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Sunday, 26 November 2006

Interview with Naomi Devil

Q)So, can you tell me a little about yourself? Full name, age, some background info, etc...?
A)I use the artist name Naomi Devil, which is the translation of my Hungarian name. I was born in March 1987 in Budapest Hungary. I will be twenty in a couple of month. I think my family backgroud has played from several points of view a decisive role in my development. To explain it I have to talk about the family members’ professions and about the way we have lived since I was six month old.In my mother’s family nearly everyone is a mathematician, while members of my father’s family are artists. These are the two professions I have grown up with. When I was a little child I could watch my grandfather paint and I got used to the atmosphere of an atelier. My grandmother on the other hand used to take me to the museum to see the old masters’ work. My father had studied at the academy of applied arts and is an industrial designer. He has always taken great care in my education. We would draw or build a model together when he was at home. In the morning he used to chat with me and taught me that way how to understand important questions of life, how to look for connections where most people do not see them etc. Mornings are always a bit philosofical in our home. J My mother, on the other hand, thaught me abstract, organized and clear thinking. These are the impressions I got from the family.I got decisive impressions during our travels as well. My father has been working in Germany since I was six month old. Since I began studying in Vienna my time is divided between three cities (Budapest, Vienna and Stuttgart) nearly equally. It has the advantage that I can experience and understand different cultures and I’ve had the chance to discover the natural and human-made beauties in and around these cities.

Q)How did you get started making art?

A)If you wish it is a long story starting at the point I was able to take a pencil in my hand, if you wish there was a clear start not long ago. My father kept my drawings from the nursery for a very long time. I am not sure they were excellent drawings but my father was proud of the way I drew animals with one single line beginning and ending for example at the tail. Still, no-one ever thought at the time I was going to be an artist, not even myself.The story of the real start begins in the gymnasium. It is not too courteous to admit that I did not like my school but it was one of the worst choices we have ever made. Hungarian school system is very strict anyway. My gymnasium was a private school where parents expect to get best teaching for their money. Teaching was, of course, not a bit better than elsewhere, only teachers expected more from the students. I was really suffering and could get on nor with my teachers nor with my class-mates at the time. I have good relationships to them however now after a couple of years. When my parents saw that I was beginning to sink in complete depression I left school and became a private student. I studied at home and went in the school only to take exams. I finished two classes in one year and made my A-levels when I was seventeen.It was not a normal life to study at home and never to see children of my age. That is why my parents decided to send me to the International Summeracademy of Fine Arts in Salzburg during the summer holidays. They wanted to cure my solitude and they hoped I would find friends that way. I of course found some friends there and was happy but something even more important happened. I found out how I would like to spend my life, what I would like to make out of my life. I decided in 2002 in Salzburg that I would like to be an artist.

Q)How would you describe your art?

A)It is difficult to talk about my own art. I think my pantings can be described as a kind of realism but, I know, there are people who won’t agree. It is partly because of the free handling of colours but there are even more arguments. For example some people think to dicover the influence of pop art and a tendence to hover between two and tree dimensional thinking. It is true that I concentrate on the figures and leave the background very simple while there is nothing more to say with the background.Anyway, I would like to develop my technique and I try to aquire the skills that the great old masters had. In that sense I would like to achieve a high standard of realism. On the other hand I do not want to be the slave of reality and I freely distort my subject according to my intentions. The most important question for me is the message of the artwork. If I feel that I have to tell something to the world than I can start painting. Otherwise there would be no sense in it. I would like to talk about the present for the present and for the future.There is of course the big dilemma artists have to face. There is a big difference between art that sells and between art that has a lasting message and becomes in the end an eternal masterpiece. I am sure there are priceless works in museums that ordinary people would find disturbing in their own homes even now when they are in the end appreciated. There are masterpieces that couldn’t be sold at the time they were painted. But what a pity it would have been, if those artists had given up their ideas and had painted something less disturbing that goes well with the wall-paper. I wish I should never have to give it up.

Q)Where do you get the inspiration for your art?
A)When I started to paint in Salzburg I was very young. Like other sixteen years old teenagers I was interested in extrem vogues of fashion and in relevant lifestyles. I was impressed by goths, rockers, etc. I used to go to parades to take fotos and I used to surf on the Internet to find my models.It has become different now. I am studying at the academy, I am visiting a lot of exhibitions, I am reading a lot, I am travelling a lot. There are so many influences. I have begun to form my own opinion about different questions. I draw my inspiration from the process how my opinion crystallises. I feel the need of selfexpression during this process.I still use fotos but rather to my digital works. I have begun to look for models and to build a scene with them according to my ideas. I still need the foto because one can’t expect the model to stay there for a week or two in the same position but I try to imprint the real scene in my brain.

Q)What are you working on now?

