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Ars Moriendi Interview

Ars Moriendi: LUCIANA LUPE VASCONCELOS yields to instinct, chance, and automatism to explore the divine feminine

Without any doubt, one of the most striking visual styles to come about in recent times is that of Luciana Lupe Vasconcelos from Brazil. Her work blends the spastic and automatic style of Austin Osman Spare with a rich, passionate atmosphere full of intrinsic and inseparable occultism.

Hers is a body of work that seems to exist in a world of its own, and it’s this almost wholly realized, unique style that immediately compelled us to know more. Due to her busy schedule we only managed to scratch the surface, as her answers are rare but her responses are elucidating. What results is a short glimpse to satiate the thirst for knowledge in our next installment of Ars Moriendi.

Having supplied art for upcoming Covenant projects, and having been entranced by her work, we emailed her at her home in Brazil to better understand what it is that brings life to her truly one-of-a-kind style.

Lupe, perhaps the best first question is one pertaining to the beginning of any of your pieces. There are few artists who have such a style that looks so intrinsically intuitive, evoking the automatic drawings of Austin Osman Spare and Andrew Chumbley, but also the spastic “paint by feeling” colour schemes of Jackson Pollock. Can you take us through your preparatory regimen before starting a piece, be it either structured or entirely chaotic?

I have a few different approaches for the making of a new piece. When it’s a commission, be it an illustration or an artwork for a collector, I’m usually given a certain theme to work with. When that’s the case I like to begin with some research if I’m not acquainted with the subject matter and after that I make loose pencil sketches, exploring the plastic possibilities in an automatic and meditative manner. I do as many sketches as needed until I get to a result that pleases me. I then develop the one I found to be what I envisioned into a full piece – sometimes in a more structured manner, others letting chance decide the final result. It usually ends being a combination of both.

Another approach to a new piece is working from a vision. Often times I just see an image manifest itself in my mind’s eye – sometimes inspired by the mood I’m in, others induced by a song or a book I might be reading, a meditation session, or even an idea or image that I might be obsessing over. Then I try to convey it into a piece, sometimes beginning with a pencil sketch or just working directly with the chosen media without much rational thought. I also often like to use automatism as a starting point, letting chance dictate the final result and then interfering with the images that surface spontaneously.

There is another common, unavoidable motif in your work: the female body. So much has been written in occultism, philosophy, and psychology about the interplay between the female body and mythology, that this question doesn’t require a lot of specific framing. But I do want to know what writings, what drawings, and even what workings spring to life for you when you put brush or pen to draw the goddess form.

I would say that my interest isn’t just in the female body, but in woman as a whole. The female body is present in my work both as form itself and as a representation of the female psyche. I’m very interested in the idea of a world primarily inhabited by woman, a world of flesh but spiritual to the same extent – a world in which the old goddesses and their spiritual allies presides over all that happens. It’s definitely an exercise, to imagine a completely different place than the one we currently live in. This perspective comes from many years of interest not only in works made by women, but anything dealing with the subject of women as a source of power and magic.

There are, of course, many writers and artists that come to mind as references to me in this regard. My reading list on the subject includes classics of feminist literature such as The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, books by Brazilian authors such as Hilda Hilst, the works of scholars such as Marija Gimbutas and of course, Clarissa P. Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves. More recently I became a big fan of Whitney Chadwick, who wrote extensively about the women artists from the surrealist movement, as of Penelope Rosemont and her anthology Surrealist Women. Another influential book for me is Women as Mythmakers, by Estella Lauter. Dealing more closely with the subject of the body, there’s the excellent The Wise Wound, by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove. On the occult side of things, Dion Fortune is an absolute favorite. More than her occultist oeuvre, I enjoy her fiction and her very interesting female characters. When it comes to visual arts, there are two artists who I consider the most influential to my own work: Cameron and Leonor Fini. Both depict women as magical, powerful and mysterious beings, the female being often at the center of every action. That is something I try to convey in my own pieces.

A simpler one perhaps (or perhaps not), but how does the juxtaposition of the vibrancy and tumult of Brazil influence your work? Be it from an anthropological, cultural, ancestral, or quite simply unavoidable standpoint, do you find nuances of your country ever sneak in to your output?

It’s not easy to define how much of my own cultural background as a Brazilian informs my work, particularly because my preferred themes and style have little (if nothing) to do with the Brazilian tradition in arts. But I can definitely say that my inclinations towards line drawing is a direct consequence from the contact I had with a considerably large array of books illustrated during the 60’s and 70’s in Brazil. A more recent influence is outsider/surrealist artist Darcílio Lima, whose intricate line work I consider to be unparalleled. My work is very personal, so the tumult and recent social unrest that’s been going on recently in Brazil doesn’t seem to affect my artistic output. At least not in an obvious way.

