From São Paulo, Brazil, Salua Saleh is an expressionist painter whose paintings depict dreams, emotions and everyday life with a myriad of colorful forms. Though our conversation was unfortunately impaired somewhat by our language barrier, Salua and I talked at length about her artwork, as well as the inspirations and stories behind much of her art. Carrying the torch of the expressionist movement of modern art, Salua reimagines the human figure and identity, and projects the colors and shapes of dreams onto the world around us. Through her artwork, Salua provides us with waking windows into landscapes of the mind, body and soul.
Salua is from São Paulo, Brazil, though she and her art have traveled across the world. Having been born in Brazil, she was exposed to a new generation of Brazilian artwork in Ribeirão Preto. After receiving her degree from the University of Ribeirão Preto, Salua moved to Italy, where she took painting courses and further developed her expressionist style, as well as London. Through her life and her travels, Salua’s work proliferated into a number of countries, including Britain, the United States, Lebanon, Greece and Brazil.
Salua’s style is primarily expressionism, though her artwork also has influences from the impressionists and the abstract movement, with similarities also to the fauvist movement. Her primary influences were Matisse, Klimt, Modigliani and Frida Kahlo, and these influences are quite prominent in her strong use of color and contrast, her alteration of form in landscapes and cityscapes and the expressions of her paintings’ subjects.
Salua’s paintings feature a wide range of settings and subjects. We see many paintings of figures, often nude figures, as well as portraits of people. Other paintings showcase a landscape or cityscape, and some are still life paintings, while others are much more abstract pieces that have ascended far enough from tangible, waking reality that they become difficult to readily describe.
In many of Salua’s figure paintings, portraits and nudes, we see the influence of artists like Modigliani and Klimt, as well as some of Matisse’s style.
With paintings like “As Tres Mulheres” and “As Quatro Mulheres”, there is certainly an influence of Modigliani in the reimagination of the subjects faces and expressions, as well as in nude paintings like “I Due”. Where Modigliani played with the shape of the nude form, as well as with the shape and proportion of expressions of individuals, Salua likewise transforms her subjects into new visions of an otherworldly humanity. In “I Due” and others, we can also see an influence from Klimt and the emotional dynamic of many of his nudes.
However, Salua also incorporates the fauvist style of Matisse into much of her work, including her figures and nudes. With pieces like Salua’s portrait of David Bowie, or “Blindness”, we see both the transformation of figure and form from Modigliani, as well as a vivid use of vibrant colors, replacing our normal expectation of colors with an almost otherworldly color scheme.
With the David Bowie portrait, the typical skin tones and shading are enhanced and transformed with yellows, greens, whites and blue greys for lighter tones, and reds, oranges and browns for darker tones. His hair is a blooming explosion of blues, yellows, reds, greens, turquoises, ruddy red-violets, sky-blues and sea-greens. All of this pops out even more with the dark contrast of the background, ranging from darker versions of the sea greens to the red violets of his hair, in addition to the contrasting dark and light blue on his clothing.
With “O Negro”, one of Salua’s first pieces, there is a very strong resemblance to Matisse’s portrait work, particularly pieces like “Green Stripe” and “Woman With a Hat”. Regular skin topes are replaced with reds, blues and oranges, while the white’s of the subject’s eyes are made green, and his hair mixed with some orange. His lips are painted a pale dark orange, and much of his skin is highlighted with dark-pale greys, tans and peach-tones
With paintings like “Hoje è Dia de Festa”, Salua incorporates even stronger elements of abstraction and fauvism into her artwork. The figures in this painting are practically mosaics of colors, their forms transformed into simpler renditions, and their expressions are entirely obscured in the colors comprising their bodies. The landscape surrounding these figures is similarly comprised of this colorful mosaic, both land and sky. In the distant background, there is a city made of pale blue and pink tones.
Salua’s abstract pieces, while they resemble in some ways the fauvists and expressionists, for me are more reminiscent of some pieces from Pollock, as well the orphists and the wilder side of abstract expressionism.
With paintings like “Caminhos” and “Metamorfose”, Salua uses similar color schemes as Kandinsky in many of his paintings, but also uses the geometric designs found in some of Kandinsky’s work, as well as many of the paintings made by the orphists. There is a chaotic explosion of vibrant colors, at times complementing each other and at times contrasting, as well as swirls and circles, paths of colors tracing across a wild landscape of color.
With other paintings like “Abstracões” and “Conexões”, we still see the Kandinsky-esque color schemes and the orphist geometry, but there is a chaos that is only really comparable to Pollock’s pieces. Salua maintains something of a semblance of rational design in the background layer of the painting, but the upper layers are storms of colors fervently blooming and bursting off the canvas.
Many other pieces are far more tame than this, such as “Anni 70”, “A Danca das Cores” or “Passagens Secretas”, though these pieces still employ vivid colors and energetic movements across the canvas. Others like “Tropicalismo” and “Todos os Olhos da Floresta Encantada” employ geometric patterns very unique to many of Salua’s other pieces. Pieces like “Tropicalismo” are almost landscape like, with many similarities to the landscapes and cityscapes Salua has created.
Salua’s cityscapes are often quite like puzzle pieces in various shapes and sizes and of various colors fit together. The colors she uses for her buildings create a fascinating arrangement of emotion across hills, mountains and other landscapes, and the composition of the shapes and forms of buildings in these cityscapes likewise suggest a sort of geometry of emotion.
One of my favorite cityscapes of hers, “San Lorenzo Bellizzi” feels truly like a representation of a city from a dream, with buildings of odd proportions stacked on top of each other, with roads and paths stretched across the city architecture, curving and wandering in and out of the blocks. It becomes difficult to distinguish wall from rooftop from road from doorway, and the proportions and shapes of each section of the painting cause the viewer’s brain to scramble trying to understand what it is seeing.
Another quite dreamlike city painting, “Sogno Lùcido”, we see buildings through a doorway or window frame at night. These buildings are oddly proportioned and shaped, giving them a surreal aesthetic, and the door frame or window we are looking through is surrounded with designs quite similar to the dream-like textures and fabric designs created by Klimt. The night sky in the background, in tandem with the strange architecture of the buildings and the cool colors filling much of the center of the painting, give an almost eerie or uncanny feeling to them—a feeling that can only be found in the stranger hours of night, in dreams, or captured in a painting such as this.
With Salua’s natural landscapes, as well as in her still life paintings, there is a more impressionist style similar to much of Monet’s work, as well as the post-impressionist style made famous by Van Gogh. Paintings such as “Paisagem Livre”, there is a very pronounced impressionist/post-impressionist style, with much of the emotion of the piece shown through the movement of the brushstrokes and slight derivations of natural colors. Still, other pieces like “Caos Calmo” still lean more heavily toward an expressionist style.
In other landscape paintings, such as “Caminho Ìntimo”, which may be one of my favorite pieces by Salua, Salua blends the styles of post-impressionism and expressionism into an almost Wonderland-like dream-world of paths of vibrant colors walled on both sides by swirling patterns of flower-like designs. This painting, as with many of Salua’s paintings, is like something from colorful, beautiful dream—a landscape that possibly could only be conceived in the mind of an artist.
