You said that the animals present in your works come from different mythologies and religions. Can you explain where they come from and why you are interested in these issues?
I’m fascinated by the animal and plant world, I love myths, fables, fantastic stories with characters that mix human and animal features, I love Walton Ford’s work, old naturalistic illustrations of plants and animals, the illustrations of Ernst Haeckel, etc. So you can see how all these personal tastes influence and shape my illustrations and paintings.
I’m not really interested in the mythology and religion of a specific country or area, I just like to be open to many influences, suggestions, to take different elements and mix them together in characters and scenes.
Animals are pretty magical, in most of the stories I like, the hero has an animal side-kick, some sort of magical guide, a link to nature. So in many of my illustrations the animal is a magical friend.
Patterns and use of color as well as motifs from folklore can be found quite often in your works. What is it that you get from this domain?
Personally I don’t really see that many folk influences in my work. But my girlfriend Aitch is super fond of folklore motifs, and she opened my appetite for Folk Art and Naïve Art, so maybe my tastes in art reflect in my pieces. I like the fresh colors, the disregard for realistic perspective and proportions, the use of patterns and unexpected details. And of course, the presence of animal costumes and masks not only in Romanian folklore, but in many other countries all over the world. So I guess I am kinda influenced by folklore.
Also, you use characters that remind of devil or that have tribal roots. Are you interested in making works that have a religious background?
I don’t really think I paint particularly devilish characters – many of my characters have horns though, but they’re not devil horns, they’re more like some sort of godly attribute. I do like to create some sort of ambiguity around my characters and scenes, and many of them are inspired by myths and folklore, but I’m not really interested in religion and creating work that has a specific religious meaning or message. My pieces pretty much work as illustrations of untold stories, personal myths, etc.
Are you interested in the nature of good and evil? Why?
One of the shows I had in collaboration with Aitch, in Canada and in Vienna last year, was called “The Garden of Good & Evil”. As I said, I like creating ambiguous scenes, with characters that mix many different details like horns, bird features, snakes, skulls, flowers, animal heads – so the whole feel of the piece would be magical and dreamlike, the difference between good and evil is blurred, and the viewer is compelled to find all sorts of meanings and stories.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In general there are certain details that pop-up for me in the art that I love, or specific lines in books, that are very visual and striking for me, or certain frames in movies. I’m pretty much inspired by many different stuff – Walton Ford, naturalistic illustrations of plants, animals, Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations of marine life, old painters like Arcimboldo, Bosch, Brueghel, floral patterns, Islamic art, Naïve Art, old Renaissance costumes and armors, etc. I like to take small bits and details from here and there and put them all together into something new.
Your series are so different one from another. How do you get to really stop, detach and concentrate on a new one?
I have these phases in which I’m interested in a particular subject, or like to paint in a specific way, but soon the subject, the shapes, the technique, everything seems a bit exhausted and I need a change, so I just take breaks in which I just suck in stuff – art, books, movies, tv shows, music, walks through the city, until I feel like I have something fresh to create and focus on.
You are present more and more in exhibitions, but you also work on commissioned works and so on. What do you prefer most: working on paper, on walls etc.?
I try to make the best I can with each medium, either if it’s a commercial commissioned work, or if it’s something more personal. And all the techniques and supports have their charm and also their shortcomings, but I’m trying to adapt and make the best of it. I used to prefer working on canvas and wood and I kinda dismissed working on paper, but now I find that I love more and more working on paper, right now acrylic on paper is perfect for what I like to do.
And of course I always love a good big wall + lots of paints + a cherry-picker.
I assume that being a street artist, as you were at some point, is different from what you do today. In what way?
I think I’m a bit more mature now, my influences, interests, subjects are more varied, I also developed my technique, I explored new stuff, new techniques and mediums. A few years ago when I was mostly doing street art my work was pretty much limited to black and white monsters and creatures or zombies.
Nowadays I’m more attracted to surrealist, dreamlike, colorful illustrations or paintings, fantastical creatures, birds, animals, more elaborate scenes and compositions, etc. And I’m more focused on work for art shows.
But I always happily accept and love the chance to paint a good mural when it comes my way.
We know that some projects you make are with Aitch. How is it to work alone compared to working with someone else?
We work together on different shows, for example “The Golden Hours” at Calina Gallery in Timisoara, or “The Garden of Good and Evil” at La Petite Mort and (((Parentheses))) in Canada – meaning that we have common subjects and themes, even specific motifs that we both use, but we do our work separately, and our styles are pretty different. But every once in a while we do work together on the same piece. But as I develop my technique, style, personal taste, etc, I find it more and more difficult to adapt to working with someone else. But it is fun to do it every once in a while, I’ve collaborated with a bunch of artists on sketches, illustrations, commissioned projects, murals, etc. It’s probably more fun than working alone, cause the responsibility for the result is shared, the artists can always talk, argue, each can bring fresh, different ideas and details, and can basically rely on each other – so in most cases the result is more fun, fresh and unexpected than each artist’s individual work.
What did you discover while working with her?
