Every month I create a newsletter for a psychedelic trance label known as BMSS Records. This month I was lucky enough to interview an artist who is something of a visionary in the psychedelic arts scene. Hakan Hisim is a Turkish artist and visual graphics designer. Below is the transcript of the interview where Hakan explains his ideas on various facets of creativity and his thoughts on the future of his scene, technology and the state of the arts.
THE STATE OF THE ARTS
Do you believe in the concept of formal training for aspiring artists?
I went to art school, studied traditional painting. Went to film school, studied cinema. I was taught a whole lot of formulas, theories and ideologies; I was taught with technology that is now obsolete. I was indoctrinated into the "western art cult."
What I learnt and what I use today is what I taught myself, watched online or taught by a friend. All I have from my formal training is some colour theory and Anatomy / Shading / Rendering but to be honest I don't believe one needs to be initiated into the traditional educational systems to learn any of this. The education models that currently exist for our children and youth are grossly dehumanizing and standardising; I find it amusing that we think that we graduate to a better education system when we graduate to another school.
Do you feel that contemporary psychedelic artists lean too heavily on a relatively limited design language and a relatively small palette of elements and ideas?
I think this is a personal journey and unique for every artist as they evolve along with the tools at our disposal. I was heavily influenced by the art of Alex Grey and also Luke Brown when I first started making psychedelic art, I think is great to be inspired by great artists but its also a personal choice and responsibility to develop your visual language over time and experience.
You've been an artist in this scene for a while? Are there areas or ideas that you feel are under-explored, or getting forgotten about?
Visionary art has been quite hip for some years now, and the scene definitely has a cliquey vibe to it. It's quite funny writing this as an artist who is often labelled visionary I am well aware of that! From what I can see, many artists seem to be drawing on second-hand visions (I have also done this in the past), being heavily influenced by powerful visions of artists like Alex Grey rather than interpreting a unique visionary experience themselves. Again, this a journey and from what I gather, the artists putting out the most unique work are often those who are deeply involved with processing thier own internal vision, rather than just trying to make something look aesthetically pleasing in a fashionable way.
What would you say are the core aspects of psychedelic art? Are there any artists out there whose work you feel really captures this essence? Who are they?
I think Psychedelic art is transpersonal, Patterns and geometries obviously play a strong role leaning towards a more recursive and fractal nature. There are so many amazing artists to be all named here, although I can't help but mention both Ben Ridgeway and İhti Anderson. Their art is incredibly unique and massively transpersonal creating coherent dimensions in their own right!
What sorts of equipment/materials are you currently using to create your visuals effects?
I currently use two high-end laptops, PC, Mac and Linux, Wacom Intuos Touch 5 and too many hard drives to mention. I like to use and experiment with all types of visual software, most using Photoshop, Painter, Cinema 4D and Zbrush for static art. I use Photoshop, Cinema 4D, After Effects and Zbrush mainly for creating video. I don't use fractal generators as often anywore, but mostly use Ultra Fractal, Incendia and Mandelbulb 3D. For live performances and video mapping, I use Resolume Arena and Madmapper.
I have recently been learning and experimenting with game engines to create visual effects and plan to develop my animations further into VR. I have started with Unreal Engine 4, Substance Painter and Marmoset Toolbag. When familiar with the terrain I would like also to learn how to use the Unity Engine.
In the last decade have there been any technological developments that were clear game changers for visual artists?
For sure. The exponential growth in the power and capability of hardware has allowed game engines like Unreal and Unity to create incredibly beautiful and detailed realtime environments with Physical Based Shading, now starting to rival a lot of the 3D raytracing on the market without having the need to wait excruciating render times. Instant visual feedback in immersive environments that you create yourself gives a whole new meaning to "creative flow" It's actually a whole new way of creating digital art, opening incredible avenues up to artists every single day. The Occulus Rift was also another game changer, spawning amazing software like Tilt brush. Virtual Reality is both an apex and gateway into truly immersive works of art.
Clearly there is a lot of technology involved in the work of an VJ and technology is continually changing and evolving. Do you find this a distraction? Or are you naturally open to using new technologies relating to your creative work?
It sometimes can be a distraction, but also incredibly beneficial, with everything, balance is the key. Being open and aware of new technologies without having to rely on any of them too much seems to work best for me. It can be difficult, though, to keep making art, promoting and maintaining yourself, and live gigs don't leave too much room to research and learn new tech.
There seems to be a lot of importance placed on words like "natural" and "organic" and "hand made" when it comes to psychedelic culture. Do you think that the use of technology goes against these ideas? Or do you find that they are somehow complementary? In either case, could you explain how or why?
This futile feud between digital and traditional art is even more prevalent in developing countries like Turkey. I have had people telling me to automate the process so the computer spits out art all day long by itself because all I need to do is click some buttons!
Having done both, I can easily say that all art is hand made. The computer is just an awesome high-tech paintbrush, canvas and pigment stash all rolled into one. Using a computer or organic materials to create art is a matter of choice and preference of the artist and nothing more. I really respect artists that utilise both methods, remixing both technologies together, blurring the lines to create some amazing masterpieces!
"The act of painting with light and electricity is the purest form of painting that is currently possible." I read that elsewhere on the net about your artwork. Could you tell us how technology is enabling you to express this idea?