Salua spoke with me about how this dream-like quality of her art comes from one of her primary inspirations: her own dreams. This inspiration is quite evident in Salua’s surreal depictions of people, still life images and landscapes. There is an element of the unconscious in Salua’s work, an element of uncanny otherworldliness to her work, that can be quite difficult to capture in words, but that Salua has quite adeptly captured in paintings.
Another inspiration for Salua’s work are everyday events and settings, or even passersby in towns and cities, that many of us may take for granted, but Salua finds much beauty in. Still, other inspirations come from Salua’s own emotions, and her artwork is an expression of these feelings. At times, her artwork is an expression of inner turmoil, such as in her piece, “Solitudine”, which Salua told me is a painting of her sitting at night, staring out a window, smoking a cigarette, and dealing with personal suffering.
Despite the unique beauty of Salua’s paintings, she spoke with me about how she used to destroy some of her works of art. She often didn’t feel they were good enough, and her inner critic railed at her until she gave in and got rid of these pieces. Still, Salua felt much regret about destroying her work, and received advice from a friend that many artists, writers, musicians and other creative types might find invaluable. It is not your place to judge your own work, it is your place only to create it, and let others see what you have made for their own consideration.
It is difficult for so many of us to silence our own inner critics. As helpful as they may be—as useful as it can be to have that voice always telling you to do better and to try harder—these inner critics may also tear us down at moments we need to be built up. These acts of destruction, or other similar acts of self-inflicted emotional violence, may seem appropriate in the moment, but they cannot be the guiding force of our creativity. We must strive to follow the voices telling us, “Yes! This is good”, and “Carry on, keep creating, keep building what you have”.
It has been a delight getting to talk with Salua about her artwork, as much as it has been a pleasure going through her art and pouring over every detail of her work. It is quite an achievement for an artist to be able to capture such subtle and nuanced emotions as Salua captures with her expressionist style, as well as the uncanny quality of dream-like visions in art, and both are quite a joy to see. If you enjoyed Salua’s art and want to see more, you can find her on Instagram @saluasaleh_artgallery. Please give her artwork a deeper look, and if you enjoy what she’s made, follow her, and comment or send her a message to let her know!
Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Miguel Pichardo’s artwork has an incredibly unique, psychedelic blend of surrealism, abstraction and Gonzo-style artwork, which span across a tremendous breadth of style. Miguel and I first got in contact with each other over a year ago when I wrote my first article on him, and since then, his body of work has grown tremendously. In addition to talking about his recent developments in art, Miguel and I talked about his own growth as an artist over the last year, and the influence spirituality has had on Miguel and his art.
Since the last time we spoke, over a year ago, Miguel’s artwork has been getting more and more attention, including a restaurant and cafes his art has been featured in, including the Jesus Wall Brewery Artwalk in LA, and a number of projects and galleries he’s been involved with. Notably, Miguel has been working with Puzzle Crazy, a puzzle-making company who has been turning some of Miguel’s artwork into puzzles, and Miguel’s art was put into in the Pacha Moma Art Museum as a permanent installation.
For any major art lovers reading this, Pacha Moma is an insanely cool museum that features some incredibly talented and imaginative artists (so it’s no surprise Miguel has been featured here). I’ll post links to them, as well as links to Puzzle Crazy, at the end of the article.
Another major aspect to Miguel’s artwork is his focus over the last year on being able to connect more with his art and art process on a more intuitive level.
“Currently what I been doing with my work is that I’ve been practicing letting ‘the flow’ take over and kinda in a way let it create itself. I’ve found so much pleasure and satisfaction through that technique. I’ve gotten countless commission offers, but I turned them all down for the reason that I am focusing my time on creating what I enjoy. 2019 was a very magical year for me, if you will. I learned a lot about myself, as well as directing myself where I want to be. So yes, the goal for the future to me is becoming more clear.
“[…] I used to do it and it would take me hours to get in that zone. And now that I understand better that ‘zone’ I can tap into it faster. Some people also call it the ‘flow zone’ like you become fluent with your craft. Which create real master pieces. I believe.”
This style of creating art becomes especially impressive when you take into consideration the amount of detail in each piece. The ideas seem to be pouring out of Miguel’s head onto his canvas.
I think one piece that epitomizes this improvisational style is Miguel’s painting, “Jazz”. Named after one of the most improvisational and wildly flowing styles of music, “Jazz” zig-zags, twists, curls and loops across the canvas like a vision of controlled chaos. There’s somehow both a precision and a wildness to this painting. Miguel talked a bit about “Jazz” with me:
“I love this one for its simple yet powerful composition. What this piece represents to me is just the vibe of jazz the motion the rhythm the emotion of it. This piece brought back memories of my buddie Grover who has passed away. When I was a kid, he would express to me how much he loved bebop. As I was creating this piece I had him in mind as well. At the time I was have trouble with pricing my work. I finally stuck with a price and the piece sold for the price of $2000 which for me was a sign to have faith in my gut feelings or my intuition.”
While Miguel’s style can vary quite a bit from piece to piece, in general, this wild energy of controlled chaos is practically a staple in Miguel’s artwork. Some of them seem almost alive with movement and personality.
Once you get to know Miguel’s style enough, it’s impossible to mistake for anyone else’s style, but it’s still difficult to pin that style down, as it can vary so much from piece to piece. Some paintings, like his recent painting, “Cosmic Siren”, or his painting, “La Catrina”, have a heavy Cubist influence on them, while others range in style from Kandinsky-style abstraction to Ralph Steadman’s Gonzo-style of art. Still, Miguel’s art, though similar in many ways to these styles, blends these elements as much as it breaks free of any of these molds.
In pieces like “The Buddha” and “Enat”, there’s a mix of some realism, and then a sort of static or sheen of color—clouds, lines, splatters, constellations, swirls, sprays.
With “The Buddha”, the Buddha’s eyes have been replaced by twin nebulae of specks, spots, dots and blots. Miguel almost creates a new atmosphere, or a new fabric of reality in some of his pieces. Maybe he’s peeled back the mundane, crisp and clean surface of material reality, and revealed the chaos beneath it all.
“Enat” more deeply enters the realm of realism, though it depicts the ancient and somewhat abstract “Venus of Willendorf”, but even hear, there is that slight mushroom-haze of specs and spots and spatterings of color. This same messy atmosphere or peeled back reality can be found in a wide variety of pieces.
Miguel’s still life paintings, “Florero de Septiembre” and “Still Life Cacophany” are rich and dense with this atmosphere. In “Florero de Septiembre”, the air and the color of the background seem tangible, like I could reach out and grab the fabric of yellow-golden light, hold it like it was clay, or like the air itself was paint. “Still Life Cacophany” is an explosion of colors and lines coming alive with extradimensional energy. Here the blurred lines of slight realism and wild abstraction make the painting feel like its exploding both in front of you, and like the image is coming alive and moving in your head while you’re looking at it.
And with others paintings, the fabric of reality seems to erode even further. “Magic Clown” and “Al Fin de la Jornada” are barely clinging on to any semblance of realism. Small threads of realistic detail tie them to something tangible, but a surreal madness has all but overcome the paintings’ subjects.
