Why did you decide to become an artist? Do you remember that particular moment?
Drawing emerged very instinctually, it seemed to be something I just did. As I entered my teenage years, I became aware of ‘art’ in a broad sense, and my unconscious reflex to draw became more self-aware. With this awareness I began to make paintings, experiment with graffiti and compose music. In the years leading up to my post-secondary education I remember being set on going to a film school, yet I somehow ended up at an art school. What’s strange about this is that I can’t remember making that decision or when exactly it happened.
Did your parents support you in your aspiration to become an artist at that time? There is a persistent cliché in society, which equates choosing to become an artist with having to live a life of near-poverty.
I am lucky enough to have very supportive parents. When my Dad was my age, he was an aspiring writer, so I think he can relate to my drive to create and experiment. We often talk about philosophy, art, and other things, and it’s pretty cool.
What are the main topics, problems, or issues that push you to work on your artworks or projects? In other words, what is it that inspires you to create?
Similar to how my decision to become an artist could not be isolated to one particular moment, my inspiration cannot be isolated to a certain thing or even differentiated from the process of creation itself. There was a point back in school where I approached work from a distance, conceiving an idea first and then incarnating it into physical form. I think it was important for me to let this cold and calculated way of making art run its course, so I could return to a more involved way of creating things. I enter into relations with the various materials and software I use, the texts I read, the people I meet, etc., and allow for new connections to be made and for unforeseen possibilities to emerge. I think that art can provide an opportunity to think outside of the rigid categories of language, that we can enter into relations with changing materials, that we can think in an infinite number of materials and processes. For me, the act of creating art lies in creating new modes of thought, and I hope that this kind of approach would in turn enable the viewer to experience newfound affections.
Your signature style seems to be strongly influenced by various patterns found in nature, e.g. the neurons within a nervous system. Is it the manifestation of your desire to experiment with various materials, or could it be your desire to underline the connection between the human and the natural environment from which he emerged?
Most of the recent works you can see on my Instagram are semi-computational 3d renderings. Maybe tracing a line through my preceding projects can give you some understanding of these new forms I’ve been experimenting with. In 2017 I started a project called ‘Natural Form’. This project consisted of ‘fake’ images of various plant life species. I would alter each image as convincingly as possible to create plants that seemed to grow ‘against’ their algorithm. Branches would be depicted growing into themselves, from a single point of origin, or in some unexpected directions. This project involved a lot of time observing plants and trying to understand their growth algorithms in order to ‘hack’ them and create these uncanny ‘mutations’. I think this intuitive familiarity with growth patterns has had some residual presence throughout my proceeding practice. I’m captivated by the emergent structures we experience across various scales of the world. Patterns are extracted from various recognizable identities and are then combined to create new forms, ones that aren’t captured by the domain of identity, yet interact with the faculty of recognition.
Don’t you think that there is a kind of closed-system about art — it is based on one thing, which, in turn, had been created based on something else, and so on…? From that point of view art almost seems to be a selection algorithm of sorts.
Yes, I see what you’re saying. I think that art (for both the viewer and the artist) can be approached as a system that has built itself up from previous movements, developing in a linear way throughout history. However, I don’t think this is the only way one might approach the subject. I mean, if someone simply isn’t aware of the history of art or has a different view of it, they still experience an artwork as a piece of art.
You said that art could provide an opportunity to think outside of the rigid categories of language. It can be argued that the ‘language of art’ is so diverse that each artist has their own unique language. Can you say this about your works? Are there any messages that you want to convey through them?
As I’ve touched upon earlier, I’m not so interested in approaching art as a means of communication. You could try to figure out my work in that way, but that interpretation would be new to me. There isn’t any secretly encoded message underneath my works. Having said that, my areas of exploration and experimentation are not random. I’m interested first and foremost in images as things in themselves, and not merely representations of something else. I take images seriously. A lot of my work is inspired by various scientific fields, such as ecology, evolution, growth patterns, consciousness studies, myth studies and how they relate to imagery.
Is there any difference between images and photography in your interpretation of art?
I think there is a difference in perception when we think we are looking at the record of a thing out there in the world (e.g. a photograph) and when we are aware that what we are looking at was artificially generated. When these distinctions become hard to distinguish, I think that’s when images work to their full potential. They are not so bound by their representational tendencies, promoting us to experience them as things in themselves, as we cannot force them into the structure of representation. A lot of my work tries to occupy this ground of uncertainty. I’m very interested in the emerging technologies, such as GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) in the realm of image synthesis, and in the implication of generative images soon becoming indistinguishable from real life photographs and video recordings. This future of ‘fake images’ will radically change the structure of the way we perceive images in general, which will have a large impact on our way of life.
Would you say that intuition plays a big part in your creative process? Do you experience any ‘divine providence’ when you create your artworks?
I am not too familiar with the phrase, but I think I know what you mean. Since I allow for new trajectories to emerge from the indeterminate space of interaction with various materials, there seems to be an agency outside of the ego that participates in the genesis of these new forms. At the risk of sounding cliché, it does, in fact, feel as if these creative energies are flowing through you and not merely emanate from you. This, of course, has been noticed and expressed by many artists, be it musicians, painters, writers, etc.
