Toyism is a fun and colorful art with complex hidden undertones

Philip Absolon Village cat.
Philip Absolon Village cat.

Toyism (from English toy – “toy”) is a direction of contemporary art in which an artist or a group of authors create a work with a hidden serious meaning in a playful and cheerful manner. It is according to its followers, serves as a clear reflection of the critical views of creative people on the modern world.

Toyism has its own philosophy, which is based on the idea of ​​collective creativity. Therefore, there is no rivalry among the supporters of this trend, and for each of them the work itself, and not the artist who created it, is of the greatest value.

Artist Dejo.
Artist Dejo.

Features of Toyism

Toyism is a highly original version of contemporary art. The program manifesto of this movement called “Mother” is a secret document that can only be read by an artist who has firmly decided to join the ranks of the followers of Toyism.

The maximum number of members of the movement is limited to 26 – that is how many letters the English alphabet contains. Each artist joining the group chooses a creative pseudonym for himself, starting with a certain letter. The real name of the artist, as well as his face, always remains closed to the general public. Therefore, toyists are photographed and work in original faceless masks.

Charlie Thompson artist
Charlie Thompson artist.

The main distinguishing features of toism:

  • Availability to the general public. Artwork created in the style of Toyism is more often exhibited in open space than in museums and galleries.
  • Figurativeness. Artistic images embodied in paintings always retain their resemblance to real objects.
  • Image narrative. Each work in an artistic manner tells the reader a certain story, often with hidden additional meaning.
  • Clear outlines of objects in the paintings. Bright colors do not mix with each other, but are separated by contrasting lines.
  • Cheerful performance. The paintings are dominated by bright cheerful colors and friendly artistic images of cheerful children’s toys.
Gas ball in the city of Emmen the Netherlands
Gas ball in the city of Emmen the Netherlands.

Toyism borrowed much from other avant-garde and contemporary art movements, including:

  • in graffiti – the use of huge surfaces of various street objects as the basis for writing pictures;
  • in conceptual art – an appeal, first of all, to the intellectual, and not the emotional perception of the work by the viewer;
  • Fauvism has bright and expressive colors; cubism has a skillful play on forms and space;
  • in expressionism – the refusal of artists from the traditional reproduction of reality in their works;
  • in folk art – an appeal to the cultural traditions of different peoples when creating works.
German artist Thomas Hoffman
German artist Thomas Hoffman.
History of the development of toism

The history of toism has about 30 years, and the founder of the new direction is a Dutch artist from the city of Emmen, known to the world under the pseudonym Dejo. In 1992, he appealed to colleagues to become participants in a new movement in contemporary art and created a secret manifesto “Mother”. A few months later, Dejo was joined by two other Dutch artists. Together they created several works in a surreal style, and the authors were inspired by computer games and consoles.

Jafar jumping rope.
Jafar jumping rope.

After that, the work of toyists was presented at an exhibition at the Dutch Open Air Museum Veenpark, and a few months later – in New York. But already in 1994, the triumvirate of artists broke up, after which Dejo went on a long trip around the world in search of new sources of inspiration.

In 2002, the founder of toism returned to his native Holland and decided to restart his project. He rewrote the manifesto and began to search for like-minded people using the Internet around the world. Very soon, many masters from different countries expressed their desire to join the movement: from Australia and Thailand to Canada and South Africa. In the same 2002, the Toyists acquired their own studio in Emmen, Dejo’s homeland.

Toyism Charles Thomson Three Cats.
Charles Thomson Three Cats.
Within the framework of the created movement, the artists have developed and realized many joint projects, including:
  • “Mind Games” – on the basis of simple logic games “Tic-tac-toe” and “Four in a row”, two artists develop two separate themes, from which they create an integral work.
  • “De Stip” – coloring by joint efforts of a 22-meter industrial spherical gas storage.
  • “Toism Ka” is a coloring of the subcompact car Ford Ka, which has become a movable object of contemporary art.
  • Ten Cate Hotel transforms the façade of a standard hotel in a Dutch provincial town into a picturesque work of art.
  • Upspretta is a painting of an abandoned water tower in Iceland to tell the story of a curious puffin named Upspretta.
Toyism Project De Stip Live with energy
Project De Stip Live with energy.
Toyism Project Hotel Ten Cate XXI century
Hotel Ten Cate XXI century.
Toyism Project Upsprett 21st century
Project Upsprett 21st century.
Toyism Fake painting by Fernand Leger
Fake painting by Fernand Leger.
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