With “Magic Clown”, the edges of objects have frayed in many places, and in other places, complete chaos has poured out or emerged forth onto the canvas. The crown of the clown’s head is all but nonexistent, and some unbounded limbo-world is exploding out of it. In “Al Fin de la Jornada”, reality has given way to geometric forms blooming out of the subject’s neck, shoulders and chest. Their mouth has transformed into pillars and skyscrapers of lines and color that run off the edge of his face.
When all semblance of reality breaks down, when humans people are little more than the colors and shapes of ideas of personalities, a psychic geometry of identity, we find highly abstract pieces like “The Sheriff in Town”, “My Anxiety Yesterday”, and “Una Noche”. Pieces like these show an almost final breakdown of reality, where anything tangible or bounded becomes almost formless.
Still, this doesn’t fully describe Miguel’s broad range of style. There’s collages of colliding faces and forms, such as with “Relajate”, or psychedelic fauvist art, reminiscient of Alex Grey, such as “Mama Pacha”. There’s jaw-dropping blends of styles, such as with “Look Forward”, and there’s even a painting of Patrick star losing his mind on acid with “Patrick Star ‘Woah’”.
I can try and articulate these things to you, and I can try to box Miguel’s artwork into this category or that category, but you’ll have to go look at more of his artwork with your own eyes to really get his unique style.
Much of this unique style comes from Miguel’s own spiritual connection to his work.
“This is one of my favorite pieces it’s titled ‘Spiritual Being’ which is basically a self-portrait of my spirit. The significance of this piece is basically the awareness of my connection to the great spirit and that I am a part of it and that I have complete faith in it. As well as gratitude. On the right side you can kinda see another face. Which to me is my spiritual mother. I believe she has always been with me guiding and protecting me
“[…] The hands up on the being (me) signify surrendering to god or the ‘light source’, which creates or births faith, which in many circumstances has brought me peace and understanding.
“The great spirit, or God, or source or the universe I believe to be everything literally. I believe that we are all connected to everything in many different ways. I believe there is so much that we can’t even imagine, imagining the entirety of ‘it’. I believe it is so complex that that we as humans cannot fathom in anyway. So yes, my belief is closer to Native Americans’.
“And yes, ‘Spiritual Being’ the piece was not planned in anyway. It just came out as I went. I built on it. And after I finished it I looked at it for a while and saw the significance in it..but as you can see on the piece . It is in mostly rainbow color and pattern. Which to me represents light. I believe we are in our highest connection with god when we are in light form. A rainbow is created by light. The half skull half human face represents that I am aware of what will happen after death. For I believe I’ve died already in this life once. That’s a long story. But what I experienced was the most significant thing that had ever happened to me hands down. But to answer your question yes. I believe My consciousness or intuition guided me in doing the piece. And the reason I found out after I did it.”
This spiritual connection is evident throughout much of Miguel’s work, which features a wide range of religious themes and iconography. These pieces include “The Buddha”, “Mama Pacha”, “Duality”, “Reborn”, and an untitled drawing with a Mother Mary-like figure. However, this spirituality may spill over into other pieces that might not be overtly religious.
In many religions, just as Miguel mentioned, the Great Spirit, the One God or Monad, the Source, the thing from which reality emerged is everywhere and in everything. From beautiful, cloudy skies to incomprehensibly large galaxies to city streets and empty parking lots. This Spirit fills everything in the universe, permeates it just like atoms and molecules, and likewise, this Spirit might be filling each of Miguel’s pieces of artwork.
In addition to spirituality, Miguel discussed the inspiration for one of his pieces, “Waiting in Time”, and how he’s changed throughout his life:
“This one is titled, ‘Waiting in Time’. What it represents is an adolescent me waiting for answers to all my questions. Closure to all my doubts. Around the time I was working on the piece I was receiving some of those answers and closure. And that’s one example on how 2019 was very mystical or magical for me. I was finally using consciousness to bring in what I was waiting for. Even though there are many other favorites of mine.
“[…] I feel like yes, I have changed a lot since that way of thinking. The state of mind I tried to portray in ‘Waiting in Time’ I now understand why I went through all those challenges that I went through as an adolescent which were like karmic cycles repeating so that I can understand more about ‘the afterlife’ understand not anchoring yourself to materialistic state of mind, or to practice living without ego. Which I haven’t accomplished. I believe I now understand and need to start practicing that life style more and more. So that’s the current position I feel I’m in. I feel like I’m entering a new chapter in my spiritual life.”
What I love with this painting is all the tiny details and shapes that comprise the image as a whole. It’s almost like there’s no solid image or figure here, it’s just a formation of fragments of images—even in the landscape around the younger-Miguel and the sky in the background.
I don’t want to put words into Miguel’s mouth, but, for me, it’s like the collection of memories coming together into how we remember the person we used to be. It’s all the photographs in our heads being taped together into a collage that forms a single, solid person, but it’s still a haze. Miguel in this picture seems hazy, maybe only halfway there. In fact, his face in this picture is only halfway there. It’s half normal and half almost alien or monster like. The mouth is almost entirely inhuman, and the teeth look almost like a mismatched collection of wrong shaped, wrong sized pieces, stuck together because there was nothing else to stick in.
There’s this puzzle we’re trying to put together of who we once were in order to figure out who we are now (coincidentally, you can buy this painting as a puzzle from Puzzle Crazy).
There’s this puzzle, and at the end, it gives us the image of our identity. The pieces are all made of memories, little bits of emotions and old sensations or feelings, and thoughts we had that we halfway recall. If you pick up all the pieces of who you once were, you get to put them all back together the way you want. Become someone new.
One of the last things we talked about was art pricing.
Miguel mentioned a bit about pricing his art, so I asked him if he had any advice for other artists who are looking to start selling their work:
“Pricing art. There is still no real set structure in pricing art. Just like the freedom of expression is so vast, so is its pricing. If you know a little about the art market, you know paintings have sold for crazy amounts. But basically, there are is way a lot of artists have used to price their work, which is by square inch. So, like $2 the square inch. Which is what I do, but sometimes I price lower or higher depending on the piece, but for the most part that’s how I do it. And as time passes the $ mark increases as well as my popularity.
“I guess I’m still kinda new to all this stuff. I feel I still have a lot to learn, but at the same time, I’ve learned a lot in the time I’ve been doing it. Keep in mind, I’m a dad, and my time is divided. And my advice to other artists is just do it. Do it all. We have Google and social media. We have it all in the palm of our hands. Haha all you need is the initiative of starting and finishing. Things are gonna go wrong just like everything else: there is its good times and bad times. Just keep pushing.
I would also say ask questions. If a gallery doesn’t wanna show your work, don’t feel bad keep going! Always practice optimistic mentality. That will help with longevity, and also invest, invest invest. You gotta water the tree before it gives you fruits haha.”
There’s a lot to be learned from Miguel. He’s a father of two children, and, before Covid-19, was working a full-time job, and still managed to find time to make this insanely cool artwork (so shut the fuck up with whatever excuses you have). He’s stuck to his artwork, and keeps consistently growing and developing his style. He’s open to branching out into venues and ways of showing or selling his art.
