interview conducted by JRC
EDITOR'S NOTE: I love art. But I can't speak it. Not like my old friend, JRC, who I recruited to conduct an interview with visual artist Naz (they/them) who releases work as funeralfaust. -h.
Hi Funeral Faust (Naz?), I”m glad Hub asked me to help with this interview. I was looking at your instagram and other social media, and I wanted to know more about your art.
My art “handle” is funeralfaust. It’s a nod to the old German legend of faust, who sold his soul to the devil. But My name is Naz. I don’t necessarily separate the two. You can call me Naz.
You describe your work as abstract/psychedelic, and if you’ll allow me I’ll add goth too—I feel stylistic influence traveling from the high contrast black & white, flowing symmetry of H.R. Giger. But, I wanted to start by having you tell me about your inspiration, both peer artists, as well as esthetically and culturally.
Maybe my art can be seen as gothic in relation to architecture. My art has been often compared to Giger’s works, which is very flattering, as sci fi is a genre of art and film I enjoy. Biomechanical and bio organic styles are a fav of mine, as well. I have a big love for Giger as it is but he doesn’t directly inspire me as I feel our styles are two different directions. I think my art is heavily different from bio mechanical basics. My inspiration is directly drawn from, simply put, sacred geometry and architecture (such as old cathedrals) and nature. Nature, such as the geometry of flowers and ferns, spiderwebs, honeycomb, rain drops, all repetitive in a way that I find very appealing. My art is just something I feel inside and translate to canvas. I spend a lot of my time alone. I paint alone. I’m not sure that my art is comparative to anyone that comes to mind. Not to sound arrogant. I’m just kind of a hermit. I don’t even “consume” art like mine that I can pinpoint I tend to really enjoy old renaissance art and the romanticism period for art personally.
You don't sound arrogant at all, I think I understand what you mean. There's something about isolation that can have a profound affect on creativity--on anyone's sense of self. Which makes me wonder: Over the course of Covid quarantine did you changes in your work or how you feel about yourself creatively--either for the good or bad?
I don’t know that my art has changed, But perhaps morphed? It’s all just my art to me, so I suppose I don’t see it as changing, Though in theory I suppose it is ever changing because no two pieces are the same? I just see it as a part of me, I float between a few different brushes and so some canvas pieces look different compared to others if I use thinner or thicker brushes, acrylic v.s. Oil and on and so forth. My compositions are still similar in feeling yet wildly different in substance. I have had a vastness of time to work on many many many pieces the past few years alone through quarantine and time feels like it’s bled together, I don’t necessarily keep track of it all to compare or put much though into how my art had changed.
When you say your work is Psychedelic how would you define that?
My art is psychedelic in a manner that is organically inviting to the eye.. you follow the movements I create in the brush strokes, they flow into each other with ease. The brush strokes dance around the canvas in repetitive patterns, symmetry, sometimes asymmetry, textures and abstracts. A lot of my art is driven from psychedelic experiences as I’m a big advocate for psilocybin, for mental health, for creative output and creative ideas etc. Creation of my art is very calming, a meditative place for me. I've been told by folks that my art invokes a calming nature in them and feels mesmerizing to view. I think as humans we look for meaning in images and look for comfort, for something constant, for something with substance, a deeper look into creation.
I get the calming sense you mention, and a sense of 'mental fugue' studying your images like I'm tracing ley lines. I wonder, do you see you art differently when you are using psilocybin compounds verses when you aren't, for instance does the art become a more technical experience or critical one when you are in one state vs the other?
When I’m taking psilocybin and painting in the same moments, I feel.. sensitive to movement of the eye, I feel like I’m breathing life onto my canvas if that makes sense. I also paint sober, and psilocybin still fuels my art when sober because I just remember certain visuals and psilocybin compounds have long term effects. My art still feels the same to me in both ways. My art doesn’t feel technical or hard to me ever, It still comes effortlessly in both mindsets and I don’t really think people can differentiate which paintings were done sober vs. directly on psilocybin honestly.
