The Spanish studio speaks to Beren Neale about harnessing chaos in its experimental expressions, and learning the hard way about the business side of creativity
As with many great, lasting creative partnerships, the genesis of Spanish studio Dvein was forged whilst its members were still learning their craft. When university students Fernando Dominguez and Teo Guillem met, they were exploring the possibilities of Photoshop, pushing for more than the software could offer. "We began with 2D, then we started using programs like Flash to make our graphics move," says Dominguez. "We left for Germany to study tools like After Effects - tools that were really incredible. They let us make whatever we wanted." Their experimentations resulted in a showreel that earned them a job with design and communication studio Vasava.
Their animated shorts also piqued the interest of an old friend, Carlos Pardo, then working for the Spanish multi-medium festival OFFF. "I'd met them in Valencia when the three of us were in college," recalls Pardo, "but I tracked them down when they were in Barcelona".
Galvanised with another passionate perspective, the new team's experiments impressed the director of OFFF, and he asked them to create the title sequences for OFFF 2006. "After that, Kyle Copper from Prologue Films - responsible for Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes title sequence - saw our work, and was so impressed he invited us to go to LA," says Pardo.
It's no surprise. When you see the OFFF 2006 shorts for the first time, it's a unique experience, with strange forms growing, exploding and catapulting across the screen. It might seem dangerously out of control, but with its detailed textures, it's planned exactly. "We invented and simulated the evolution of biological life to express the revolutionary and evolutionary processes of the artists at OFFF," offers their website; an explanation that can convey only so much of the title's beautifully exacted anarchy.
Homesick, the team left LA, but not their jobs - even though this meant working to a foreign time zone back in their native Spain. Like their early title sequences, it was at this point of apparent disordered change that Dvein gained form. "At this time, working for Prologue, Dvein was in our pocket," says Guillem, "but in May 2007 we got a chance to create work for Diesel Liquid Space - a great chance to start Dvein as a company.'"
The resulting project was a visual display that ran parallel to a catwalk for the Diesel fashion show, and it catapulted them into a totally new world. This clash of fashion and art was not the only irreverent aspect of the project. "We didn't know anything about anything," says Dominguez, "so we were like three children trying to be adults. It was hilarious at the beginning, how we managed everything - production and so on. Everyone was really amazed by the way we were doing things, and our lack of organisation. We didn't know anything about business, but creatively it was really good," he smiles.
They might have been learning on the job about the etiquette of time management, but in the work they were producing, they were more confident than ever. "The guys from Diesel gave us a lot of freedom," Dominguez recalls, "and from there we started working commercially, for various agencies." Saying yes to anyone who offered them representation, things continued to be suitably hectic.
"The first two years were a little bit crazy for us because we didn't really know what we were doing," admits Guillem. "However, in the end we found the right people to work with, and right now we are a studio represented by various production companies around the world. At the end of the day that's a really good position for doing the stuff that we do."
Central to keeping the studio's commercial output inspired is their personal work. "We manage to squeeze in our own stuff," says Dominguez, "which is really important for us." With a deeper understanding of the commercial world, they now walk the fine line between personal and professional creativity, sometimes allowing one to compensate for the other's shortcomings.
"We make work for big names, and sometimes it's cool, like with Diesel, but sometimes it's not," Dominguez reveals, "but it's a way of getting the money to do our own stuff."
Guillem is quick to add that it's not as simple as personal projects being good, and commercial work bad. As he says: "Sometimes you'll find a commercial project that's really fulfilling, an agency that's really understanding and a client that's really appreciative of the work."
One example of this was Dvein's work for the National Geographic Channel and Canal+. "As with any creative business, sometimes we'll get involved in projects in which clients promise us freedom, but once we begin putting all our energy into the work we realise that they have control and want to be creative," says Dominguez, "but these two clients gave us freedom from the beginning to the end of the project." The results, which can be viewed on their website, are what Dvein do best: captivating imagery that evolves in shape and meaning before your eyes, engaging and great fun to watch.
Last year Dvein explored new boundaries between design and art with a project in a local museum in Barcelona. With no brief, and no budget, the three artists were able to enjoy unrestrained artistic expression. "We spent six months doing our thing," says Pardo. "We didn't earn a coin, but we got a lot out of it." The project also inspired them to take a look at the way they work. "This last month we've begun to talk about making individual projects," he says, "as opposed to our usual structure of all working together on everything." This new approach might introduce a new dynamic to the studio, but the end result is in the same vein as everything else they've put their name to. "We have small differences between us, and right now we're thinking that we need to put these differences on the table," says Pardo. "Basically, we're still experimenting."