What's your Tindr or Grindr record? Because I know someone who proudly boasts it's three minutes. If you're not sure what that means, then let's move swiftly on to this satirical and subversive series of illustrations by Natalie Wong that explore the world of modern dating.
Colourful and bold, the digital artworks in Fast Love cover themes of swiping addiction, instant gratification, hookup culture and the paradox of limitless choice. Essentially, they poke fun at dating apps and their impact on romance and relationships. Inspired by the comic book stylings of Roy Lichtenstein, Natalie whimsically blends imagery of iconic fast food staples and intimately human objects, creating a visual parody of contemporary dating culture.
"Although apps have revolutionised the way people connect and are one of the most impactful social disrupters in decades, dating apps have sacrificed romance at the altar of technological efficiency," Natalie tells us. "Whilst the idea of having more choices seem beneficial, it may, in fact, be detrimental to dating. When faced with multiple options, apps make it too easy to discard matches over minor issues because the environment provides a feeling of abundance for better dates."
On the inspiration behind combining fast food staples and dating-related images, she says: "The similarities between the ease of access, disposability, addictive and consumer-orientated nature of fast food heavily lent itself conceptually and made for compelling visual references within the narrative I wanted to explore."
If we look at her Glazed and Confused illustration, for example, we initially see strawberry doughnut with sprinkles. On closer inspection, the sugary decorations are in fact multi-coloured pills with dating app logos. "When using dating apps, there is the promise you will match with someone great, and you frequently receive positive reinforcements to keep looking. Swiping can become addictive and users get a continual ‘hit’ of validation each time someone matches with them on the app," Natalie adds.
In It Was All in Vein, the illustration shows the iconic red French fries box with human hearts – implying how dating apps have turned people into cheap commodities and internalised the idea that everyone is readily available for our own personal consumption and enjoyment.
Throughout the series, the artist explores the commodification and devaluation of romance. A central underlying question is posed as to whether the fault lies with technology or with us. "There is a strong argument that dating apps are large capital enterprises which exploit inherently complex human flaws and vulnerabilities. Apps enable our culture’s worst desires for efficiency in a space where individuals, who are looking for genuine connections, most need to resist those impulses," concludes Natalie.
Prints from the series are available in a limited edition of 20 at Papersneaker.com.