuck, Koooooos’s work is playful and irreverent, rendered in sketches and loose lines. “I love messy,” Saven says, “I relate to a haphazard style. There’s a whimsy to Koooooos’s work, there’s a youthfulness to it, it’s not taking itself too seriously. It’s also very strong graphically so it ticks all the boxes.” Koooooos came to Saven with a bunch of ideas: some first base sketches, some finalised pieces and together they mapped out what would work. “I sent a bigger range of things that I thought could work and Cara was very decisive, choosing “this one, this one, this one, and that”,” Koooooos says. The resulting range includes five designs in his quintessential style. Across the works, people lounge in various states of undress. In The Bathers 1 and 2, women scrub, soak and gossip in the sanctuary of a communal bath house. In Wine Sloths, women drink wine in their birthday suits in a variety of poses and pretzel shapes. In others, bodies are draped over various things: an artist’s model becomes one with a chair in Tired Nudes and a beach goer is wrapped around a coconut tree in Beach Plz.
New to designing for wall coverings, Koooooos was concerned his drawings needed to be very small to create a pattern. “I felt unsure if the work would lose impact if it was a very small, repeated pattern that’s almost like a texture rather than illustrations. But when Cara and I met, she said, “No, big. It must be big and the scale must be bold.” The result is that the artworks could stretch across an entire wall as an impactful mural or they can be tweaked for the client’s desired effect in a space. “We worked some of them out into repeats, which is necessary,” Koooooos says. Wine Sloths, for example, can grow in all directions. “It’s important that if our clients want to change a colour, or change the scale, we can bend to their needs,” Saven says. “We even love people asking us for fully customised designs. If someone loves the style of The Bathers but would like mountain climbers, it’s so great to be able to go back to the artists and commission a piece like that.”
“It excites me to imagine that someone might say, “I love the feeling of this, but we’d love one with parrots”,” Koooooos adds, “And then we can say, “Yes, let’s do it.”
One of the biggest joys for Saven is seeing the different, and sometimes unexpected, spaces that the artworks shine in; how they can totally transform a room, or a room can give different meaning to the work. Having a giant wall drawing of The Bathers changes context depending on if it’s where you bathe or where you brunch. “I’m very curious to see it being applied,” Koooooos says. “It excites me a lot to imagine where they’re going to go.”
As for where the lobster painting is, Saven had it up in her study but then decided it needed a more central location in her home. It didn’t match the wallpaper in her dining room at the time, so she changed the wallpaper. “The lobster cost me a lot more than was intended,” she laughs. When her mother saw it, she wondered aloud if it was kosher.