Possibly most importantly, Miguel’s style is genuine, authentic. There’s no mistaking this style, and Miguel incorporates the things he finds most meaningful into his artwork, especially his spirituality. Miguel’s art comes from somewhere deep, beyond the rational, waking mind. It’s like he opens up this faucet somewhere deep in his unconscious or in his soul, and all these thoughts and emotions and images come spilling out onto canvas. It’s brilliant to see, and if you haven’t checked out more of his artwork, you need to.
You can find Miguel on Instagram @9ichardo. If you want to check out the Pacha Moma museum, they can be found on Instagram @pacha_moma. If you want to buy one of the puzzles made with Miguel’s artwork, or check out some of Puzzle Crazy’s other work, you can find them on Instagram @puzzlecrazyuk, or look them up on Etsy at www.etsy.com/uk/puzzlecrazyGB.
Please give them all a look, follow them if you enjoy what they do, and support artists and other creators in whatever way you can.
The more I delved into the artwork of Maury van Loon (artist name, Fall~), the more I was reminded of two books: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter, and House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski; and I was reminded of two specific concepts from those books: consciousness as a feedback loop of infinite, mirrored reflections, and unconsciousness as a labyrinth, with our conscious egos/identities as the trapped Icarus.
Maury’s artwork really clicked for me when I saw in them these mirrors and this labyrinth.
Making almost exclusively black and white ink art, though with a few notable pieces that include color, Maury mixes elements of surrealism and abstraction with influences from anime and similar art styles. Her artwork has wide range of content and subject, but the primary focus seems to be on identity: our identity in relation to others, and our identity in relation to ourselves. Maury does this with portrayals of faceless or featureless individuals, depictions of bodies disassociated from their faces, mirrored counterparts of either twin-like or dualistic individuals, and of people falling into vast or disintegrating spaces.
However, as Maury discussed more and more about her creative life, I discovered her interests and skills to be far broader than only visual art. In addition to surreal ink-work, Maury is active in music—including work on film scores—currently studies Japanese Language and Culture, and has worked off and on for a few years on a fantasy story. Though our interview focused on Maury’s artwork and the underlying themes of the artwork, our overlapping interests opened up a number of topics we only scratched the surface of.
“[…] I would currently describe my endeavors as an artist as ‘illustrator’, but I have a degree in music composition, and I’m currently studying Japanese which sometimes makes me feel a bit in Japanese I would say barabara, which means ‘in pieces’, as if I’m holding a handful of different identities and I am not just one person.”
Still, though Fall~ has a wide range of interests, art has been and remains a central part of their life.
“I have been drawing since as long as I can remember. It has always been a form of expression, as I had (and to a certain degree still have) trouble grasping the meaning and reality of my being. I think I started with illustrating, since it’s a very low-key form of art. Basically I can draw whenever I want, wherever I want, because I only need a pen and paper.
“I do believe all different forms of art have their own ‘language’ of expression – music or film can take you on a whole different emotional journey – and I am more than only an illustrator, as I have done a degree in music composition with a specialization in film and I’m currently doing a degree in Japanese Language and Culture with a specialization in Japanese film and animation. But making art is the one that seems most consistent throughout my life.”
Here, I completely agree with the idea that every form of art has its own sort of language, but I would also go on from that and say that every artist has their own variation of that language, with Maury being no exception to this. So, what is the language she speaks with her art?
Maury speaks with sharp contrasts of black and white, swarming lines like black static, and blurred clouds of grey. Maury’s syntax is the human form, floating or falling into teeming mouths of the abyss, or into the vast emptiness of space. Faces especially are key in this language, whether they are emotional, blank, expressionless, hollow, or replaced with disconnected, celestial objects.
Many of Maury’s pieces depict twisting, knotting throngs of arms reaching out to or out from the piece’s subject, or other similar serpentine forms. In many pieces, there is a symmetry to them, either a mirroring of images or some other geometric translation, and many pieces also possess a yin-yang type of duality, strongly influenced by the black and white contrasts. In others, there is an almost anti-symmetry, a chaos of lines or ink static.
Circles are a consistent motif, some being the subject’s head, some being in or through the subject’s head, others being in the subject’s chest or abdomen, and others surround an individual or individuals. These circles—often comprised of circles within circles (sometimes within even more circles); and often ringed with jagged lines or objects, or with twisting, looping, knotting forms—recall the forms of the labyrinth, particularly the Classical Cretan labyrinth and the Medieval Chartres pattern.
However, the best example of this Labyrinth is not in any of the pieces with primarily circular patterns, but in “Lost in Thought”, which really shows this maze-like nature of the mind.
“This piece is about how far you can become separated from your true self, by trying to fit in or please people around you. It’s a recent piece, but it reflects back to a time when I truly lost myself and now I regularly evaluate my choices and how far I stand from things that matter for me, instead of trying to become the ideal of society (or rather, how I think society would like me to be). The further you get, the harder it becomes, so the line between body and brain becomes this maze-like thing and at some point, you will get stuck and lose (like in the Nokia 3310 snake-game).”
So much of Maury’s artwork relates to identity: either finding or rediscovering oneself.
How is it that the most difficult thing to find on this planet is yourself?
How is it that so many of our own thoughts can be so much harder to understand than the endlessly complex machinations of the external world?
How is it that our own minds—the place we ought to feel most at home, the place we ought to know better than any other landscape, the place we ought to feel safest can be the most frightening and cruel of landscapes; can possess the deepest jungles of the uncanny and unfamiliar; and, in times of great uncertainty, in moments of overwhelming depravity and in the darkest architectures of our Dreams’ wild cinemas, can our own minds be venues of such tremendous violence, disorientation and disassociation?
There is also a recurrent theme of falling, though the movement of many subjects is ambivalent (in many pieces, individuals could potentially be perceived either as falling or rising). Paired with this theme of falling/rising, there is often an impalement or explosion from the abdomen, and in a few, there is another body emerging from the abdomen, implying something like a birth or a rebirth (similar in some ways to the emergence from a cocoon or chrysalis). This also carries on the ambivalence of rising/falling, as one body seems limp and lifeless, while another living body reaches up above it.
On this theme, Maury explained:
“It contains this sense of loss and despair, living in a world that doesn’t feel quite right. A world where you don’t seem to belong. When you long for something, someone, anyone, and reach out, but you can never really grasp it. Is it just an illusion meant for someone else? Are you not worthy?
“It’s a sense of the fear of not being in control yet at the same time it’s the realization and acceptance you’re not in control and that it’s completely fine. Maybe it’s not falling, but letting go.”
A number of pieces possess the motif of a wave-like object/figure which seems to be just about to crash onto the subject of the piece like crashing water of an ocean. This might be the internal ocean of the unconsciousness crashing down on the conscious ego, but this might also be the minotaur stalking that unconsciousness, overpowering the conscious mind.
The piece “Shadowself” puts a face to this crashing wave or cave minotaur, and Maury gives it a name.
“My official artist name is Fall~ and the right character in this piece is the visualization of Fall~. It represents the unexplainable core of feelings and thoughts that want to break out.”
Does this make the figure on the left Maury?
Is this Maury studying Fall~?
And Fall~ studying Maury?
