If you had to describe your artwork in a nutshell how would you do it? I suppose I’d say my art is an art of self reflection.
Majority of work I’ve made in the past four years was about getting in touch with my emotions, processing them, dealing with past challenges and issues while being in an almost meditation like state of creating colorful and sometimes intricate abstract designs and patterns for hours at a time.
Four years ago I got pretty burnt out working as a freelance illustrator and realized that I might end up spending my entire working life doing stuff for clients while never figuring out who I was as an artist or what my own, unique artistic vision would look like. The thought of never really getting to know myself totally freaked me out so, after almost two months of creative block, in January 2014. I set out to create one thousand ink drawings and paintings. I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish but I knew I wanted to create ink art (contemporary ink art) because I adored the medium and I also wanted to make some kind of flower designs because I’ve already made a series of abstract flower paintings that I was very fond of.
After working as an illustrator/designer for years I knew it was crucial when embarking on this personal project to allow myself to create whatever I wanted to in, no self censorship whatsoever, no self criticism and also to create intuitively without any pre-planning. I was very curious what will happen if I let myself create freely, what designs, shapes, color combinations would emerge, what images will spring from my mind, what will I discover, how will my creative process evolve?
First I started by making simple flower inspired shapes (I called them Atomic Roses) on square format paper, designing them with black ink pen then coloring them with drawing ink. I just did it, intuitively, it was an enjoyable process and even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time those “roses” were like seeds for the entire project and my first attempt to design my own visual language. I kept making them for at least six months and it was like a really long warm up session that prepared me for doing more expressive work. Around that time I titled my project of making one thousand ink paintings Ink Flower Garden.
The “roses” were seeds that eventually grew into an entire Flower Garden, a series of artworks in which I became aware of which shapes and patterns appealed to me the most. My painting process was still purely intuitive and I would allow myself to create an image without analyzing the process. Only after I was done with it, I would try and take a step back to analyze my own work, asking questions like “Ok, but what does this mean, does it mean anything at all? Why do I keep painting flowers and flower like shapes? Why do I keep drawing circles and wheel symbols and astrological symbol for the Sun?“
In this process of self analysis I realized that I owned many elements of my art (especially the wheel and sun symbols) to my decade long interest in astrology. When I was a teenager I was totally into studying astrology and hand drew hundreds, if not thousands of astrological charts so no wonder those designs kinda imprinted themselves onto my subconsciousness and came to surface years later when I allowed myself to paint and draw “whatever the fuck I wanted, no censorship”. From today’s point of view I can tell that most of my round, circular, flower designs were actually artistic renditions, sort of echos of all the astrological charts I drew when I was young. (Why did I hand draw star charts by hand? Well because as a teen I didn’t own a computer and a printer so I did everything by hand.)
As time went by, somewhere in mid 2015 I felt the need to become more and more expressive and to get in touch with my emotions and to try to process them through painting. I started to paint imaginary underwater landscapes, sea monsters and jelly fish, deepest, darkest parts of the ocean and even made some kind of “postcards from primordial sea”. Parallel to that I also painted “deep space”, I had no idea why I just felt there is some sort of connection between two places as they both represented something dark, foreign, alien and dangerous to me. Some of images I created at the time were foundation of Deep Sea/Deep Space series.
I was also obsessed with dark blue color and started to paint blue female figure in various poses. It wasn’t a self portrait just a generic female figure “drowning in sea” of shapes and patterns. I worked on Deep Sea/Deep Space series for almost year and a half and it was my least favorite series of paintings, I felt as if those images were expression of deep and complicated emotions, my own unsolvable problems, my own hopelessness and helplessness etc. I kinda hated them, tbh (my inner astrologer called them too pathetic and too "Neptunian").
That changed when, in November 2016 I had a dream in which a famous dead person told me I should: "Make a painting called Cosmic love”. I thought that was silly but did it anyway and since painting turned out nicely I wanted to add it to my portfolio. Something clicked and I realized that Cosmic love was the final image in Deep Sea/Deep Space series. I also became aware that the female figure was sort of in the state of being awakened, getting up from laying down position to standing up. The whole thing was super obvious and starring back at me but I just didn’t see it until then. In that moment I became aware how important that series was for me and that it also in a way represented my recovery form depression and process of healing and finishing it with a piece called Cosmic love gave me a lot of hope. (Thank you, famous dead person, for the idea.)
Parallel to that series I worked on two more, Uncharted Territory and the one slightly unfortunately titled Enter the Underworld. I’ve been working on Uncharted Territory since early 2015 and still don’t quite understand what it is about (hence the name). I believe it is about having sudden flashes of insight and inspiration, something I’ve been experiencing all my life but it also might be about something else, I’m still not sure work here is finished (also, as a former astrology student I like to call this my "Uranian" series).
I made majority of Enter the Underworld images while being very sick and unable to prevent many aspects of my life from falling apart (yet still continuing to make art in spite of it all). When I look at the images from the series I see so much struggle, pain and suffering as well as failure to assert my own will power in troubling times and just having to let many things go, let them die.
By the time I started working on At the Edge of a Galaxy series I was very much in tune with my creative process. By 2016 I was totally into processing my emotions through painting to the point that every time before I would start to paint I’d ask myself things like: “How are you feeling today? What colors are your emotions, what shapes and patterns describe them the best?”, and then I’d try to "paint out" whatever would came to my mind first. It was very therapeutic and helpful.
At the Edge of a Galaxy turned out to be a series about relationships (planets being symbols for people for example) and at first I thought I was making art about men in my life (Mr Fantasizer, Stargazer etc) but as time went by I came to almost painful realization that I wasn’t making paintings about, let’s say, my exes but once again about myself, my masculine side so to speak, my animus if you will). It wasn’t a fun revelation, I must say (wtf, am I really Mr Fantasizer?! Nooooo).
By 2017 I got tired of constantly dealing with my own emotions, issues and problems and finally after three long years of struggle and purging my emotions through art I wanted to make something about someone or something else. I started doing a little side project of painting songs on tumblr that I still love doing. I started a new series called The House of Indefinable Pleasures inspired by music as well (Prince!) as well as Goethe’s Theory of Colors and pleasure we get from experiencing color and I guess just pleasure in general. This series is still work in progress and I have no idea where it will take me. I’m still really into color theory and just finished reading Steiner’s lectures on color and I can feel that will somehow influence my future painting as well, so yeah, who knows where my creative journey will end.
But Ink Flower Garden project will end soon, that I’m sure of. Till this day I have finished almost nine hundred fifty paintings, discovered (I guess I should more correctly say layed down the foundations of) my visual language, processed a lot of emotions, learned a ton about myself and how I function, already created a huge body of work and put together a portfolio which I’m happy with and know I won’t die without learning who I am as an artist :)
So far, this has been a very rewarding journey of self discovery, a four year long exercise in introspection, in mastering the art of self reflection yet I have a feeling it is only a warm up and best and most rewarding experiences are yet to come. I'm very curious, once again, how this deeply personal project will come to its end and wonder if I'll find more ways to surprise myself as an artist while working on final fifty paintings.
I do have a feeling something pretty intense and surprising is in the making for me, art wise and that's why I wrote this post briefly describing the journey so far, almost as if, by writing it down I wanted to create way for something new and exciting to happen next :)