Talk about the materials you use for your painted work. Those look like the core of your practice, and I’d like to hear about how you connected with your favorite brand of brush, white pigment, and the black canvas/boards you work on?
I don’t use any expensive paints, or any specific brush brands. I work with mainly white acrylic and white oil paint pens… sometimes I work with color as a highlight or additive but it’s usually on commissions when requested. For brushes I typical use a flat brush or multiple different round brushes depending on the stroke I’m looking for. I use what I can find and access, what I have on hand or what is affordable to me. I specifically enjoy black canvas for its negative space. Black is easy on the eyes (for me at least) and I tend to enjoy darkness in art in general. I don’t often see folks working on black canvas and I saw “negative” space painting as a challenge that I wanted to tackle. I really enjoy heavy black work as a tattooing style and I wanted to incorporate that dark feeling into my art as well. I thoroughly just enjoy the absence of color.
Follow up to that, you also incorporate some less conventional mediums in your creative practice, like the bleach t-shirts, and blood. Do you think of those as rarities or outliers in your art (even color is unusual in your palette)?
I feel bleach is a very common medium among artists, but I saw it as a way to keep a black canvas with my art and keep my pallets dark so I could hand paint shirts in the same manner I would paint a canvas, making it have the same flow and feeling as my canvas pieces. I didn’t want to stray too far from my organic painting practices, I wanted to keep my art form the same across all mediums, so that I could equally create something on a shirt that I could create on a canvas with the same quality. With the same energy and love I put into all my pieces. As for other mediums, I do use my blood, which Is very personal to me, and I don’t sell my blood art to just anyone. I enjoy literally putting myself into my art. My blood art comes from a process that is more ritualistic for me as I acquire my blood myself, safely, with properly sterilized 14 gauge hallow tip piercings needles and drawn from my forehead. I don’t advocate or advise people to just go out and do blood letting at home. This is just personally how I go about it.
Your thoughts on black canvas and the bleach use both make me think of the "reductive style" of art, like how stone carvers remove to make their pieces. Your black canvases and bleach work are somehow more akin to that then 'conventional' painters. Just a thought: Why is a white canvas the default?
That is a very good way to think of it and I’m not sure I've ever looked at it in that way before. When it comes to white canvas for me personally, white is so stark, I don’t enjoy painting on it with most of my work unless it’s blood work. White can feel boring and unfinished to me personally. I have used white canvas before and it just feels.. ugly at times. I think perhaps white is the default because it’s easier to blend colors over white and white canvas gives a more “true” color instead of say, black canvas perhaps giving off a muddy cast for color. But I don’t often use color to worry about that anyways for my work.
Regarding the use of blood. Since removing it is also a precious act, does that make it harder to use spontaneously since you don't have it at the ready? Do you have to plan those projects out differently?
Yes I do plan them differently, it’s never spontaneous because it has to be safe and sterile first and foremost. I always plan blood letting days. If I’m doing blood art I choose a day where I’m going to be home all day. I prepare my skin, my canvases and prepare clean up/set up methods before hand, do my blood letting, let the canvases dry a day or two, and the proceed to paint over it another time.
Moving back to your style and technique. You have a steady hand, important to the symmetry in your compositions. How long you’ve been painting? Can you trace/talk about the evolution of your signature style?
I took a few basic painting/art/photography classes in high school where I used a lot of of mediums but mainly water color, always abstracts, textures and line work. I actually hated acrylic when I was younger because I found it hard to tackle. However I kept going back to it as a medium and challenging myself to be better. I was always afraid of oil paint until I got a hold of oil pens. As for painting often, I didn’t take it -as seriously- until maybe six years ago perhaps. If I was to say I've been creating art all my life it is true in many forms. I didn't start feeling confident in my organic style and flow, painting regularly or even seeing myself as possibly a serious artist until maybe 2017. I’m not sure how my hand is so steady to be honest. I guess I just got lucky, or maybe it came with practice but I couldn’t pinpoint.
On your Instagram, I don’t see much of what I’d recognize sketches—do you have books of ‘doodles’ around, because it looks like you go right to the canvas with brush and paint. I see that as pretty brave or confident—does that sound right? How … conscious of the choices you make are you? Are your compositions tightly controlled or pretty spontaneous?