And if Fall~, as depicted here, is the “Shadowself”, the unexplainable core of feelings and thoughts attempting to break out, does that mean the Minotaur stalking Maury’s mind is Maury’s own creativity? Is the Shadowself (Fall~) a rejection and repression of creativity—of ideas, talents and expressions not welcomed by society—and the projection of negative attributes onto oneself?
A loathing of something you love—of something that makes you unique—until it becomes a monster you must reconcile with?
But Maury, rather than flee as Icarus did, confronted this minotaur in her artwork, and it became Fall~.
Here, I think I’m actually reminded of Gandalf and the Balrog’s fall in the Mines of Moria, prompted not by the wizard fleeing, but by his confrontation. This fall—this confrontation—not partially parallels the Icarus myth (Moria being the Labyrinth, the Balrog being the minotaur), but also has the ambivalent duality of rising and falling. The two’s fall eventually led to a rise back up from the depths, where the battle finally concluded on top of a mountain peak. This of course led to transformation, metamorphosis and rebirth.
These complexities of identity, self-identity and self-transformation do not end here, however, and Maury had quite a lot more to say about both one’s self and one’s ego, as well as one’s self in relationship to others.
“I think one’s identity is relative and thus continuously changing. Without people around us and memories to mirror who we were, who we are, and who we do or do not want to become, there is no ego. There is a certain human connection to it, whether through a shared experience, a longing, or a realization that you have gone so far from your true self. By exploring these areas through art, I can identify, acknowledge and express things that are blocking me, but also things I couldn’t or wouldn’t say out loud.”
Here, I asked if this fluidity of identity was something inherent in being human, or if it was a contemporary issue of modernity, and also if there was any way of truly getting to know one’s self. Maury replied:
“It’s probably part of human nature, but I do think modernity has amplified our sense of self and our capability to manipulate our self-image. One reason is that we are now encouraged to become individuals and have our own opinion, and this seems to go hand in hand with a sense or a wish to be unique and different […] On the other hand, there’s social media and textual communication, which allows you to have a big control on how you represent yourself in your use of words, your looks, your identity. With which sub-culture do you associate yourself with?
“Maybe we have become a lot more self-centered, but maybe we also have become a lot more dependent on the approval people around us. We’re more fluid. And because upbringing and environment have such a huge influence on the development of oneself, I don’t think you could ever purely be your true inner self. Maybe if you live in a shack up a mountain in Farawayistan. I try to keep myself in check by really trying to listen to my belly-feeling (inner-universe 🙂 ) to feel if choices I’m making feel right for me and feel right for my moral-compass, and if my moral-compass is still moral enough, so I can keep going without self-doubt or regret.”
How do you go about defining yourself? And where do you plant your flag in saying, “This is ‘I’; this is what ‘I’ am and what ‘I’ believe”?
So many, if not all, of our own ideas and beliefs are ideas have been circulating throughout cultures and societies across history—evolving or adapting with each new age or era and growing into new ideas or spawning new fields of knowledge. So much of what we call our own mind are collections of ideas passed on to us through our parents, through school, through our friends, or through televisions, computers and phones. So much of our behavior is either instinctually or chemically influenced, or they are behaviors we’ve picked up from those around us, people we see on TV, characters in books, comics, movies or shows.
How much of “you” can actually be found amidst this carnival of “not you”? And how much of the “not you” has influenced and altered “you”?
Beyond this, “who we are” can be such a fleeting reality. We’re one person at one moment, then we’re angry or sad or scared the next moment, and suddenly we’re practically a completely different person. We may even change how we act depending on what we wear, who we talk to, where we talk to them. How different of a person are you if you’re having drinks at a bar compared to drinks at a friend’s house, or how different are you when you wear denim jeans and sneakers compared to shorts and flip flops, or when you’re at work compared to when you’re at home?
How different of a person might you be just based on the colors of the walls around you, the smell of the room you’re in, the expressions and body language of the people nearby?
Maury further explores the influences that others have on us and our sense of self, particularly the painful and at times frightening aspects of it, in the piece, “Kings”.
“’Kings’ kind of represents all the people around us that we feel are judging us (often with no good reason). It could be that guy in the train, or the woman in the store. They gang up, stare, judge. Them against us. There is a sense of power and arrogance in it, hence that they are self-proclaimed kings. I think it is also influenced by the growth of the importance of individualism, in which many are prone to believe they themselves are the most important, rather than the wellbeing of the community.
But obviously this judging only happens in my head, because 99% of the people you pass in the streets don’t even notice you, let alone care.”
An often overlooked or undervalued aspect of understanding someone’s creations is understanding where these ideas have grown from—the inspirations and influences of someone’s art, music, writing and so forth.
In addition to anime, Maury mentioned a number of other influences, including film and music.
“I have this peculiar habit of intensely loving only a few artists so much that their work is on repeat rather than exploring a quantitative amount of artists. My current repeat playlist (named “repeat”) consists of #2 by Nils Frahm and a handful of tracks from the Westworld soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi. I especially love films that are thought provoking, or take me on a journey and preferably have an amazing atmospheric original score. Watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy kind of has become a yearly tradition, and I have become so familiar with the lines that I bought the Japanese dubbed version to use it for my language studies haha. Anime is also a huge influence, especially visual, since the Japanese seem to apply a lot of shots and poses that I find beautiful and my computer is full of screenshots that I use as reference.
“In the end I love the feeling these works give me, this feeling of inspiration, or they maybe even make me feel alive and that I’m allowed to live. That there’s more to life than only living. And that’s what I want to give back to the world. If the inspired-me can inspire someone else again, who then can inspire another and so forth… That would be enough.”
In discussing her favorite anime, Maury said:
“One of my favorite anime films is Ghost in the Shell, because it’s full of layers. As humans we are watching a drawn representation of human-like cyborgs, so there is this double sense of artificiality. The director Oshii Mamoru also uses a lot of visual symbolisms and mechanisms that confuse the spectator. This is even more noticeable in his other animation film Angel’s Egg in collaboration with illustrator Amano Yoshitaka, who also worked on the Final Fantasy series (which I love 🙂 also the soundtrack!). The themes in Angel’s Egg are about loneliness and purpose and faith, and it’s set in a very dark world where this girl wanders through a deserted town with an egg, until she meets a man of whom we never truly know if he is friend of foe. It’s on YouTube with subtitles if anyone’s interested.
The original Fullmetal Alchemist has been hugely influential, which I prefer over Brotherhood because I think the original is more dramatic. Although, both soundtracks are wonderful. The hands that are represent in my work definitely find their origin in this series. The parallel universe/time travel theory of Steins;Gate also had a very big impact on my own way of theorizing an approach to life choices. They have a timeline that breaks up in several timelines, and made it really visible. Nowadays, when I look back at choices I have made and how they lead me to where I am now, I imagine the choices being forked roads and every path is another Maury leading a different life.”
The influence of both Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist can be seen in Maury’s works, “Welcome to My Mirrored World” and “Let Us Catch You”.