A)There are a couple of actual problems I am interseted in. One of them is the change in human relationships, the alianation we experience nowadays. People are getting more and more isolated, real friendship is hard to find. It has the negativ effect even on the realtionship of the two sexes. It has ever been hard to find a fitting partner but nowadays it seems to be nearly impossible. It is shocking that even the most beautiful and valuable young people are complaining about not beeing able to find a normal and steady realationship. While we experience a substantial drop in childbirth in Europe (in Germany for example 1.4 child/family), we are still occupied with the fight for the rights of same-sex couples. The isolation of young people has been enhanced recently by the reform of the educational system. The new credit-system at the universtities has the effect that there are no more groups of students that study together. One is surrounded with different people on every lesson.On the other hand globalization is making everyone faceless. Clothes, furniture, mobile phone, car… everything comes from the conveyor-belt. There is not much left to make someone special in the eyes of a potential partner.These are the problems I am intent to express with my new paintings. One of them represents a young couple in the act of following the assembly instuction of a baby found in the box they bought in one of the well-known furniture-warehouse chains.

Q)Are there some web sites that you would like to recomend? Artists, art communities, xxx,...!?
A)There is a collection of interesting links on my web-site: www.naomidevil.com There are very professional web-sites that every artist and collector should know, for example www.artfact.net, www.kunstaspekte.de or www.basis-wien.at. These are comprehensive databanks. There are further links to art communities. The most interesting, may be, is www.deviantart.com. It is an American site where everyone can load pictures and comment the works of other members. Since it is a very popular site counting innumerous members with more than 28 million pictures loaded it is excellent for researching actual trends. There are a couple of art communites I take part in. DeviantArt is one of them. It is really interesting to analyse tastes based on comments.There are a lot of artists I like and appreciate. It is impossible to name them all but here is a short list just to give some examples:I love:the stupendous visual thinking of Istvan Orosz and Escher,the melancholic vibration of Odd Nerdrum`s paintings,the wild coloure handling of Xenia Hausner,the incredible percision of Gottfried Helnwein and Ron Mueck,the surprising speed of Lászlo Fehér,the delightful sensuality of Juddy Fox, Dave McKean,the philosophical thoughts of Alfredo Jaar,the strong expressive power of Jenny Saville,the exciting personality of Louise Burgeois,the wide technical knowledge and selfmanagement of Salvador Dali,the wild fantasy of Leigh Bowery and John Galliano,and most of all: Sparkling Ideas.

Q)What's your favorite medium to work in, and why?

A)I work with oil on canvas. It is a traditional medium that has already proved that artworks of this medium can last for many hundred years. An oil panting has a lasting and ever growing value. On the other hand oil is a very fine material with all the best qualities. It spreads easily, takes a long time to dry and leaves the chance to correct mistakes. The surface is elastic while on the other hand acrylic paint is rigid. Oil is a slow medium, of course, counting all the drying periodes. I enjoy sometimes working digitally which is a totally different world. Foto helps to document quickly a fleeting moment or impression and then there is a vast pool of digital tools to create a new image based on fotos taken in different times and at different sites.

Q)What advice would you give to younger up and coming artist?
A)I am myself a young and upcoming artistJ. I can talk about my experience and give the same advice I give to myself.It is a daunting task to try to step into the footprints of the great masters of arthistory. It is more difficult than it seems at the first sight because one has to make a living in the meantime. There is the dilema I have already mentioned: whether to concentrate on the main goal or to give concessions in the direction of art that sells better. I think one has to try to minimalise these concessions but is is idealistic to think that they can be kept to null.It is even more idealistic to think that a talent is necessarily discovered and appreciated. Artists have to make their way in a semi-rigid system between innumerous obstacles. Since there are sometimes faboulous capital-gaines achieved by collecting artworks many con artists are attracted to the artscene. It is absoltutely desillusioning that they are most of all specialized to young victimes. Still, one has to go on after every set-back and keep the illusions.I think on the long term hard work is going to be rewarded. One has to concentrate on work but mustn’t forget PR in the meantime.
Q)What is your personal definition of life and art and everything else in between?

A)Young people tend to be idealistic and naiv. They tend to imagine a world that is properly functioning and is teeming with nice people. Experience however teaches otherwise. After a while one has to reassess the situation and form more feasible ideas about the world in general. I am in the act of redefining what the world, what life and art means for me. I still haven’t formed a solid opinion. I can only say that it is a pity that one is bound to loose the childish illusions.

Q)Take us inside your process a little bit. How do you begin a piece? What inspires the concept?

A)The physical process of painting is always preceded by a long brainwork. The painting is like an embrio. It is inadvertently concieved in my brain and has to develop for a periode. It is unforeseeable how long it is going to take. I am musing about the picture, I am holding it before my mind’s eyes and I am contemplating it for a long time. I begin painting when the thought is ripe. When I strech the white canvas for a new painting I already know exactly what is going to be painted on it. I already see the picture on it.

Q)What are your artistic influences?

