Craig & Karl –
On distance and proximity

Speaking across two time zones, collaborators Craig Redman and Karl Meier talk to VAULT about creating an internationally successful art design brand and what it means to show in their hometown.

written by Alison Kubler

VAULT: Collaboration is at the very heart of your work and yet you live on opposite sides of the world! How does this impact your practice?
It works out great for us! Having one of us in New York and the other in London means we have a physical presence in two major cities and are influenced and inspired by two different cultures. We speak on messaging, video and file-sharing apps every day, passing projects and ideas back and forth between us until we’re both happy with the results. Even though we live in different cities, we’ve known each other for a long time and worked side-by-side for years and that allows us to trust each other implicitly. We’re also always developing collaborative ideas for projects in the future; because of this we share common goals and that helps to cement the relationship too.

You are Australian born but citizens of the world, and have exhibited across the world, including at the Musée de la Publicité (Paris), the Onassis Cultural Centre (Athens), the Museum of the Moving Image (New York) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Mexico). What is it like to come back and show your work at Museum of Brisbane as part of BAD (Brisbane Art Design)? Do you think geography and place are artistic determiners?
It’s great to be able to show our work in the city we met. We actually met in the first semester of our first year of university in Brisbane (Griffith University, Queensland College of Art) – a lecturer teamed us up for a project and we’ve worked together ever since. Because of that Brisbane holds a special place in our hearts. We definitely think our background influences our work. Growing up in Australia in the 1980s was a time and place of ultimate kitsch, something we aren’t afraid to embrace in our work. The colourful, humorous and – most importantly for us – accessible work of people like Ken Done was what we were exposed to growing up and it shaped who we are and our practice today. Also, to put it simply, we like to have fun with our work and not take ourselves too seriously. It’s the Australian way, after all.

As a duo you have created a truly unique aesthetic and worked with clients as diverse as Vogue, Google, Apple, Chanel, Vanity Fair and The New York Times. Your work is instantly recognisable, and yet each project is distinct from the others. How do you maintain this freshness of approach as well as your characteristic style?
We intentionally try to create work with a visual language that is specific to us. Over the years we’ve developed a look that is ours and we work to inject colour, patterns and a sense of humour into each project so it reads as uniquely us. Even if the style, or scale, of the project differs we intentionally keep some elements consistent from our wider body of work, consequently keeping it all under one umbrella. Just not doing the same thing over and over again has allowed us to keep what we do new; it also keeps us from getting bored.

Finally, your work so joyfully crosses across art and design that it seems pointless to make a distinction between the two genres. How important is it to you to retain that artistic sensibility when you are working on design commissions for clients?
There is a practical distinction between the two genres, but our creative approach is exactly the same for both. Whether we’re creating a small piece of work or a large-scale installation it’s always about the concept, and staying true to our visual values, that’s the most important thing for us. “Design” usually involves the consideration of other people's input. Within “art” we’re free to express ourselves in whatever manner we see fit and that allows a certain flexibility in what we produce. We just do what we do; people can call it art or design or whatever they want.

BRISBANE ART DESIGN was on show at Museum of Brisbane until August 11, 2019.

Craig & Karl were commissioned by Museum of Brisbane to create the BRISBANE ART DESIGN [BAD] brand.


Craig & Karl
Triptych, 2018
Liu Haisu Art
Museum, Shanghai

Craig & Karl
This is the Way, 2015
Photo: Jamie M Smith

Craig & Karl
Zoom, 2018
Westfield, Perth
Photo: Carla Atley

Craig & Karl
Matisse, 2016

IMALENNOX STACMIACCA MelbourneMCA Roslyn Oxley Gallery