As the production of the urban art exhibition Surfaces finalizes, the collaborative efforts of Lndmrk, A’shop, Artgang, MASSIVart, MU and Under Pressure, will come to fruition in the Quartier des spectacles from August 23rd to October 28th. Among their efforts, the Canadian artist Zoltan Veevaete, with the collective MTLIGHT, is preparing a video-projection for the digital and urban art summit on UQAM’s John F. Kennedy building. In anticipation for the occasion, our team met with Zoltan to discuss his creative process.
Can you tell us more about your journey as an artist? How did you go from graffiti artist to painter?
It’s a very long story, a story that began with a family of artists who always encouraged me to explore the arts. Already during my adolescence, I was picking up spray cans in my father’s studio and graffitied outside with friends.
At the time, my dad suspected that it was getting me into trouble, so he bought me brushes and other artist materials, as well as two books about Diego Vélasquez and Leonard De Vinci. That’s how I fell in love with oil painting and it transformed my outlook on graffiti. I continued doing graffiti, but I always questioned my approach with this type of art. I developed a more conceptual approach where I wanted to make the wall participate, by painting ears on it (the walls have ears) or urinals.
Then, I left for Spain to deepen my knowledge of Spanish art traditions. When I came back, I started studying at Concordia University to deepen my artistic scope. At the time, I neglected street art to concentrate more on painting. I began developing a new style–a post-modernist style, where I was mixing genres and periods of time in the history of art to create something new and more contemporary. Shortly, I was recruited by Robert Poulin Gallery.
What’s your take on artworks being created in the streets versus in galleries?
I think that creating in the streets is important because it reappropriates the public space. As an artist, I think that we have the responsibility to communicate something else than the advertising that’s invading the public sphere these days. The idea is to create a conversation with the audience in the street and make them think about other aspects of visual art, something beyond what product is being sold to you.
To continue my story, I found that my approach was missing something at the time. So, I decided to change my pictural approach and quit the gallery I was working for. I wanted to draw more from the theory, I thus enrolled in a Master’s Degree at the University of Ottawa.
Meanwhile, I also had the opportunity to create a mural in 2014 for MURAL Festival. So, I latched onto that craze for outdoor murals and bigger formats. At the same time, I questioned the notion of the ability to possess art objects at home or in galleries.
“Le futur est ici” by Zoltan, made as part of MURAL Festival 2014.
Talking about the artwork you did for the Festival, can you tell us more about the themes you were exploring?
I am a big fan of futuristic movies from the 50’s. I love dramatic scenarios. This artwork acts as a movie poster. It is based on an Ed Wood movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space, which is the story of aliens coming to Earth to warn us about the future–warning us that after creating the atomic bomb, we would invent the solar bomb and that the whole universe and its inhabitants would suffer the consequences. It’s a little bit of a wake-up call.
“Cut Copy Paste”, mixt technique on a canvas 3’\4’, 2015.
“Bitume Fumant”, mixt technique on canvas, 5’\6’, 2014.
Your work is inspired by classical painting and makes references to multiple periods of time, can you tell us more about your inspirations and the universe surrounding your artworks?
My style has evolved a lot. During the 2010’s, my artworks were inspired by a lot of European art, such as Picasso’s or German expressionism, with touches of more contemporary art, such as Basquiat’s, for example. I was using then a mix of styles and periods of time. I still do, but in a less obvious way, a more natural way.
I’m mainly interested in the question of how humans deal with image through time and how artists use image to explore concepts. More and more, I work with digital tools, because I think that we’ve adopted the culture of our tools. For example, in times of impressionism, the tools of the times allowed artists to paint outside and that’s what characterized the artworks made at the time. So, now, I’m trying to use more of an hybrid between digital and physical tools in my artistic approach.
Incidentally, you organised the mapping of Sandra Chevrier’s mural during MURAL. Is it something you’ll be exploring more in the future?
Yes, in fact, I aim to answer if the tools influence ideas or if it’s ideas that are influencing the tools. As part of my Master’s Degree at the University of Ottawa, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and explore new tools. I decided to move away from the traditional canvas. I want to create a bridge between digital art and traditional painting.
In the same vein, I’ve recently joined a new collective called MTLIGHT. Our collective started its business with Sandra Chevrier and Axe’s mapping during MURAL Festival. The idea was to give a second life to murals during the night. It’s also with this collective that I’m organising the video-projection that’ll be happening during the Surfaces exhibition.