The world, especially in the crazy year of 2020, never fails to leave room for social criticism—it's like you don't even have to try hard to find things you can ironically poke at. Italian artist Elia Colombo, known to social media as "gebelia," transfers the flaws of our modern society to conceptual illustrations. They are uncomfortable, thought-provoking, and with a good dose of irony and humor.
Colombo has been preparing more food for thought since our last post about his artwork, so we hope that your mind is hungry.
The artist, who started as a pizza boy and now is a professional and well-known independent designer and illustrator, describes himself as "a humble disinfluencer comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable." And there is quite a mass to disturb—Colombo's Instagram is followed by 130k followers who come back for creatively expressed commentary on the social media craze, media, mental health issues, relationships, environmental problems, and more.
"My favorite poet said humans deviate from the truth every time they try to judge with certainty. Things are not what they seem: we just wallow in an ocean of illusions and I'd like to share a different point of view on this ocean," the artist told Bored Panda.
Colombo started drawing when he was a child and hasn't stopped ever since. "Today, I invest way less time in "'drawing' and way more in 'designing.' I can’t tell how it became a career: the truth is that I never planned it. I like to believe it’s just a matter of destiny,"
He describes his art style as "light-heartedly disenchanted with a touch of cheerful sadness. Also natural, cause I never chose it: it just came out naturally."
"I like to face various topics, but they all have something in common, the same soul. Let’s say the subject I prefer to depict is the sleepy consciousness in all of its glorious manifestations: prejudice, blind belief, fear, common sense, institutional wisdom, education, mass information, and so on. Practically everything that protects us from the pitfalls of self-awareness and critical thinking."
On his website, Elia Colombo says, "Don't try to be good, just try to be different." The artist definitely applies this approach to his artwork and pokes fun at everything that's wrong with today's society in his own distinctive style. No sugar-coating. Illustrations seem beautifully done and vivid, but almost each of them has a metaphorical meaning and carries an important message that sometimes takes a minute to wrap your head around. You might love or hate the criticism, irony, and edginess of the artwork, but in the end, they are all relatable and speak about the world we currently live in.
We asked Colombo what inspires him.
"Nothing and everything at the same time. Inspiration has nothing to do with things, it all depends on your own perception, so literally, any perceived thing can be inspiring, no matter what, when, where, and how. Widening your mind definitely helps getting inspired. Some say it's all about curiosity, to me it's a matter of meditation."
He said he's also influenced by so many people "both aesthetically and mentally" that he couldn't make a list, but he occasionally mentions inspiring names in his posts' captions.
One of the recurring topics in Colombo's illustrations is the downside of the digital age and social media obsession. The artist portrays the ways social media shapes our lives, habits, and our perception of the world in general. The impact of social media on modern people is tremendous. According to J. Clement's report, there are 4.14 billion active social media users as of July 2020, encompassing 49% of the global population, with Facebook being the leading social network. These numbers are only growing and affecting us as a society. In one of his Instagram posts about the reality of social media, Colombo commented: "What makes us human is not the ability to love but the amount of likes we get, not our heart but our social engagement data."
Ironically, Colombo gained a significant internet presence by critiquing social media.
"Well, Pink Floyd went rich and famous on criticizing the show business which they were trapped into, so, at least, I’m not the first working that way. Besides jokes, actually, social media is just one of the various society’s faces I comment on. Moreover, what I really criticize is not the social media tool, but the usage lot of people make of it."
When we asked the artist why does he think people follow him, he said: "I honestly don’t know. Maybe some people around the world just feel 'activated' or comforted by my works. Much as if they found in my creative expression the words for what they’d secretly like to express. I always felt a special empathy for those who are not conformed. They are the public I wanna talk to."
Lastly, we asked Colombo for advice for any aspiring artist who would like to put their voice out there in the world.
"My only advice is to deal with failure and keep on moving forward. Try to earn money but do not think about money as the goal of your art: make art for art, make art for an ideal."
If you are interested in more illustrations that talk about the issues of the modern world, check out other posts on Bored Panda, too: What’s Wrong With Today’s Society Captured In 32 Brutally Honest Illustrations By John Holcroft, My 36 Illustrations Show What’s Wrong With Our Society, 96 Dark Pics Show What’s Wrong With Our Society, And You Won’t Get Some Without Looking At The Titles, and 31 Brutally Honest Illustrations By Gerhard Haderer Show What’s Wrong With Today’s Society.