I don’t really doodle. When I want to create I always have the desire to do large pieces. Sometimes I just feel like my paintings are simply really big doodles. I used to hand grid my canvas pieces with a pencil and a ruler. I would lay out a basic idea or flow in the beginning and fill in the gaps with textures and whatever I felt would fit or whatever I felt, But after a few months of hand gridding I felt more confident trusting my eye, and I now always freehand. I use basic tools for shapes like circular lids laying around the house, sometimes I use a ruler to gauge length etc. my compositions aren’t tightly controlled and rather are extremely spontaneous. I often just sit down and “wing it” with some basic shapes and flows I envision. It’s that simple, I wish I had an elaborate answer but, it just simply is, that’s simple for me to really effortlessly make my works. I don’t really put much thought into it I just create.
Just on a somewhat personal note: I make collages and a couple years ago I got a circle cutting jig, and it's definitely led to circle-shaped cuts and pieces becoming common elements in my work. In the videos I watched of you working, you tended to start with the circles, are they a regular jumping off point for your compositions, or do you just need the black canvas to launch into?
I tend to be really drawn to balance as a whole I suppose. Circles specifically, however, just feel right to me, something about the flow and perfection of them as an organic shape. I don’t always start with circles but they are a huge element for me for certain. I definitely have feelings about Buddhist zen circles or ENSO- traditionally being drawn in one brush or two brush strokes, it’s often something I think about while painting that is simply just a thought I keep coming back too over the years. It’s very simple, but it’s deeper than a just being a circle. Like I said prior, nature and the geometry of nature play a big role in my art themes, circles and spheres are an undeniable aspect of nature.
Speaking of confidence. You’re active on tiktok and insragram posting videos of yourself creating your works. I know that can be a necessity, with the need for creatives to market themselves, but does it feel invasive at all? You can always decide when and what to post, but do you feel it affect how you work at all? Does the public creation of the works feel like part of the process, or have you ever felt it interferes with your process?
I don’t feel like being public on social media is, per se , invasive... I am who I am and I’m not afraid to put my face to my art or afraid of who I am. I don’t see it as marketing myself because I’m not in it for the money. I just create because I want to. I often don’t sell my art. Sometimes I hoard it and have a massive pile in my room. Not all my art processes are videoed, but I started videoing my progress and process because people have asked how I can possibly free hand my work. It was more of a way for me to show that I indeed do hand paint all my work, and that it really is me behind the screen. I think a lot of folks find watching the videos fun. I've been told it’s mesmerizing. It makes it more personal to someone who may want my art, they get to see the creation and fruition of a piece and they feel more connected to it. I don’t think it interferes with my process, if anything it challenges me to be more present and precise.
Speaking of connecting with an audience, one of the links Hub sent me was to your Society 6 shop. You’ve got a wide array of printed merchandise available. I remember, when I was a kid and fell for artists I was lucky to find a barely affordable book of their art or a tacky t-shirt with an iron-on of their one iconic work. Now any creator can put their imagery (their ‘brand’) in front of the public. You get to create a much larger ‘footprint’ for your art, but there’s the argument that reproductions lesson the value of the original (bla bla black) or Art vs Decoration. Is this something that concerns you? Or is it just another revenue stream / great way to connect with fans?
People wanted easier access to prints and other things I don’t hand make, like cups and fanny packs, tables etc which I think is great. I’m not bothered by it. I’ve bought my own art on a fanny pack from Society6 simply because I wanted my art in that form for myself. I don’t make any significant income from my Society6 either so it isn’t something I do for income. It’s not at all something I pay my bills with. I see it as making my art accessible to everyone in any form. Art isn’t any less valuable because of the production to me. The art remains the same, I do think it’s a great way to connect with people.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Hub and I about your work. Is there anything you'd like to add, to close out our conversation with?
Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my processes on my creations, my art as a whole. This was a very pleasant experience and I’m very humbled to be sought out for this chance to talk about my works.
JRC makes collages and likes to be helpful where they can. OneWorldLong.com.
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