VIKTOR SAFONKIN: Interpretation of the irrational world
VIKTOR SAFONKIN is a Russian Surrealist artist whose work has been exhibited in numerous galleries around the world as well as other prestigious venues such as the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
His painting Inhuman Rearing has also been used as an album cover by Killing Joke.
In this candid interview he talks to us about how he channels images from his subconscious, and more.
Interview by Will Kitson
Let’s start at the beginning. Do you recall your first creative impulse?
I remember as soon as I became aware of myself I discovered a state of extreme curiosity. I could spend hours watching ants, birds or just flies stuck between the windows, it was akin to meditation. I was struck by grasses of clearing in the woods, the smell of the river. Also I was attracted to another side, which can be called alarming: the extinction of the mountain of garbage odors or dead animals, it is certainly mixed with floral fragrance on a sunny day. Also I saw the scenes of violence and humiliation of people, while I was like absent, was again an outside observer. All impressions smoothly penetrated into the disturbing dreams layering and transforming into special worlds and experiences.
You’ve described 1990 as the year when ‘My heart confessed to me and opened the gate of creativity.’ Tell us about this. Was there a particular catalyst for this change?
The early 90s was a special period in my life and the tragedy of my country, so increased solar activity only intensified the inner emotions i.e. it was time to draw the accumulated information and impressions of the felt and seen in early childhood and mature present. Since childhood the nature surrounding me was my inspiration and grace for my soul. Later I was strongly influenced by books of Stanislaw Lem, Reye Bradbury and Tool punk music. All of this was a kind of ‘magic key’ and an important ritual in the subsequent interpretation of the images. It was like a free fall into a dream, and consisted of revelations and visions, every day I learned for myself the freedom of expression through painting.
You describe your work as ‘Eurosurrealism’. What does that mean to you? To what extent do Surrealist techniques such as automatism or dream exploration play a role in your work?
The term ‘Eurosurrealism’ only reflected my involvement and orientation in the painting. I am a huge fan of E. Bosch, A. Böcklin, Z. Beksinski, early E. Fuchs and G.R. Giger with his psychedelic experiences of gothic horror. The appearance of themes comes from different sources of music, seen and read. They are like keys that open the right doors and there in swirling clouds these themes appear. Penetrating through the misty substance I can see manifesting details of the future paintings.
You’ve said that your conviction and painting surface from your subconscious. Tell us a little about your creative process?
I have an idealistic mind, it is natural for a creative person. It helps me as an alchemist to isolate my own world, my faith and hope for the best from imperfection and ambiguity of society. But this requires an uncompromising struggle of characters, heroes in my works. But they are still the best or imperfect part of myself.
Generally the subconscious mind is inextricably linked with intuition and experiences from the outside are ‘distorted’ by the subconscious, forming its own impression of reality. The subconscious, I think, creates a special individual perception of the world around me. For example, all my experiences are introduced from childhood, through direct contact with nature, its harmony and mystery!
It will require the connection of several factors needed to induce fantasies and subsequent sublimation in the painting. The first is sound (verbal), the second is visual observation, as well as the sense of smell. All these factors, mixed through the obvious impression, are ‘pouring’ in a dream where I get the image of my own interpretation of the irrational world. And it is so real that on awaking I am convinced of the reality of what is happening. Sometimes in particularly emotional moments it happens in reality.
Your work has been used as album art for bands Killing Joke and October File. What do you think it is about your art which particularly suits this type of collaboration?
Yes, I agree that bands of certain orientation use my paintings. I think it comes from the fact that the expression in my paintings is taken for aggression. But this is their interpretation. Only partially I agree that in some of my works there is a portion of Gothic gloom, but in general I’m pretty balanced, and I know on whose side I am right now. Their music reminds me of shamanism, awakening the memory relic, representing limits and at the same time immortality of man, like burning energy of the comprehensive infinite world!
If the universe inside you were to be contained in just one symbol what would that symbol be?
My main symbol is the SUN, which is flowing through almost all the works – a symbol of light and titanic fire, indestructible vital energy with withering colossus. It is not attainable magmatic power and is a divine iron face of justice!
Published: June 18th, 2015
I really enjoy Safonkin’s work