The artist community is quite saturated these days and we can see it growing and expanding with every year that passes. The digital medium is a significant factor of this expansion. Some say it is a good thing, some say it is bad. Some are resisting it, others are embracing it. However the facts are that this medium added a huge number of artists to the community. More and more people are embracing their creativity and giving art a shot. This wave of new artists brought with itself a huge amount of artistic talent. People who fell in love with the digital medium sacrifice everything for art, and they are taking it to another level. Sometimes you meet traditional artists or laymen who are talking down to the medium, but most of the time they are just plain ignorant or scared of change. Study and fundamentals play a huge role in any kind of art, and digital art is no exception. These gentlemen are on a mission and they are sacrificing their time on Earth to contribute to visual arts, and I take my hat off to them all.
One of these amazing artists is my good friend Andrew Ken, who was kind enough to accept doing this unorthodox interview with me. The fact of the matter is that I love art, but I am not really an artist, I just like to draw and paint stuff. On the other hand, Andrew is an artist in the deepest sense of the word. He is a fountain of raw creativity and his works are a great inspiration. Great art triggers deep emotional responses and that is precisely what his work does.
Okay, so first of all I would like to thank you for taking time to do this interview, I know you have a busy schedule and I really appreciate this.
So let’s get right into it, I will ask you 10 questions, and you can choose to respond shortly or you can elaborate on the subject if you find it interesting.
Who are you?
My name’s Andrew Ken, I’m 26, I was raised in England, France, Catalonia and the Internet. I’m into art, meditation, health stuff, science stuff, computer stuff, mystical stuff, integral theory stuff, nature stuff.
What is art?
The American philosopher Ken Wilber has an interesting take on art which helps me think about this question. It doesn’t actually come from him, it’s a much older idea, but he includes it in his philosophy and that’s where I first heard it. He suggests that all the major human endeavors can be grouped into three main categories, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Any type of so-called-science, be they ancient farming practices, middle-aged alchemies, or modern day scientific principles, fall under the True. Stuff like ethics, considerations on how to organize society and how to treat one another; religion and morality, those fall under the Good (what is good for us?) and our aesthetic pursuits, the arts in all their different forms, fall under Beauty. So in a sort of simple way, art is anything that tries to bring us closer to beauty, or to open our eyes to beauty, or enable us to bring more beauty into the world. That’s why you can say “the art of cooking” or “the art of mathematics” when those activities are done in a manner that’s elegant or discloses harmonious patterns in the way you relate to it, even though they’re not commonly thought of as “art”. I guess art is anything in which beauty is concerned, art isn’t just practices and art forms (like music or painting), it’s not just things (“is this beautiful car more or less art than this beautiful pot?”), nor is it just an inherent quality that we apprehend (like the beauty of nature or the beauty that comes with meaningful experiences or meaningfulness itself), and it’s not just the intention to see or create or bring forth beauty either, it’s a bit of all of those things. It’s not just in the eye of the beholder and it’s not just a quality of something. I guess that’s sort of the whole point, and it’s why art isn’t a science, science can be specifically defined (which is the whole point) but art can’t be specifically defined without dismembering it in some way. So maybe art is about mystery, but obviously it’s not specifically just about that either.
Partially just because of my upbringing, both my parents are musicians. That stuff inevitably rubs off on you; I didn’t ever really want to be an artist though and I don’t feel like one. I have the impostor syndrome like lots of people do. I was always very interested in science and up until my 20s I considered it to be way more important than art. When it came time to make a decision, I saw that art would actually be the path that I’d end up regretting the most not taking. For better or for worse, I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on whether art is valuable or not and why. It’s quite obvious to me why the sciences are worthwhile pursuits, but seeing art as more than some amazing frivolous thing was a challenge. The thing is, I spent most of my free time visualizing intense patterns of intertwined sound and color, and I’ve always had a strong need to make that stuff tangible, it was my strongest yearning in many ways. It’s completely insane to take life paths based on yearnings and not something more reasonable, but that’s what it is. If I’d have gone down the science/computer-science route, I’d probably have ended up making music visualization software and doing fractal art and procedural music and stuff like that instead of the drawing and painting stuff.I chose drawing and painting partially because I’ve always been terrible at doing “real” drawing and I was utterly clueless about how painting works, but also because it seemed like the path that contained the most power in it, the one that’d teach me the most about how to organise light and shape and form into an intentioned image, which was the whole point to me. Almost as a sort of “foundation of visual language”. It’s not a complete package, but it’s helped me a lot. Other than that, art because reasons like genes, epigenetics, cultural and social environment, friends thinking I was good at it, messiah complexes about the deep mysteriousness of art, etc.
Is personal style important to you?
Yes, just because I want to make unique stuff, what’s the point otherwise? A friend of mine who’d spent many years living in Japan told me that over there, they have widely held cultural philosophy about the mission of artists being to imitate and replicate a master-standard as closely as possible. To come as close as they possibly can to perfection, via a life-long dedication to iteration, over and over. Practicing again and again to achieve a certain standard. Over here in the west, we seem to have a sort of opposite tendency, to really value innovation and novelty, to make something totally unique and unprecedented, to be at the edge of what’s becoming newly possible or has never been seen before. My mother is Japanese so I probably have a bit of that iteration stuff in me, but my longing is quite strongly in the novelty-manifestation camp.
How do you see art in 100 years?