Maury mentioned that a shot from the 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime film inspired “Welcome to My Mirrored World”, and though I don’t know specifically which shot this was, the scene I immediately thought of was one where the protagonist is rising to the surface of a body of water, and her reflection creates a sort of mirrored, parallel reality before she breaks the surface of the water. With “Let Us Catch You” and several other pieces, we see the inspiration of the long, tendril-like arms related to Truth and various scenes where certain types of Alchemy are performed in Fullmetal Alchemist.
Though we didn’t discuss her art process in as much depth as we discussed other topics, Maury did explain how she comes up with many of her ideas, as well as part of her process of using recurring motifs in her art:
“There are two ways. Way 1: I live life. Life gives emotional friction. This emotional friction finds a visual representation that I doodle in my book of ideas. Way 2: I watch film. Film merges with random thoughts and memories of other things and I doodle it in my book of ideas. When I feel creative or a necessity to deal with my thoughts and emotions, I open my book of ideas, pick a pre-sketch and start drawing the composition. A lot of times inspiration and this feeling of necessity happen in the same moment.
“Often, I already know what kind of textures I want to use, or I decide to use several, for example I make one with a universe background, while the other will get a tree growing out of somewhere. For this reason, I create a template for most of my designs so I can easily make several versions with the help of a light box. I kind of see it as a puzzle. I have several reoccurring textures and motifs which I keep switching around in new compositions. Sometimes new ones are added or old ones become obsolete.”
Along with discussing her art, Maury and I talked a bit about her music, film projects she’s been involved with and a story of hers she’s been working with off and on for a few years.
“I would love to compose a score for a Japanese animation. That’s definitely in the top three of my bucket list.
“During my music degree at Plymouth University I worked on the feature film Jannertown with director Guy Brasher, which was such an amazing experience. His film is presented in several chapters that all have their own genre, but everything is connected. So musically this meant working with several themes that could return in various ways ranging from elevator music to futuristic synth music and orchestral superhero music.
“More recently I have worked with Pim Kromhout on a performance theater act inspired by the painting “Golconde” by René Magritte. The act consists of four very tall men with umbrella’s and there is music coming out of the umbrellas. Although the four men look the same and the music sounds as one whole, every man has his own tune that symbolizes his individuality. Unfortunately, it’s on hold because of Covid-19.
“My art and my music come from the same inner-location, which I at some point started to see as a fictional world. In my art there are returning characters which were initially just personifications of emotions, but at some point, influenced by the endless amounts of binge-watched/read-stories, I thought I could try to make my own story. And I got as far as plotting the whole first part of a trilogy, including strange dimensional travel laws, gods and prophecies, geographical maps. It was supposed to get a soundtrack too, with themes for different locations and characters. There was a lot of longing and tragedy.
“Unfortunately, I’m not a very good reader, so I failed to read back what I had written and then I lost track of all the complexities and now we’re three years later. But with all the free time Covid-19 has given me I’m actually taking a different approach in telling the story in a visual novel style. (trying to.) (also giving me a temporary meaning in this meaningless existence.)
“The story is set in an unchanging world. Characters that do administration of administration of administration. They look like barcodes and every minute of every day of every day is planned out for them. The world has long ago reached a form of perfection and so they are in a state of preservation, because if there would be any change, Being would change to Becoming and he would carry the world back to Chaos. (this works better in Dutch). While this barcode-species called ‘Others’ are supposed to be like robots, the main character has this inside-universe that makes her set out into the world and then things happen and she meets all kinds of people and discovers all sorts of secrets.”
The fortunate and the unfortunate aspect of Maury and I’s discussion is that we had a huge overlap in interests and so much to discuss. There was a lot Maury had to say that I could not fit into the article, as well a lot I wanted to say about Maury’s artwork and a number of topics related to her artwork that I could not fit in. Nonetheless, it has been a pleasure going through her artwork and hearing her thoughts on many things.
Maury’s artwork spans across philosophical and psychological themes and subjects, but her artwork stands on its own even without these underlying themes. The stark contrasts of black and white captures your attention, pulling your mind into a reeling labyrinth of shifting identities, crashing emotions, and the enveloping hands and faces of a comforting, conforming throng of people. With every day being another trek through a maze of faces, words, beliefs, motivations, personalities, relationships—and all the twisting, knotted, overlapping, intersecting crossroads between them—how long can we avoid the minotaur we’ve kept imprisoned inside our minds?
How long until the walls come down? And all the thoughts, emotions and beliefs we keep bottled inside come surging out?
Maury’s art is able to show both the tension between ourselves and others, and the tension between ourselves and our own minds: the mazes and the mirrors we navigate every day.
Wolves, ravens, dragons and rabbits, eyes in the dark,
beasts in the deep and blood on a baseball bat: the citizens and denizens of
Evlampia’s art form a story of mystique and nostalgia, of fear and tenderness, of
survival and belonging, and of making the most of life in the madness of a
There’s no strict mythos to her corpus of art, but
Evlampia’s work contains many overarching themes, communicated by many
recurring or similar symbols from wordless thoughts and echoes of dreams. While
Evlampia uses her art to reflect the reality we walk around in every day, it
maintains an arms-length distance as well, just how the night is a shrouded
reflection of day, and dreams an irrational reflection of waking perceptions
“Ginger Dragon Bones is tender cruelty. This is what we can
see every day and do not notice. This is what everyone feels at least once.”
Evlampia is a Russian artist who creates primarily black and
white art, which often borders on morbid and surreal. Her work is drawn from emotions
of old memories, feelings from our experiences, and the thoughts and
perceptions in our heads we can’t quite describe with words. Using a wide array
of symbols, and a unique style that boarders on macabre and dream-like,
Evlampia’s pieces capture those inexplicable emotions, ideas and perceptions,
and the stories that surround them.
X: “Could you tell me a bit about yourself?”
E: “I have 3 cats and a dog. I love animals and wildlife. I
wouldn’t limit myself having 4 pets if I could.
I don’t like people, fish, and liver.
I love coffee and ginger.
I am happy.
Perhaps this is the most accurate description of me.”
X: “What are some of your inspirations for ideas? Any
artists you particularly like? Any music that inspires you? Any books, or
movies, or anything like that?”
E: “You know how it is. You’re talking to someone and some
of their words stick to your mind. Words are lacking the shape, picture of
their description. They are lacking emotion. So you’re only able to draw it.
“I don’t use other artists works as an inspirational source.
They have their background, I have my own.
“The same with music. The same song can cause different
emotions when placed in different contexts. Our inspiration lives in our brain,
not movies, books, music, and other creators.”
X: “What are some other things that interest you outside of
E: “Nothing. Anyhow, things that interest me related to art.
I take pictures, prefer reportage photography. I read various literature:
Pelevin, Gaiman, A. D. Foster, Castaneda, Tatyana Tolstaya, Lyudmila
“I prefer blues, rock, and classical music. Make tattoos,
get tattoos. I attend live music shows of my friends and other musicians.”
Evlampia’s style incorporates heavy shadows and solid black
fill, a variety of shading—though in particular she uses a mix of hatching and
stippling—and often uses a dripping, oily or bloody effect in her art. Though
much of her art is black and white, several of her pieces include other colors,
particularly red. Many of her pieces incorporate surrealism, whether it’s the
depiction of some nighttime horror, or of an otherworldly creature, while
others delve into the controlled chaos of abstraction.