Wow, a whole lotta things, techniques, mediums, I learned to push myself into new directions, to accept uncomfortable tasks, and I also developed my personal taste in art a great deal. I owe a lot to Aitch’s influence and support.
You exhibit your prices on your FB page. How come you took this decision and which is the outcome?
Cause I want it to be more clear that the works are for sale, cause sometimes people can’t really tell if a work is for sale unless they see the price. And it is pretty customary to give all the details about each piece, in case someone is interested in purchasing it. The outcome is that more people realize that my work is for sale, and more people actually purchase pieces from me.
How do you work? Is everything well-planned when you start or it might change during the project? Choose one work and tell us a little bit about the process.
What I usually answer to this question is that I have two completely different approaches, depending on my mood.
Sometimes I plan out in advance really carefully, I do research on the subject, collect lots of visual references – for example for my latest series of three canvases, made for a show about masks in Croatia, I collected lots of images of old costumes, armors, helmets and masks from different areas of the world, Renaissance paintings, images of cats and foxes, plants, shells, etc. Then I printed out some of them, I started putting everything together in black and white sketches, and then when I was pleased with the sketch I started working on the actual paintings. From then the process has its ups and downs, some areas or details are really nice and fun to work on, others are more boring and frustrating, but it’s always pleasing when I add the final details and the piece is suddenly cohesive.
And there’s the other approach, when I’m not in the mood for thinking or researching or planning stuff, when I just start making, usually it starts with a background, sometimes really colorful and playful, sometimes dark and monochromatic. And then based on the background I start building a character, adding more and more details. Usually this approach is much more fun as a process, the result is very fresh and catchy, but the planned out pieces are more solid and “serious”.
Each work, if taken in particular, seems to be coming from a specific story. How do you work when it comes to a character, for eg, do you create a specific context for each or it is something random?
Sometimes I think of stories, not anything very specific or detailed, more like a sketch, a hint of a story, and then it pretty much develops while I work on the piece. And each character or feature or detail that I add brings something more to the story. And I like to reuse elements, motifs, characters, this way they seem like they’re part of a bigger picture or story or myth.
There is always a discussion around the artistic studies. How did the University help you and in which way it didn’t?
I think it helped me develop my technique and skills, widen my knowledge of art, work in a competitive artistic environment. But it also made me aware of my limitations, it imposed certain… restrictions, and by the time I graduated it almost completely inhibited me for a while. And street art helped me get away from my inhibitions, frustrations, from the restraints imposed by the academic environment, and see and make art with a more free and fresh feeling.
Do you remember saying at one point: This is it, this is what I want to do, or it all came easily, changing little by little until it got to this point where you are now? Tell us a little bit about the process.
I don’t really know exactly a specific moment when I decided I wanted to be an artist, it probably started when I went to art university, and then it got clearer when I started doing street art. At that point I was also working as a designer, then I slowly started to be more focused on my art until it became clear that this is what I want to do, and that when I’m not doing it I feel pretty useless. So even if sometimes it’s frustrating and I’m almost in constant doubt about what I do, I know that art is the only thing I kinda know how to do and the only thing that makes me feel like I have some kind of purpose in life.
Which artists influenced you and in which way? Starting with your childhood.
When I was a kid I was very influenced by my friend Robert, who was really into comics, fantasy art, sci-fi, horror, stuff like that, we were both fans of H.R. Giger.
Another major influence in my life and art is my girlfriend Aitch, she’s one of my favorite artists and she motivated me to try new stuff, new techniques, and to refine my taste in art. My friend Other aka Troy Lovegates, one of my favorite street artists, I got the chance to know him, work with him on a few murals, and his way of working, his work ethics were a huge influence and motivation for me.
And I’m also very inspired, influenced, motivated by many many artists, Walton Ford, Rousseau, Brueghel, Arcimboldo, Ernst Haeckel, and also young artists whose work I follow constantly online.
Can you imagine which is the direction your art will go?
I don’t know, I’d rather not think about it too much and be surprised by it.
Tell us a little about your on-going projects.
I just finished working on a series of canvases for a group show about Masks, that will open in February in Rijeka, Croatia.
I’ve also been working on the key-visual for one of the most important art fairs in Europe, STROKE, and me and Aitch will probably have a few works for sale at the art fair.
And I’m preparing to start working on a solo show, I think my first solo show in a long while, in a nice small gallery – “Objectos Misturados”, in a beautiful small town in Portugal – Viana do Castello. The whole idea of the show started from an illustration I recently made, called “Rise of The Bird People”, which depicts a scene in a bizarre world in which humans have devolved and are used in the same way animals are now used by humans, and the ruling race is a sort of super evolved bird. I was pretty inspired by Planet of the Apes, and by paintings and illustrations of Conquistadors, and of course my fascination for birds. So the whole show will consist of scenes of the Birds People’s conquest of the human race. The show will open in May.
I’ll also have another duo-show with Aitch at “La Petite Mort” Gallery in Ottawa, in August. We’re also thinking of gathering images of all the artworks we create during this year and show them and sell them as prints in collaboration with Atelier Olschinsky in Vienna sometime at the end of the year.
Thank you for your time and good luck! We’ll surely keep an eye on your work.