Continuing the cultural train of thought, you have an exhibition coming up in New York, but I was a little unclear as to whether or not you will actually be there. Have you had an exhibition outside of Brazil before?

The majority of the exhibitions I had the pleasure to participate happened outside Brazil, unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend any of them yet. I hope that will change in the near future.

Let us go deeper into the work itself, I want to talk to you about sigillic emblems featured in your art. The wispy, serpentine shapes feature in your pieces often, sometimes in the foreground, and sometimes nestled, and hidden in the back. Can you talk about the importance of incorporating a sigil in your work?

One can notice that many times those sigils come out of the mouths of the characters; I like to think of them as “exhalations of intention“. It’s almost as a particular language, but this is not something that is thought a priori. It just surfaces together with the pieces. Sometimes the sigils are mixed with asemic writing. It’s a form of communication that originates in the unconscious and emerges to the outside world taking a visible form.

The sigils and sigil-like lines in my work are drawn in a very instinctive manner; I rather let chance dictate their making than to rationalize it.


This October, Lupe’s work will be available for viewing at the Cactus Gallery in LA from October 13 – November 3rd. For more info visit www.cactusgalleryla.com

This is the 3rd installment of our visual artists series ARS MORIENDI. Catch up with past interviews from Finland’s Veera Kaamos Pitkänen and Mexico’s Cold Poison.

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Ars Moriendi: COLD POISON goes beyond aesthetics and explains the artistic process of synesthesia

Several years ago, Mexico’s Cold Poison appeared out of nowhere from deep within the shadows. An unnamed artist with a style beyond many of his contemporaries was first noticed for his impeccable etching “The Devil’s Arch”. It was through this uncommon medium that he first caught the attention of our collective. His work is an intersection of twisted medieval woodcut, harrowing stippling, chthonic yantra, and Illuminated black metal manuscript. At once stunning in beauty and deviously enchanting, his pieces have adorned album covers for some of modern black and death metal’s greatest: Ofermod, Vassafor, Devouring Star, Auroch, Shaarimoth, and so many more.

For one of the first times, the man behind the work speaks of his process, inspiration, and the inextricable link between art and spirit, and Covenant ‘Zine was there to listen in the 2nd installment of Ars Moriendi. Sit back and enjoy this profound discussion!

“Art” is such a nebulous term. We throw it around almost daily to describe a seemingly endless range of things. No two people seem to have the same definition, and we are curious to know yours. Give us the COLD POISON theories on art?

I think that by definition, art is something that requires skill to be created, that is literally what art meant in the origin of its conception or the ars-tecnique.

Actually, there’s no universal established definition of what the term Art could be and I am very thankful for that; there’s certainly several interpretations and limitations when one tries to fit such a complex term in a box.

For me at least, art is a way of creating knowledge. It goes beyond the aesthetics (which is one very superficial way of experiencing art) and systematically tries to bond ourselves with something beyond our physical limitations. We already know that what we call “reality” is merely an illusion transmitted to us by our brains. We are experiencing a very limited spectrum of what we are and what we can be. I think this is one of the major flaws of thinking by scientific means only. There’s much more that can’t be explained or measured by science and probably never will.

Insane Vesper

I think art is in some way a tool for expanding our perception and thus creating new information through the experience of art itself. People often like to romanticize what art is. They like to say  that “art is universal” or that “art makes them feel something”, and I truly disagree. If I wanted to “feel good” I would much rather watch a movie by Bergman or read a book by Plath (which in their own terms can also be classified as art, but this is a topic of discussion for other day). It is possible that art is our closest and most accessible way of experiencing divine illumination. We cannot see or experience what the artist wanted to “say” but we can try to decode and interpolate what we want into a piece of art. That should ideally create a new mind setting. A spark of light into our mind. A glimpse into what lies beyond the human perception. And that for me is probably the meaning of art.

Your work appears directly at the intersection of spirit and aesthetic. Artists of all sorts pay lip service to this concept, but COLD POISON seems to live and breathe it. How do the two concepts weave together in your mind?

Ofermod

This relates a lot with my past answer, but I think I can elaborate on the topic a bit. I think that most of the time I try to achieve a piece that is right in the middle of both and that is probably not what every artist would want (take abstract expressionism as an example). I tend to go -in semiotic terminology- for an iconic approach that gives meaning by linking indexical signs within the piece.