X: “How did you get started?”
E: “How does everyone start? Draw circles and stars on
notebook margins. Then your drawing spreads beyond the margin lines. Takes up
the entire sheet then. They draw on school desks, then someone tells them that
they are good at it: ‘Go ahead!’. I never had any of that. No one said
anything. The only comment was from the art teacher when I was 11: ‘Don’t draw
these torn lines.’
So, I started to draw on margins, notebooks, school desks,
asphalt. Then came A4 paper, A3, A2, the walls.”
X: “How did you develop your style?”
E: “It’s still developing, from picture to picture, from
detail to detail. I add color to some of my works, or lines which are new for
my technics. My style does not stand still. It constantly evolves, absorbing
X: “Where do you come up with these almost nightmarish
E: “From my life. From my head. I’m looking for inspiration
in what’s happening around me and my friends. What happens to the world formed
into ideas for my works. I think if I had dreams, they’d be like this. I don’t
think they look like nightmares. Conversely, many of them nice and innocent.”
Throughout her artwork, Evlampia uses a host of imagery,
with a common thread of skulls, bones, nocturnal settings, and magical symbols.
Several of her pieces are somewhat gruesome and dark, but many of them maintain
a nostalgic or childish quality to them, while others are more fantastic and
dream-like. A common theme in Evlampia’s work involves what seems to be a
father-daughter pair (or perhaps older brother, younger sister, or something
The pieces pertaining to this father-daughter pair, or an
analogous pair, seem to involve the vanquishing of monsters, and the protection
and mentoring of youth. It also seems to involve the relationship of different
generations; the good and the bad of that relationship: the kindness and the
playfulness, the protective and the stern. Both figures in the pair wear skull
masks, which give them a sinister appearance.
However, these are only masks, perhaps worn to appear as
frightening as the monsters around them, and, despite their appearance, there’s
a deeply human bond between the two. The art that portrays them feels like a portrayal
of everyday life—the joys, boredoms, fears and loves, and all the in-betweens.
The occult or magical symbols that Evlampia uses giver her
work a sense of uncanny mystery, making her artwork seem more esoteric and
foreboding. However, despite the typical stigmas or preconceptions of such
symbols, and the sort of mainstream ideas we have of magic or the occult,
Evlampia uses these symbols in a more personal way to further develop the sense
of emotions from moments of our past.
X: “I also noticed you include a fair bit of occult, magic,
and alchemical imagery, as well as astrological or celestial imagery. What is
the importance of this sort of imagery in your art? What is the importance of
occult practices and astrology in your own life?”
E: “For me it is impossible to depict emotions and feelings
without resorting to this imagery. They will look vulgar and not authentic. By
adding something different, I give the opportunity to tell and compose stories
of these emotions: ‘Look how I feel. Feel what I’m seeing.’
But real life is real life. These magic images have no
significance in my own. None at all.”
In Evlampia’s works, I also sensed a deep connection with
the natural world, though this connection is often tempered with imagery of the
modern, industrial world. Throughout much of Evlampia’s work, there are
animals, or animalistic chimera-creatures, and natural, plant-filled settings.
In several of the pieces with the father-daughter pair, the foreground is
grassy or rocky, often with a tree, with a distant city in the background.
In this piece, the “setting” could be in the woods, or in
some other natural environment, and has a tree reaching to the black moon at
the center of the piece.
Along the inside of the circle are various images, symbols
and objects, including a person sitting in a swing among the clouds, a person
laying on the ground, gazing up at the sky, and a hand emerging from a pile of
pills, holding one of them between their fingers. Among the stars in the sky,
there’s a hot air balloon and a space probe.
At the top of the circle, someone is hanging from a noose.
They look like they could be standing on the tree, or falling into the dark
moon at the center of the circle. Maybe they would fall into space—maybe they want
to fall into space—but they’re held down to earth by a rope around their neck.
Try as I might to analyze Evlampia’s work, much of it
remains ambiguous. When I asked Evlampia about what some of her pieces might
mean, or how they relate to her view of the world, she opted to maintain this
E: “My works are the sound at the moment when you heard it.
I caught a moment, an emotion, a touch, a look, a memory and put on paper what
has emerged in my consciousness. I don’t overlap my images over the world. It
would be a lie, a distortion of reality.”
E: “My pieces have no names. Like I said, my works for me as
my feelings applied to paper. So I never gave a name to my works. For me it is
redundant. I also don’t really like to talk about the meaning of my works. I’ve
noticed that many authors who give a special meaning to their works, they turn
out to be those who have nothing to say on closer examination. Well, this is
just my observation. I wouldn’t want to be among them. Imagine that the artist
died. Give the meaning to my works on your own. Or don’t. Or you can just
follow me on Instagram to like my pictures along with your friends’ pets. I
Bearing in mind the source of inspiration for much of
Evlampia’s work—from the moments of emotions and feelings we have from memories
and experiences—words might not be able to describe the meanings of her work.
How do you describe the meaning of something that emerges from a deeper place
in the psyche than language and articulation?
X: “Why do you enjoy making art?”
E: “It’s sublimation. It’s meditation. It’s discovering the
world, or rather worlds into myself. It’s opening myself up to the world. I
show what’s inside me and the way I feel the world. It’s the way to stop time
or kill it. When I’m drawing it captures me. I put my feelings and experiences
on paper. When I look at my old drawing, I remember what I exactly felt at that
moment. For me it’s important. My works for me are like magic lantern slides
with my conditions on them.”
X: “Does your personality match the style and tone of your
E: “Yes, totally. I think I must explain. Everyone sees what
they want to see. Someone sees nightmares, fear, and horror. Someone sees
tenderness and innocence. I feel that the mood of my art precisely represents
Art in a lot of ways is like a Rorschach test—an inkblot. Whatever
rests in your unconsciousness—whatever demons and angels of psychological
patterns reside there—get projected onto the visual patterns you see in art.
In addition to her pen-and-paint-and-paper art, Evlampia
works as a tattoo artist. Here, her personal art style blends into her
X: “I noticed you do tattoo work. How did you get started in
that? What sort of tattoo-work do you normally do? How much of your personal
style emerges in your tattoos?”
E: “Since childhood I dreamed of tattooed sleeves. Over
time, I fulfilled my dream.
“At some point, I thought, why not me? I can do it too. I’ve
been putting it off for a long time. Close friends pushed me out of my box so I
started with a good helping kick.
“Regarding my style, I would say that 90 percent of my
tattoo works consist of it.”
Though Evlampia’s style is unique, with her own brand of
symbols, imagery and combinations of techniques, what really defines her work
is how personal it is to her. Her art emerges from a deeper place, and
expresses ideas that might not be possible to express otherwise. Who she is
bleeds out onto paper, and seals itself into the skin of people she tattoos.
Though her and her artwork’s ambiguity might not immediately
reveal a cut-and-paste definition of their meaning, that same ambiguity
preserves the memories and feelings they come from. Articulating their meaning
with words might detract or alter their original form, and might detract or
alter what the observer sees when they look at Evlampia’s artwork. Instead, they
remain free to be what they are in Evlampia’s mind, and free to be what they
are in our own minds.