My deepest wish is that the most powerful and influential artists and entertainers also be the ones with the most creativity and the most important things to convey. It doesn’t seem to be that way today, with so much of the cultural spotlights being cast on people with nothing to offer other than narcissism, meaningless self-referential bullshit and trends and all that. I hope artists become more powerful. We hear constantly about how film-makers and artists and producers of all kinds have to bow to their managers and bosses and studio-heads and execs and all of that, and that they can rarely produce their work in direct correspondence with their original vision due to the interference of committees and baboons, so my deepest wish is that through some of the new technologies that are coming about and new social practices (stuff like crowd-funding, and new stuff that hasn’t emerged yet), artists have more freedom and capacities to bring awesome shit into the world to larger audiences. I wish artists had more huge organizations and the freedom to pursue their own research in a similar manner to the way scientific ones do, and to get as much funding as the sciences do, in order to do that they’d have to demonstrate to the public that they have something properly valuable to offer, kind of like the science and number people managed to do.
Skill or talent?
I tend to tend towards the skill side of things, since it’s the only thing you can control it seems to be the only thing worth dwelling on, but as with any of these dualisms there seems to be a partial truth to both sides. Talent is definitely real, but it has to be trained and practiced and presented. Talent is your engine but skill is everything else that’s necessary for that engine to do anything useful at all. I think this view is quite common these days, or among the people I spend time with it is at least. Having said that, it occurs to me just now that it seems that many people who hold strong convictions in their innate talent tend to have an extra type of confidence to go with that, so for me and any other people who are skewed away from that type of perspective, maybe we’d benefit from a bit of that too.
You are alone in your deathbed, you have 3 more minutes to live. Please describe the perfect scenario, how could your mind find peace.
In the perfect scenario I’d be in a good enough frame of mind to not be dwelling on the past or have any regrets or try to hold on and feel terrible about dying. I’d focus my attention as strongly as possible on everything that I’m experiencing. Tasting and savoring each and every breath, every momentary sensation, trying my best to see the precise moment in which I cross over from living to not living. Whatever the case I’d probably be terrified and in love too though.
What is the thing that frightens you the most?
The idea of my family, girlfriend, and people I love, dying. And another world war.
Other than that, my imagination. These days the thing that freaks me out the most is to consider going out into the woods alone at night without a flashlight and to try and spend the whole night there awake. Overwhelming silence, hallucinating, and the possibility of hearing real footsteps and breathing and having no idea if it’s a wolf or some other insane freak.
What are the principles on which you base your life. What is your philosophy?
Sometime around my teenage years I became obsessed with the notion of figuring out what consciousness was. Some sort of existential crisis, I felt trapped in some form of infinite fractal hell, reality seemed different from every angle you looked at it so I had no ground to walk on. Things were really really dark. Come to think of it, that’s sort of where my interest in art came from too, it seemed like one of the few things that gave a sense of positivity, even or especially if the content of the art was dark. I wouldn’t say I have any guiding principles or philosophy, other perhaps than considering our relation to our consciousness to be centrally important to our life and everything we do, and that the most important thing we can do in that regard is to reduce suffering, of ourselves and of as many people as possible. The arts, sciences and all ethical and philosophical considerations are approaches towards that, as far as I can tell. The only thing you have any real control or influence over is yourself, and our current situation is the sum of all the selfs in the world acting upon each other and the world, and so the most important thing you can do is to try and make yourself a better human being, better aligned with what’s true, what’s good and what’s beautiful.
Describe your first or most memorable fight or flight experience.
I live in a little house in the countryside, and around 2am one morning I felt compelled to go out into the garden. It was extremely foggy and creepy, really dark and quiet. I don’t know why I went out. It was one of those utterly silent and eerie nights were you could hear everything. I made my way to a wooden fence at the end of the garden, which came up to my waist, about 70 meters from the house. On the other side of the fence was a field, with long dry grass that was somewhat higher than the fence itself. On the other side of the field was a forest, and I began to imagine what it must be like to be forced to venture off into the woods all by yourself at night, like in the ancient tribal rites of passage. I was imagining all sorts of horrific things and cultivating a sense of bravery, trying to figure out how my reaction would be and how brave you’d have to be, when all of a sudden I was shocked back into my body and my immediate environment, alarm bells ringing, because I could hear slow, soft footsteps nearby. There was someone else here. There was someone else here in my garden at 2am in the middle of the almost pitch black. My sense of animal panic and danger was at full throttle, and I froze in place and listened intently, trying to breathe as quietly as possible. At one point I stamped my foot hard into the ground, and the foot steps stopped, and there was a horrible silence. I wonder why I did that, and I guess I just had to let my presence be known. I can’t remember how long the silence was, but I stamped my foot again, and then I heard the most loud, vicious and aggressive snarl I’ve ever heard in my life, from much closer than I could guess the footsteps were. In the dead of night you could hear the snarl echoing everywhere. That was a big flight moment for sure, I remember noticing only a few seconds later that I wasn’t standing there anymore, that I was running away at full speed like a pussy. The next morning when I woke up my body jumped out of bed before I was even awake, the adrenaline was still there. It was probably a rabbit or something.
Thank you very much for this amazing interview, you are unquestionably one of the most interesting persons I’ve met. Keep up the good work and I hope to have you do another interview sometime.
For those interested in Andrew’s work, please check out his website at www.000eyes.com
Also, you can get in touch with Andrew at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or @000aks on twitter! He’s quite active there and keen to get in touch with anyone at all.
If you like his art, you can buy some of his prints at society6.com/aks9