I honestly don’t think that my work often hits the spot while trying to achieve this, there’s a few examples of my work (which I would not like to enter in details) where genuinely the client asked me to “throw some sigils there” just to make it look “cool and occult” (?) and I found those experiences both disappointing and frustrating.

Ekstrophe compilation

Most of the time I throw some personal interpretations into what the client asked me because I think of myself as a filter for their thoughts…not that I decide what I like or not, but more like a sorter of concepts that can make sense into a visual piece. I honestly don’t know how do I sort this in my mind, it just works and I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself how the hell all of this makes sense in a final piece. Maybe is just intuition or some kind of sensible skill.

Most would know you as an artist working within the black/death metal paradigm. Can you choose one of your personal favorite pieces from your body of work and tell us about what went into conceptualizing and creating it?

This is a very hard question to be honest, I think I should have [to clearly define the term] “favorite”,  but to name a few that come to mind in a hearbeat are: Fides Inversa – Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans, Auroch – Mute Books and Shaarimoth – Temple of the Adversarial Fire.

Auroch

All of them were very ambitious projects that took months to materialize, the first two feature different cover artwork and aesthetics for each format. Most of the illustrations are ink work which is probably one of if not my favourite mediums to work with. I like to also think that I can call myself friends with Shawn and Seb from Auroch, G. from Fides Inversa and R. from Shaarimoth. It all seems to work flawlessly when I am given total freedom into what I do. I really like to establish a link between the band members and me, and if we can achieve a friendship out of that it just makes it all much more fulfilling.

Take us through your creative process if you can. Where does your inspiration come from?

It would be easier to ask me where does it NOT come from. I actually find inspiration in almost everything: authors like Goethe, Juan Rulfo, Michael Ende, Camus, Woolf, Alan Moore and some other stuff like Marvel Comics, videogames, popular culture, anime.

Occultus

I truly think I mostly find inspiration in what we call “classical” art, but recently I’ve been very interested in the works of Willem de Kooning, Robert Crumb’s hatred and sexual predatorism, Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic and almost nonsensical imagery, Ingmar Bergman’s flawless photography,  Albrecht Durer mesmerizing engravings, Rothko’s psychedelic explorations, Ann Raindhart’s discipline, and many, many more. I like the idea that my brain is becoming an ugly amalgam of references, images, and artists.

Cynabare Urne

There’s just too much to be inspired by and I found myself surprised when I realized I was projecting my own experiences into my work. That is a new one for me.

When a band or artist approaches you for your services how do you then turn audio in visuals?

Before even approaching the lyrics and concepts behind an album, I like to listen to the audio. There’s some kind of mental activity that allows me to imagine a visual setting after hearing the music…I think it’s called synesthesia; and while I can’t “see” colors I can very clearly imagine what music can look like.

Vassafor

I am an artist who doesn’t really sketch to be honest. 90% of my works are straightforward drawings I started without any kind of preparation beyond a mental idea of how to develop the piece. I kind of like this, but sometimes when the pieces are rejected is a bit of a waste of time and effort and becomes a bit frustrating.

In connecting yourself to your art, you’ve always seemed to take great enjoyment in making it, rather than just going through a process. What pieces were specifically the most meditative- in the sense of being SATISFYING to the spirit and intellect- to create, and which pieces were the most satisfying to the senses- as in “entertaining”- to create?

The Devil’s Arch

As probably expected, “The Devil’s Arch” was one of the pieces I very much enjoyed in both ways, but of course pieces like Occultus “Nuctemeron” cover artwork and layout, Mitochondrion “Through Cosmic Gaze” cover artwork, the recently released Ekstrophe compilation, Vassafor “Maledicition” cover artwork …

All of them proved to be challenging in terms of execution, but also the result was quite satisfying to me. [So much so,] that I come back to them often to see what I am capable of and what I still need to achieve personally. Going through my files since 2008 and realizing I’ve been doing for this for 10 years has showed me a lot of progress, and a lot more mistakes and goals to achieve as an artist and as a spiritual person as well. The past is alive and is still pretty much paving the way for what is yet to come. I am honestly very excited to see what comes next and truly anxious to show the world the latest works I’ve been working on for the past months.

Mitochondrion

Cold Poison/Antithesis has been providing transcendental artwork for the Covenant circle for years. It is a partnership that extends beyond artwork and music. We are honoured to present this interview!

