Since 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has entertained music lovers worldwide with the best emerging and contemporary acts. During all those years, it’s also been spotlighting the biggest names in the art world, invited to create their own designs for its poster.
The likes of Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and David Bowie have all designed it in the past, and for the 2024 festival, it has been announced today that Swiss artist Rylsee will pick up the baton. Taking a notably different approach to posters of years gone by, Rylsee’s poster is a playful, energetic piece of work teeming with details that celebrate festivalgoers and their stories.
However, Rylsee makes sure the message doesn’t get lost in the noise by foregrounding the festival’s initials MJF in huge capitals. Meanwhile, the surrounding space is crammed with amusing details that revolve around the iconic imagery of Montreux, such as its lake, quays, palaces and palm trees.
“I see Montreux Jazz Festival as a kind of ephemeral city,” Rylsee explains. “It’s built up over a few weeks and doesn’t exist for the rest of the year. Suddenly, it’s full of people who have experiences that are often more intense in one evening than in a whole year. And then, finally, it’s all gone. We’re left with our shared memories and dreams.
“What you remember about an evening in Montreux is the music, but it’s also the moments of sharing and celebration, the encounters, the laughter and even the tears. I wanted to illustrate this popular, lively and human aspect.”
When first considering how to approach the poster, Rylsee asked himself one question: What is a festival all about? “I wrote down a list of bullet points,” he tells Creative Boom. “This is when I realised that many (to not say most) of these points are oriented towards the people, friends and families that make a festival come alive.
“Acknowledging that helped me decide on the direction of my artwork for the MJF. This year would be about the genuine souls who give life to all these stories and memories created during a festival. In other words, us.”
As for his decision to illustrate these ideas in black-and-white line work, Rylsee says he often does this because it is the most straightforward and honest way of communicating. “This artwork is screen printed with black and silver inks,” he adds. “The choice of silver is to create a visual parallel with the reflections of light on the lake. Thus, the print has the power to change colour by reflecting light, giving the artwork infinite ways of being perceived.”
There are so many Easter Eggs stuffed into the poster that Rylsee jokes it would take literally hours for him to explain them all. “Pretty much every little scene you lay your eyes on tells us a story,” he laughs. This includes observing the VIP area, where people are clustered on a rooftop terrace that can only be accessed through an escalator. “That’s a little too VIP…”
Artistically speaking, though, MJF is anything but VIP. In fact, their selection process for poster designs sounds remarkably democratic. Rylsee remembers that he discovered how he got the gig on a regular weeknight when he was about to go to bed when a flurry of texts from his brother told him about how he had been chosen. A quick look in his inbox confirmed the good news.
“MJF sent the email,” he recalls. “They informed me that the team loved my work and had selected me to illustrate their next poster. On top of having a personal connection to this festival, I always admired the curation of artists they previously commissioned for their posters. So needless to say, I’m truly honoured to add my name to this legendary list of great artists!”
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