X: “Lastly, what is your favorite piece of art, or favorite
pieces? And why?”
E: “I don’t have any favorite pieces. Every one of them is a
part of me.”
If you want to see more of Evlampia’s artwork, you can find her on Instagram @ginger_dragon_bones. The artwork in this article only barely scratches the surface of what she’s made. If you live in Russia, or find yourself visiting Russia, and you want one of Evlampia’s signature tattoos, you can message her on Instagram to set up an appointment.
Miguel Pichardo, born in ‘92 in Pasadena, CA, is a (mostly)
self-taught artist, who has delved into creating a wide variety of surreal,
abstract, and psychedelic artwork. Though Miguel’s work is impressive and quite
creative, for me it isn’t his technical skill or his vivid imagination that makes
his artwork transfixing. It’s the freedom he has in making his art, and the intimacy
he has with his ideas, whether they’re mundane, personal or philosophic. Miguel’s
artwork comes from a place of wild and free thought and creativity.
Miguel’s path into art began with the reality-warping zeitgeist
of 90’s cartoons. From children battling each other with adorable animal-demons,
to intergalactic monkey warriors, to LSD musings of a simpler time in American
history, the 90’s gave children a sensory avalanche of strange stimuli, and Miguel
exemplifies the culture that emerged from this 90’s childhood.
“What inspired me to do artwork were/are so many things. At
first a big influence was cartoons; Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Loony Toons etc. Being
able to create something that was so cool to me, blew my mind. Also just being
bored pushed me to get lost in my imagination which influenced me to create
“As I got older my styles in artwork started to get more and
more eclectic. I would say that I haven’t had a lot of training… …for the most
part I am self taught.”
As Miguel continued drawing throughout the years, his art
became more original, and his talent continued growing. Miguel took art classes
throughout high school, and then took a painting class at Pasadena Art Center, but
otherwise was self-taught. Miguel eventually began branching his skills out
into various styles, with a wide spectrum of subjects and attitudes in each
While Miguel still includes the early influence of cartoons
in his artwork, he also began including influences from cultural icons, and
religious imagery. His artwork ranges from punk reimaginings of SpongeBob, to
hallucinatory images of Mother Mary. His artwork also features sci-fi and
fantasy imagery, and Americana-style tattoo-art. However, Miguel’s work frequently
takes dives into the deep-ends of the brain’s imaginary YMCA.
Miguel blends the various styles of Abstraction with the
wild creativity of Surrealism. Miguel’s work parallels a variety of Abstract
artists, but his art seems more reminiscent of Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky.
There’s also a strong influence of the psychedelic artwork that emerged from the
70’s, 80’s and 90’s—Crumbian cartoon art, the graphic novels of the 80’s and 90’s,
Gonzo-style psychedelia, and the more serious artwork of Alex Grey.
Still, this doesn’t quite pin down Miguel’s artwork. So much
of what he does steps out of these boxes, and into what I will officially coin
as “Miguelland”. The official definition of this “Miguelland” is: a space that
cannot be defined. It’s a space that Miguel has carved out through his art, a
space I think all artists hope to create with their work (though there can only
be one Miguelland).
Though Miguel’s work is broad in style and subject matter, there
is a psychic commonality across his work that ties together his disparate
“A common theme in my work is consciousness. The
connectivity that connects all. It is not always a deep concept, sometimes it
is something very simple with not too much of a meaning.”
From the mundane to the transcendent, we all share the common
thread of perceiving a reality around us. Though all of our perceptions might
be different, all of us go out into the world each day and each night, and, in
one way or another, we all have to navigate this world we find ourselves in. Though
we all face unique travels, we also share in the various experiences we have.
We’re all a network of waking perceptions and sleeping perceptions, daily
drudgeries and daily joys, and of daydreamt fantasies and wide-awake anxieties.
We’re all like a web of identities, personas, beliefs, thoughts, and
perceptions. We’re all like a collage of faces, of dreams, and of experiences.
However, what seems to be most important to Miguel is the
ability to stay flexible and free while creating his art.
“Each piece is started differently. Sometimes I have a
concept before I start it, but for the most part my process is very freestyle.
I try to practice enjoying the creative process now fluently, instead of
structuring the piece step by step. I find the fearlessness of creating without
a plan very enjoyable and satisfying.”
“Art gives me freedom so it is very important to not limit
art for me. Same goes for the mediums. Sometimes I use many kinds on one piece,
and sometimes I just use one medium on a piece. I use markers, different kinds
of paint, pastels, charcoal, pencil, everything.”
Just a quick glance at Miguel’s work confirms this. In a lot
of his art, this is no one style. There is no “This is what I’m doing, and I’m
only doing this.” There’s blends of cartoons and urban landscapes, and colors
and shapes and people—and people within people (sometimes within other people)—and sometimes there is no
clear style at all. There’s just whatever came to Miguel’s mind as he put
pencil to paper.
Some of his artwork is a jungle-like zoo of old styles,
coming to life as some new, otherworldly depiction of life, while other works
are strange storms of lines and colors, which somehow manage to form a
meaningful idea in our heads. Other pieces are simple ideas, born from a small
thought that crawled out of the ocean in the back of Miguel’s head, eventually
making its way onto a canvas beach for us all to see. Whatever lifeforms have
evolved by Miguel’s hand, they’re all unique specimens of the mind.
I’m not sure if I can give a gestalt of Miguel’s work. I’m
not even sure if I should try (oh, but I will). Through a blend of eccentric caricature
and prefrontal obliteration, Miguel has created a vast portfolio of unique art.
With only a meager amount of training by professional standards, Miguel has
taught himself not only how to create high-quality artwork, but also how to
create his own artwork, which is something
that probably couldn’t be taught.
Miguel’s art is tied together with the same threads of consciousness
that tie us together, but it’s also tied
together by the complete lack of connectivity. His artwork is connected by a
commonality of complete chaos—a commonality of complete creative freedom—and in
this way, in this freedom, I think there is an even deeper connection between
Miguel’s art and the human consciousness.
There’s something in all of our lives that we hold sacred—whether
or not we’re “sacred” people. There’s something in our lives—or, perhaps, a
number of things—we try to keep pure. There’s something in our lives we all try
to call our own, without anyone telling us that it’s right or wrong, good or
bad, yes or no.
There’s something in us, or about us, or a part of our lives
we try to keep free, uncorrupted, and unburdened. For Miguel, his creativity is
what must be kept free, wild and roaming. And by keeping this creativity free,
you free your Self.
At only 26, Miguel’s canvas travels are only just leaving
the Shire. Personally, I’m quite interested to see where his creativity takes
him. His imagination is quite expansive, and his stylistic influences seem to
be culminating into something quite original. With a menagerie of modern influences,
and without the burden of strict structure, Miguel—like many talented artists
throughout the world—may just go where no one’s been.
If you liked Miguel’s work, you can find him on Instagram @mi_arrte.
He’s a great artist, he’s a family-man, and, from our small exchanges, he seems
like a generally chill human being. His work has been in several galleries in the
LA area so, if you find yourself in the Golden State, look him up, and check
out one of these galleries to see his work and the work of other great artists