A)I am trying to go my own way. I am visiting a lot of exhibitions and I am intrested in other artists’ work. On the other hand I don’t let myself be influenced to the extent that I begin to imitate successful or charismatic collegues. When I am painting and have to face a new challenge I try to remember whether I have seen the same problem solved by some other artists. If it is possible I go to see how they have done it. I have for example studied how different artists painted glass. I learn a lot that way, but it is far from imitating someone totally. It may sometimes be luring to follow a fashionable trend or someone’s style but it is a dangerous pitfall.

Q)How are the reactions on your work in general?

A)I have a lot of positiv feed-back. I have heard several times that my work is fresh and wild. Many people like the vivid colours but sometimes the same people won’t necessarily hang the picture in their homes exactly because of these colours. It is probabliy going to take time until my paintings are bought more easily. It is funny how different tastes are. Everybody would choose another painting as my best. It is very fortunate at the same time because every painting attracts someone. There are, of course, people who expect something more abstract and are not attracted to my pantings at all but I am satisfied anyway.

Q)What are you doing when you are not creating art?

A)Parallel to my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts In Vienna I have recently begun to study architecture at the Technical University. This is my first semester there. It takes a lot of time and is demanding a lot of effort. At the moment it is nearer the truth to say that I am painting in my free-time.Sport is very important for me. I like jogging at least 2-3 times a week. I read a lot. I like magazines like Spiegel or GEO and I am interested in sociology. I like books analysing human nature. I enjoy surfing on the Internet. I browse art web-sites or work on my own site.I don’t have much time left for friends but enjoy beeing with them. I have some very good old friends but it is really difficult to find new ones.

Q)What are some of the greatest challenges that, you think, artists face today?

A)I think the greatest challenge is to build up a new dialogue with the audience and reapair the harm that has been done. As a result of bad art management and theoretical artistic trends the vast audience has lost contact with the contemporary artworld. Apart from a few collectors hardly anybody is prepared to invest in contemporary artworks. There are a couple of big names with soaring prices collectors are interested in but the supply in general is far greater than the demand. However it is another big challenge to restore quality on the side of supply. I think the artworld has to build on the interest of a vast audience. If it looses contact with the masses it is bound to show up all signs of ailing health. In my opinion art has to react to everyday’s life. It has to look for answers to actual questions. An artwork without a message is only a decoration.

Q)What is freedom to you as an artist?

A)I don’t think an artist has more freedom than other people. An artist has the same responsibilities and has to make a living like other people. To tell the trouth, it is not easy at all. For me the advantage is that I don’t have to begin work at 8 o’clock in the morning if I don’t want but on the other hand I am very often painting till midnight.An artist is seemingly free to go around the world and spend working periods in different countries but it is only without children and family possible. I am not sure a solitary life is too attractive on the long term.

Q)Are there any particular works you've done that stand out as your favorites?

A)I like every painting I have ever painted. I never forget that even if I find some of them less good now I liked them most when they got ready. It is always relativ whether a painting is good or bad. Even the weakest ones were some kind of achievment at a certain point of my life. Some paintings are decorative but lacking a serious message. These are easily sold though. Other paintings are more serious, even wild sometimes, and people may find them startling or alarming. Still, those paintings are my favourites that were born from strong personal experience or deep feelings even if these are the less mild ones.

Q)Last Books you read?

A)Ráth Végh: Human stupiditySebastian Brandt: Ship of fools (Das Narren Schyff)(Illustrations: István Orosz)(Borda Publishing Company Hungary)

Q)Last records you bought?

A)I don’t buy records. I prefer to listen to the Internet-radio: www.pandora.com

Q)Who are your favourite artists & your favourite galleries?

A)There is a long list of links on my web-site.

Q)Which do you think makes good art good, originality or style? Why?

A)Not only originality and style is needed but quality and message as well. For a lasting success it is unbearable the lasting medium. It is very fashionable to experiment with material but it has the result that even works of living artists are already decaying. I am not sure it is wise to expect artists to have one single characteristic style. I can’t resist the feeling that it is the sign of poor fantasy. I think an artist has to find the appropriate style to every message. A forced style is a kind of prison that is only impeading selfexpression. I like to experiment freely. I find it annoying that I have to produce similar works in order to have my own ‘signature’. It is a kind of trend to expect artists to produce clones of their own artworks but it is very unhealthy. Every talented artist would revolt against it in my opinion.

Q)Do you get emotionally attached to your work and do you miss your work when it is sold?

A)Yes, I am emotionally attached to my paintings. I miss them often when they are sold, most of all when they are sold for a lower price or simply given away for some reason. My father is used to saying:-‘Who has ever seen a baker who keeps his bread?’- That is true and is somewhat comforting, although the baker bakes the same kind of loaves every day. Sometimes I am really happy that my painting has found a good owner. There are some of them that have found someone really careing who enjoyes and loves them. It is a good feeling and satisfying.

Q)Your contacts..E-mail.links

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