What is your favorite artwork/project of yours? What makes it special?
Last fall I had my first European solo show in Berlin at a project space called ‘francisverein’ entitled ‘Connective Potential’. This was a great opportunity to bring my work into physical space and work with some amazing people. I was reading a lot of the philosopher Henri Bergson at the time and really learned about the spatialized tendencies of thought which was incorporated into the work.
Connective Potential emerged out of my interest in diagrams. Throughout my life I’ve often found myself drawing out concepts by creating maps and diagrams, especially when thinking over some new ideas or trying to understand others’ concepts. I wanted to understand why I was so infatuated by this format, so I began to research a lot of my diagrams and got people to send me drawings of their diagrams online. It became apparent to me how often we use the quantitative medium of space to externalize ideas. By spatializing our ideas, we solidify them, enabling a certain perspective on them, yet we lose the dynamism of the thought. Connective Potential was based around the limits and potentials of spatialized thinking, drawing parallels with geological processes, writing, and other natural processes.
What ideas of Henri Bergson did you find most profound and thought-provoking?
During the time I was working on my show, I came across the philosopher Henri Bergson. I began reading his work ‘Time and Free Will’ which gave me a lot of insight into my interest in diagrams and coincided with what I was working on at that time. To summarize it very broadly, Henri Bergson draws a hard distinction between the external, quantifiable world of extension and the internal, qualitative and non-measurable world of duration (the ‘lived experience’). One of his main focuses is to show that we as humans have a tendency to project our qualitative experiences into space in order to objectify and manage them, yet we do this at the cost of stripping our lived experience of its creative and dynamic freedom. These concepts are not only related to some of the things I was experimenting with in my show, but they also helped me open up new ways of thinking about life.
For me philosophy is something that gives my life vibrancy. New concepts and thoughts give rise to new possibilities of life, which enable me to live creatively and freely.
Whose art are you interested in the most, and why?
I’m interested in so much that it would be impossible and potentially uninteresting to cover it all here, but I’ll list a few off the top of my head — some of them friends I’ve met and collaborated with online, others I’ve seen in the more traditional setting of a gallery. Timur Si Qin, Iain Ball, Laura Joy Evans, Pierre Huyghe, Ian Bruner, Don Elektrq, Lucy Bull, Jura Shust, David Hanes, and many more. Personally, I’m mostly interested in experiencing new affections through art, and these artists, among others, all do that for me.
Photographs have an interesting way of depicting reality, while simultaneously skewing it as they create undeniable illusions of space and objectivity.
What about getting to participate in some well recognized world-class exhibitions — are you interested in this prospect?
Yes, I would love to participate in world-renowned art exhibitions. For me, having space and funding to experiment with is undeniably appealing. Also, I feel like art becomes activated through interaction and observation, and these exhibitions provide a space for that. That being said, exhibitions like these are not the only opportunities to experiment with spaces and viewers, and something as widely accessible as Instagram can provide almost infinite possibilities by itself.
I’m not really interested in ordering various modes of presentation into a value system. What’s interesting and refreshing to me is that art can be and is being actualized in a multitude of ways and is pushing to keep reinventing itself. Just to be clear here, I’m not necessarily placing new modes of presentation above the old ones; I am just excited by the various capacities the diverse landscape of art presentation opens up. I still think that white cube gallery style exhibitions are interesting and their potential has not been exhausted.
Let’s try to imagine something… What do you think the future generations might see and think looking at your art?
That’s an interesting thought. I’m really not sure, partially because I’m not exactly sure how people see my work even today, and I’m uncertain of what the future might hold. I do think that, because I’m making artwork with contemporary technologies that change rapidly, that it will signify the era it was made in. This realization that my work will quickly be identifiable as dated bothered me slightly in my early years. This fear of making work that will at one point seem dated has completely dissolved, in fact, it has become merely a point of interest. A lot of the work I find interesting from the past feels as though it completely embraced its present, as if it didn’t strive for timelessness and wasn’t obsessed with the future or the linear progression from the previous movements. It’s usually very easy to determine the time in which a work like this was made, but I see that as something curious and beautiful.
What can you say about the condition of contemporary art in your region? Could you share any insights with us?
Toronto, like many other cities, has many interesting things going on, but I tend to make most of my connections online. I definitely do not feel bound by my geographical location: for some reason, the people reaching out to me are often from Europe and rarely from Toronto, and I also find myself resonating with many of these artists across the ocean.
What are your plans for the near future?
I have two group shows coming up this fall that I’m extremely excited about. I can’t say too much about them, as the details are not fully solidified yet, but I will definitely post about them in the near future.
What have you learned about art in the process of making your artworks?
I’ve learned to embrace the indeterminacy of creation and interaction, to become enchanted by the mystical, the irreducible, the images and symbols that emerge from the process, and I learned that thinking in images and material is something inexhaustible, always generating new possibilities.