Contemporary Mixed media artist Joseph Klibansky talks to Deepa Rajan on art, artists and his encounter with Armin Van Buuren
What do Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst and a young Dutch new media artist by the name of Joseph Klibansky have in common? They are all artists who have pushed the artistic envelope thorough their craft, and they have all designed CD covers for famous musicians.
Joseph Klibansky caught our attention because of the futuristic cover he designed for one of the most popular DJs on the music scene, Armin van Buuren. Klibansky even set a world record by becoming the youngest artist to have his artwork ‘High Flyers’ auctioned at Sotheby’s recently for Euros 35,000. Never before has an artist of his age (he was only 26 then) has commanded such a high price. Today, at 28, Klibansky’s work has often been described as ‘art with stopping power’. Klibansky’s points of departure are architecture and the city, particularly the accelerated, compressed and densely populated urban environments of the 21st Century.
Born in 1984 in Cape Town, Klibansky grew up in a creative and internationally-oriented environment. In his teens, he became fascinated by the possibilities offered by computer art and digital imagery. He started to merge hundreds of images into powerful compositions, enhanced by computer artwork and often combined with a variety of painting techniques. The young artist soon developed his own distinctive style, which fascinates art galleries and collectors the world over: innovative creations in bright colours. Klibansky graduated at a Dutch business school, but soon decided to follow his great passion: art. He is one of the youngest professional artists in the contemporary international art scene. Inspired by such topics as city’s, fashion, design, modern architecture, and music, he is constantly bubbling with ideas for new works of art. Or, as he puts it, “It is my life. When I am not sleeping, I am thinking about art!”
Signature spoke to Kilbansky about his art…
How and when did you begin your journey as an artist?
“I actually was very interested in art and photography from a young age. My parents are true art lovers and my father practiced professional photography. This constant contact with creativity sparked a desire to create and I started to experiment with digital imagery. When I showed my work to people around me, I received immense support and my confidence as an artist grew very rapidly. I had my first solo show at the age of 23 and have been fortunate to enjoy a rapid rise since.”
You are a contemporary mixed media artist? What according to you is contemporary mixed media?
“Contemporary Mixed media is pretty selfexplanatory; I use different materials and techniques to create my works of art. My main tools are a powerful digital camera and my apple computer; you could see these devices as my brush and pallet. I think that for an artist of my generation, using these tools are very important, each generation gets a chance to do something new and I think this digital age is a very exciting one for an artist like me. I do, however, combine these high-tech techniques with traditional painting and printing to get to the intense colouring and feeling of my work.”
What is your art inspired by?
“For the past 5 years I have been working on a theme I call “New Urban Wonderland”, in this series I create partly surrealistic landscapes where the underlying energy of a changing culture plays the main character. Occasionally I use animals to play the part of the human being to create a more abstract view of our society. Somehow there is always a glimpse of the future in my work.
"In my more recent works I have addressed the absence of nature in large western cities by creating lush scenes of New York filled with plants, flowers, animals and birds. When you view these artworks one really gets the sense that a perfect balance between the high pace city life and the slow motion of nature has been found.”
How does an artwork come to life and what is your creative process?
“I always start with a concept, a story I want to tell about our society. When I have worked out in paper what kind of elements I need for the artwork, I plan a trip to make my photos. For a typical artwork I will use between 400 and 900 different photos. After I have all my material I select only parts of each picture and cut out this element. It is actually a very large and detailed collage that takes several months to make. “When the artwork is created on the computer I will make about 10 test prints in my printing lab to the point I am satisfied with the color balances and intensity of the work. Finally I print the work on a 350gms archival quality cotton paper and mount it in aluminum.
“When the print is mounted I start the painting process, I ad acrylic paint and pigment inks to complete my vision. The last step is to coat the entire artwork in a thick layer of transparent resin I call Liquid-Glass. As you can hear it is a very delicate and specialised process.”
You recently designed the CD sleeve for Armin van Buuren? How did that come about?
"My collaboration with Armin is a very special one in many ways. I came in contact with him via his record label Armada Music (one of the owners is a large collector of my work, and a part of the art collection is housed in their HQ in Amsterdam). I got a phone call out the blue from Armin van Buuren asking me if I would like to create a cover for his new album. Obviously I was very excited about this project and my creative juices started flowing.
"What I like about creating an album cover is that it reaches a very large and diverse audience, it is a stage to connect with millions of people around the globe like a largeexhibition in a way. What is also great is thatmany big visual artists in the past have createdan album cover for a recording artist likeTakashi Murakami for Kanye West and Damien Hirst for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers."
Your work of art went under the hammer for a huge amount? What do you think made it so valuable to be sold as a work of art?
“I think these things always happen for a good reason. Although I am still young I have been working as a professional artist for many years. In these years my work has been exhibited and collected all over the globe by private collectors and corporate institutions. My work selling at auction for a substantial amount to me is a token of trust that collectors think I will have a very long and successful career.”
How does it raise the bar for you as an artist?
“For me the price doesn’t raise the bar at all, I am always passionately working on new projects and my attention to detail has always been extremely high. What is the most exciting to me is that I really feel myself maturing as an artist, this drives my ambitions to work on a more monumental scale.”
As a contemporary artist, where do you see the art scene in the next five years?
The art scene is driven by a very strong group of extremely passionate people. Once you are bitten by the art bug of collecting, your life will never be the same. This passion, in combination with the high return on investment art can bring, will always attract new wealth. I, however, think art will be bought online more and more as the galleries figure out how to enhance the online collecting experience. It’s an exciting time ahead for this evolution. I also think that the market for photography and its acceptance as an art form will keep growing at a rapid pace.
Will a Jackson Pollock still command the price it does today or do you see a paradigm shift in the way people will view art?
“In my opinion these kinds of works will command high prices for years to come. The reason is that every generation has its art stars, the popularity of the artist get carried over for a couple of generations and then the most support dies off. What I do experience first-hand is that newer work created in this digital era is rapidly gaining momentum; it’s just a lot of fun to collect and has an important place in today’s popular culture.
“The generation-Y (born after 1980) has an even stronger affection with photography and digital imagery; I would expect this generation to have a stronger interest in New Media Art then in a Jackson Pollock.”
If you had to pick an artist each from mediums of art…
“My personal choice would be the sculptor Anish Kapoor because his works give me a very tranquil feeling. The perfection of craftsmanship is also absolutely sublime. Because the surfaces of his sculptures are so smooth and perfect, you tend to forget that you are looking at a material and one is only left with their feelings and emotions. Like music in a certain way.
I have to also add the young artist KAWS to my personal ‘want’ list. For me KAWS really translates the popular MTV-like culture and graphics into very exciting colorful narratives, his use of color is also very sophisticated.
If you were allowed a 140 character ‘tweet’ to say something about you and your art, what would you say?
“I try to create portraits of our rapidly changing culture combined with a possible glimpse of the future. If a viewer of my work feels this energy it is the ultimate form of gratification for me.”