We humans have so many thoughts and ideas its crazy, multiply this with the hyper mass media manipulation of our senses and emotions, we think and create at lightspeed in our minds and spirits. The computer removes the "Physical Inertia" or general speed restrictions for creative processes offered by traditional media allowing us to make immediate changes to the piece without having to wait for some physical material or medium ready for another coat. To me this feels closer to creating with my spirit rather than say, drawing, I can process my ideas a lot faster and with a better flow on a computer than with paper. Game Engines are currently doing the same thing now regarding realtime (instant) vs. Rendered (processing time) imagery.
What are you looking forward to, with regards to new creative technology?
In the near future, I would love to create my artworks as multidimensional pieces. Where the viewer is able to see its static image, see its animated version and then also plug into its full immersive 3D environment. Incredibly precise Audioreactive elements could also be introduced into the scene for those with a penchant for synesthesia ::)
YOUR PERSONAL APPROACH
A lot of artists and creatives would much rather focus on their artistic work and forget all about the messy business of marketing and running a business. What’s it like for you? Do you enjoy being an entrepreneur, or would you rather have more time for creativity? Or have the worlds of promoting yourself as a brand and being an artist become one cohesive dimension?
I would definitely appreciate more time for creativity. I think that the stigma of self-promotion is still quite prevalent among those who cling to the 'Starving Artist' mindset and paradigm. We live in an age where an artist has so many tools to utilise, and social media is just another tool. I feel some sort of success is a delicate balance between promotion and creativity. I have spent years as a recluse not showing or sharing my art, just creating, and also years spent mainly trying to promote myself and get my art "out there", after doing both I can clearly say both methods were not productive; psychologically, socially or artistically.
I think being able to create full-time art and continually promote yourself is something of a shift that's occurring since the rise of the Internet and the proliferation of digital art. It's happening at a time where the people realise there is no scarcity and that the model of the starving artist and tortured soul is obsolete in a world filled with endless opportunities.
Can you describe your daily or weekly writing routine? Any tips for getting creative work done in the midst of an activity-filled life?
My routine changes quite frequently, especially after the birth of our baby!
Ideally, I would get up quite early, 6 AM, Meditation, light breakfast and get to creating right away work for a couple of hours, then do some housework (it clears the mind) and would check my emails messages and accounts towards noon as waking up to tons of emails before making art really influences the quality of my work in a negative way. Then again lunch and daily tasks. I try to recreate my routine according to the sleep habits of our baby, trying to get in the most creative flow during the times he is asleep. A walk in nature or stroll in the forest again ideally every day in the afternoon with the tribe (family). Nature always clears my head and works wonders for creative blockages. If I'm not working on a deadline or important project, I sleep relatively early, before 11 pm (again having a baby changes everything!)
To summarise, I spend most of my days in a balancing act, between creating art, marketing - production - promotion, and family life. I am extremely fortunate to have a marvellous wife who manages most of our online sales, production and a lot of other stuff I would normally never have the time for or do properly.
As for tips, again walks in nature works wonders! Shake things up! If you are in the country go into the city for a day trip, if you are in the city, go to some lush location for the weekend. The comfort zone is oh so comfortable, but when we manage to shake things up a bit (rather than stagnate) amazing things start to happen.
Do you remember what it was that drew you to the psychedelic arts? Are those feelings still relevant to you or have they evolved?
I was always drawn to the arts and also spent years making abstract and surreal oil paintings. My very first LSD experience had a very powerful effect on my art and life in general. But what changed everything for me in a very profound and palpable way was my first DMT breakthrough experience. The visual aspect, especially really effected me deeply and I remember thinking as I was returning to 3D reality "I have to learn to be able to capture this with art!"
After all these years, I'm still mesmerised by those higher dimensions but much less "Infatuated" with creating DMTesque visuals. I love to mix a lot of stuff styles up these days.
What is one of the most constant ideas in your work? Are there any elements or ideas that you seem to always come back to when creating? What are they and can you explain how these ideas connect to psychedelic arts?
I do use recurring patterns and themes throughout my artworks; I like to think they create a sense of continuity and familiarity to the viewer that creates an illusion of a cohesive fantasy world. This also creates a reference point for the "experienced" viewer: The Nostalgic feelings of "returning home" activated with Psychedelic medicines help to accentuate this feeling of continuity.
I use a lot of sacred geometry in my art, but not the standard fare. I like to recreate sacred structures imbued with more interest and detail, its mostly for aesthetics as the base forms and geometries are more or less the same.
I also like to use a lot of cryptic texts, alien languages and symbols in my art, again deeply influenced by the linguistic dmtesque machinery.
As an artist, it's important to keep testing the limits of your medium and your creative processes. How do you keep your artwork fresh? Is it a constant process of challenging yourself to move to new ideological places so that you can develop a fresh perspective or does this happen quite naturally?
I wish it would happen naturally! I have an innate pull towards my comfort zone and therefore can really get caught into stagnation quite easily. This is why I try to incorporate the shake things up approach to my daily routine. Its very very easy to get caught in one's own traps and pitfalls. Connecting with amazing people and artists online and especially at festivals can really help shift ones perspective enough to catalyse a mini creative renaissance within the psyche.
Mushroom Magazine wrote this about you: "Deeply influenced by the occult and esoteric concepts, his use of bold colour schemes are used to accentuate this intrinsic contrast of micro and macro, of the familiar and the alien." Could you tell us a bit more about how your work expresses these differences? Do you have any motifs or colours or patterns that you always come back to for certain things?
I like to use ancient motifs and symbols as guides to recreate them with more detail and interest to support the original meanings of those symbols. I really love to use contrast, in any way that I can. This realm is one of duality, and I think strong contrast really resonates with everyone on the planet.