For Filip Custic, the idea of unwinding outside of work is an alien concept. “I’m a robot. I only work,” he explains when I broach the question of his leisurely activities. It’s a natural response given the seemingly endless stream of content the Spanish–Croatian photographer and creative director posts to his Instagram every week.
It also helps that Custic’s particular brand of artistry looks like the queer lovechild of Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp. Across campaigns and editorials for the likes of Palomo Spain, Camper, Garage Magazine, and Fucking Young, his unique blend of surrealism is immediately recognizable.
While it may seem that art led him to the fashion brands he creates elaborate campaigns for, it was actually fashion that unleashed his creativity. “Fashion helped me realize I wanted to be an artist,” he says. “I think the fashion world is a good way to practice your creative and to know yourself.” For Custic, there’s no shortage of inspiration as he draws on his own lived experiences. As he explains, “every picture is a diary from that moment of my life.”
Sex Furniture for Fucking Young by Filip Custic.
It's within his artistic diary that a sense of queerness exists that's refreshingly out of sync with still-outdated ideas of heteronormativity that dominate the advertising world. As one of the oldest adages in advertising goes, sex sells. We’ve lived through sultry videos of Paris Hilton eating Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers or images of half-naked women selling literally anything. It’s a concept that has become as tired as the misogynistic undertones that form the bedrock of this industry — and it’s one that Custic’s work stylishly deconstructs.
“People are too focused on sex,” he says matter-of-factly. “There are many other interesting ideas and concepts to explore in fashion and art. I’m not saying to stop using sex as a concept, but add something else to that.” In Custic’s topsy-turvy “virtual paintings,” the sensual imagery is elevated by his own identity. “Queer culture represents freedom for me. I learned how to be free and proud of myself.”
North Korea for Fucking Young! by Filip Custic.
Often, this means that the cast of models in his work are his own creative collaborators, including his muse María Forqué, musician Kai Landre, and photographer Kito Munoz. It all adds up to a constant flow of imagery that looks as fit for the pages of a fashion magazine as it would hanging in a modern art museum.
Yet, for all of the creativity that he pours into his art, the very modern irony of his art isn’t lost on him. Despite the hours and hours he pours into his work every day, Custic's queer surrealism is an artistic mirage. “I have a relationship with my virtual paintings and spend a lot of time building them, but it’s strange, because they don’t actually exist," he explains. "They’re a virtual materialization of my mental landscape.”