“I try to attempt art with my current state of mind”
I’d try to paint you in another light by asking purely art-related Qs because I feel the shadow of your music career is too dense. Do you ever feel that the music part of your life doesn’t let the artist inside you be truly free?
This is quite an existential question for me. I believe that, in general, I’ve thought only about art and music. And oftentimes, I find myself letting music prevail over art. But truth be told when I make music, I use the tools of fine art, and that’s how I break the barrier between the two media. As I don’t have musical education and I lack such a foundation, the only tools I have are those of fine art: composition, contrast, detail, linearity, colours, foreground, and background. These are the resources I have mastered over time and have infused into music-making. And when I think of it, it always gives me a degree of consolation—that even when I am making music, I am still drawing.
In another interview, you share that you have grown up in a rather artistic family. I want to know what sparked your interest in printmaking.
Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with details and fine-tuning things to perfection. I would always pay extraordinary attention to detail. And one day, when I was in the 9th grade, my art teacher showed us a brand new format: drypoint printmaking. From that day on, I was hooked. My first doodles have barely anything to do with my passion for print, but they showed me how keen and attentive your mind must be. Every single movement of the hand leaves an indelible groove on the plate, so mind and hand have to be in perfect synergy. I remember my first real drawing—when I removed the wet sheet of paper and saw the mirror image. That’s when I fell into the “lovetrap” of printmaking.
You unlocked three new threads of our convo: the place where you’re born, your teachers, and, finally, materials and media. Let’s work backwards. In FGA’s exhibition “The Key”, I saw an acrylic canvas of yours titled “Unlocked,” which some may find difficult to associate with your style. How do you approach other formats? What are their individual advantages?
Each technique and format has its own upsides and caveats. The main thing is to have no fear but to dive at the deep end. Because by going out of one’s comfort zone, an artist proves how brave they are. And that’s one of the defining qualities of a good artist. I’ve used acrylics a number of times. After all, I’ve grown up around my mother’s paintings. And when Nasimo briefed us about the format we have to draw in—120 x 80—I couldn’t imagine print in any possible way. It would take months for that space to be filled. Usually, lithography or etching are the go-to options if you want to draw in larger formats, but for drypoint, it would take months. And, so, that was quite an uphill battle, especially when you are part of such a great team of renowned artists. And the more difficult the uphill battle, the more driven I get, so I am really blessed to be in a collective such as this.
I am also super glad because most, if not all, of us come from different parts of Bulgaria. In light of that, I want to turn to your birthplace and the role models you’ve had while growing up. How did you gather inspiration and seek role models in a small town like yours?
The first thing I would say is that it doesn’t matter how big the town is; what matters is how great your dreams are and how well-rounded you are. Not to forget the well-roundedness of your parents, of course. In my case, I had the incredible fortune to use my time for personal development. True, I’ve had my downs, but en masse, my small town has given me an amazing community that would otherwise be difficult to create in a larger city. At all times, I was surrounded by like-minded people who loved music and art. My very mother is an amazing role model and showed me what it means to make art and what it’s really like to have to sell a painting to put food on the table. My teachers at Trojan are also important. They saw the flames in my eyes and encouraged me to persevere. Even my mentor at the National Academy of Art was a much-needed shoulder to lean on and motivated me to keep pushing when I saw how much I had to learn to be on the same level as others. So, in short, small towns are great for self-reflection, because you are not distracted by the opportunities of the big city.
You mentioned your mom having to sell paintings for a living. I want to ask you: who is your greatest teacher?
I have many teachers, and for each of them, I have immeasurable gratitude. But if I had to choose one, it would definitely be life itself, with its many problems that have been served to me. Over time, I realised that all these issues I have faced I mustn’t see as killer blows or the universe’s way of bringing me down, but as lessons. And then everything changed, and I moved in the right direction because one quite often loses meaning. I can say these lessons were very valuable, and the more your spirit and mind grow, the better you see that God doesn’t leave you without great teachers. The more you try to tackle obstacles you can overcome, the more you have to put your faith in some higher power. As for my earthly teachers, I have my mother, because she never lost hope and willpower, regardless of the frame of mind she was in, to create new canvases. I’ve had many other beautiful souls around me too—my art teacher Daniel Kisyov and Johan Jotov.
I want us to speak about art a bit more pragmatically. When I saw your drawings, I immediately thought “Cyberpunk”. Is that your core theme – technologised drawings?
Well, actually, that’s a temporary artistic episode, because I draw both what’s inside me and what’s around me. When I was a student, I started by drawing everything I saw in nature. I went to the nearest meadow and drew whatever caught my eye. Nature is the greatest teacher and source of inspiration for any artist, and when you learn how to draw its idiosyncrasies, everything else gets easier. After you nourish your imagination with such details and hone your skills, you end up with a large arsenal of tools that you can apply in other situations.
My first attempts at drawing with intent were aimed at showing that the only difference between man and nature is consciousness. And so I did an array of landscapes of the subconscious. The reason why I am more known for my cyberpunk drawings is because that style is quite prevalent in the drum and bass scene, so during the time when I worked as a DJ, I had to put a cover on my albums. Therefore, the art had to be consistent with what’s in the album. I have a lot of other drawings that are not related to this genre by a long shot. As time went by, I started taking other directions in which I showcased my reality and the way I refract it through my imagination. That’s the power of art—to non-verbally communicate with an audience. To connect with them on a purely psychological level. Whatever you’re trying to say, a person will receive it with the state of mind and heart he is in at that very moment. With paintings, you express the point in life you are currently at, and the viewer filters it through his mind and heart, so you never say the same thing twice.
So each period speaks for itself and doesn’t obey any grand artistic agenda?
I try to attempt art with my current state of mind. When, for a while, I drew ships, it was because I started travelling a lot Dj-ing. But when I signed under this large Drum and Bass label I shifted to an art style that pertains to that genre of music and the image I had crafted for myself.
Your work as a DJ has a very digital element to it. Do you use digital tools to draw and do you think we should set some boundaries on them, like in the case of A.I. ?
I think we’ve let the genie out of the lamp and there’s no stopping it. The only thing left is to tame it. Yet, we should see fear in the face of it, but rather show readiness to work with it. I don’t feel threatened by any degree, because the foolish fire (Lat. ignis fatuus) of humans will keep burning forever. I use digital tools non-stop while making music which makes me think that it used to be such an ordeal to make music. Like, an album would take up to 6 months to record unlike today, when it takes about 30 mins to do on the computer. It’s just that visual art receives its due boost at this point in time with digital drawing, which was thought impossible 40 or 50 years ago. So I am okay with that because human beings are left making the final decision. No matter how many images the AI generator produces, it is up to the human to arrange them in the correct way to achieve meaning and intent. That AI cannot do. So to people who are overly alarmed by AI, it’s like being offended that somebody invented the alphabet.
So, final question! Does the master of electronic waves listen to music while drawing?
Absolutely! Every time I draw I listen to music, and when I listen to music I imagine paintings.
Organically generated text by Simeon Cherepov