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12 May 2020

Interview: In Conversation with David Stenbeck

Read below for our Q&A with digital artist David Stenbeck. You can follow David on Instagram (@dovneon) or check out his work here.

How would you describe your work and your signature style?

I would say my style has a distinctive, recognizable poetic depth, one that sometimes calls for a reader. To many, it’s the glowing light, neon hues, clouds and water reflections together with the art’s historical context in the narrative. To me, everything began with classical European literature, and I’ve kept the poetics as the main core in everything I do, pushing towards a redefinition of what is really contemporary. This could mean re-reading works critically, or retrying established artistic expressions with new ideals and techniques. Some values that I work to push are classical humanist bildung concepts, as a political reaction or perhaps dissatisfaction, vis-à-vis populistic tendencies and authoritarian dysfunction in society or even the leftist developmental disabilities. In my mind, we should be going into outer space already. I think people are getting tired of being just clients or consumers rather than participants. We need a new enlightenment, and my art speaks for that.

What sparked your interest in 3D? How do you think it adds a different meaning to your work as opposed to working in 2D?

When I first got to try Cinema 4D, it was as if I was given the power to transform my artistic concept from writing into visual imagery (my poetic prose book The Republic of Light was published in 2008). The hypersensitivity I felt from colors, transparent materials and refraction suddenly made sense. During school breaks as a kid, I used to look at the sun through glass marbles, studying the tiny bubbles and swirls of the spheres, giving me a strong emotional, almost physical reaction that I never had an outlet for, until I started creating. It was as if these impressions were lighting up inside of me, blooming into stories that I have always carried with me. The 3D software lets you bring all these qualities into an artwork, that almost none of the tools for 2D art can. Even if both in the end may end up as flat objects, the 3D image in a sense is real, as it takes into consideration almost impossible equations of how light flows in volumetric materials, how neons are reflected in metallic surfaces or rainbow water. Everything in a digital 3D artwork has this algebraic body, and therefore is true to the world it’s created in.

You’ve said lighting plays a major role. In what ways do you play with it?

Well, light is language and there’s an emotional aspect to light as a communicative medium.

Many of your pieces share a similar color palette, is there a particular reason for this?

I usually describe the pink hues as being means of an inter-human connectivity, but colors in art history also depend on a sort of time constant, with respect to political and cultural world development, and this need to be understood. Pink, I believe, in our time probably should be interpreted as a future- and change positive emblematic abstract vessel. While historic male dominance is being challenged and women are constantly rising up and breaking down old barriers, pink hues are becoming symbolic bearers of strength and gender re-definition.

Could you tell us more about the significance of the sky, clouds, and neon tones?

I know I’ve said it before, but clouds are the closest thing we on earth come to the beautiful nebulae in space, and a poetic way for us to understand we’re really living in a cosmic environment, really close to suns and stars in a grander perspective. That could sometimes be tricky to come to terms with in an ongoing, worldly everyday life.

And these clouds, together with oceans and skies, add a sense of timelessness, which allows us to see the world as it was created, away from cars and plastics, as time becomes undefined. It’s a millisecond and it’s eternal.

How do you like to push the boundaries in your artwork/industry?

Strangely, when working in digital 3D, it is inaccurately interpreted by some that you’re a part of the CG community. Many people cannot differentiate between an artwork that has been produced in Cinema 4D, for example, and a photograph edited in Photoshop. Not only are there very different production methods between the two, there’s also no artistic kinship between these mediums. 3D work has bodies, surfaces, depth, emits light, casts shadows, interferes and changes with light. It is material dependent and textures need to be fitted.

Each material in the 3D creation is made out of several channels of color, reflectance, refraction, volumetrics and displacement to set, so it’s diverse as hell and gives you endless possibilities. So, just because you work in a digital toolset, it does not imply that you’re engaged in graphic design, web design or poster art.

These might be creative, and look great, but usually lack in art’s historical context or narrative. As an old poet, I know it – this is a major difference between graphics and art, I’d say. To push the art world towards digital won’t work because it’s not technically dependent and it is always moving forwards. Combining classical art, natural awareness and digital tools pushes my boundaries and hopefully the boundaries of digital visual art in the contemporary art world.

Any tips for people who’d like to start working in cinema 4D?

My standard answer to people who are interested in working in Cinema 4D is for them to ask themselves what their artistic goals are. And if it indeed is to make art, then my tip would be to study art history or literary history or criticism, because without that foundation and critical thinking, how can one really understand art?

David Stenbeck’s artwork can be viewed on Instagram @dovneon and is available for purchase at jennsingergallery.com. 
IG & FB tags: @dovneon @jennsingergallery 

Twitter: @dovneon @jennsingernyc