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Ars Moriendi: VEERA KAAMOS PITKÄNEN speaks on allegory, Lucifer, and artistic isolation

It is a great pleasure for us to have Veera Kaamos Pitkänen as our first artist working in the visual medium featured on the new Covenant Magazine. With her first German exhibition impending, and the recently released masterwork accompanying the Finnish language version of Johannes Nefastos’ book Argarizim, published by Viides Askel, still fresh in the minds of many, we are catching Veera when the flame of inspiration is burning brightest. Sit back, and relish her truly elucidating answers in the first edition of our series of artist interviews: Ars Moriendi.

Veera, you and another Finnish artist, Noora Ylipieti, have an exhibition opening next month in Berlin. ALLEGORIE seems like it is going to draw on themes that would have been important to create together. Is the work you’re going to display something that was made in collaboration, or will you two be showcasing pieces that share common themes but were created separately?

Noora and I communicate quite a lot, so in this way our creative processes are certainly entwined, and the lines between what is “hers” and “mine” do at times become blurred. We have been working within similar thematic fields for this exhibition, each coming from our own angle. As the artistic process is always an intimate and sensitive thing, we do not share a working space.

This becomes interesting in that our medium and working methods are opposite. Noora paints mainly on acrylics, so her reaction times are a lot shorter than mine. The process for her is more “bodily”; she paints many layers and her work goes through visible changes which she often shows me prior to being finished.

This contrasts to my own working method – paper collage – which is incredibly slow and isolated. It obsesses over detail. I spend a huge amount of time reading, in contemplation and research about the tiniest of meanings, shades of colour, symbols and the rest is somehow ‘knowing’ what to do. I never show a work in progress to anyone, nor speak about it prior to letting go of it. I can’t. It’s too personal. My work seeks the spirit which has become obsolete in our times. This search is present in everything I do.

Lately this has gone more and more in depth to the study of Renaissance art and its particular symbolism, which I use as a basis in many of my later works.

I could loosely summarise that Noora’s work is humorous and wild; it uses fresh and crazy colours, whereas mine naturally takes on sombre, serious moods and earthly, Saturnine tones. But perhaps that is a testament to our temperaments. In this way I’m more introverted. For some reason they work together, perhaps as we both use a fair amount of intuition.

Because of this deeply personal attachment to your work do you ever feel that your work is only for personal digestion, and actually not meant for sharing at all? Do you ever find difficulty with the concept of sharing in a gallery space?

Perhaps if people were to see only the artist when they look at a work of art, I might find the idea of exhibiting my work unpleasant, as I’m a fairly private person. Art is – or should be – like a mirror. A good work of art reflects back our own experiences and innermost thoughts, finds our secrets, gently takes us captive. A work of art must be able to stand on its own, this is what I always hope for. In truth, I find the concept of pushing my ideas onto the audience quite invasive. I would rather they form their own thoughts and opinions of matters. This is infinitely more interesting for the concept of the artwork; the more it becomes read in varying ways, the unfolding of it. If I was worried about being misunderstood, then perhaps I would give explanations. But my work is not about me; the aims of it are higher and more profound than that.

I think the meanings behind my work – the process and what I take from it on a spiritual level – are meant for me alone, as is the case for all things of that nature. I do not usually share the innermost, subjective meanings because the paths which are necessary for my development as a professional and an individual may not be identical to those of others. I hope that my work encourages the audience to contemplate.

I usually publish my pieces on my website, unless I’m working towards an exhibition – as is the case now – and thus choose to keep the lid on things until the opening day. But regardless of the platform I choose to exhibit my work in, I do think it will still keep the intimacy of my thoughts and processes.
There is of course then the fact that certain things are just a part of my chosen profession as an artist; there are many unromantic sides to it.

I’d like to talk a little about your process for the Finnish language reissue of the Star Of Azazel’s esoteric text Argarizim. Because the complexity of the Dantean allegories in the writing of the book, there must have been a large wellspring to draw inspiration from. Did you look to Dante for inspiration there, or did you pull more directly from Nefastos’ writing?

I’m quite fond of Italian poets, and in this Dante is no exception. For the illustrations of Argarizim I re-read the Inferno in order to inspect its structures and moods, so certainly Dante was very present throughout the process. Particularly striking to me has always been the beginning of the text, wherein the narrator suddenly becomes lost in the dark wood, facing beasts he can not evade. These apparitions made their way to my illustration “Mirage”, which bears certain reminiscence of myself and Nefastos.

I was fortunate enough to be in close contact with Johannes during the entire illustration period. This was no small task, as it took around eight months. At that time I was living in Sweden, so we kept in contact via letters. Looking at it now that feels quite correct – that it was such a challenging and time consuming project. After all, one can’t rightly express hells too easily!

A very clear difference between Dante’s hell and my own is the population. Dante’s is full of people and acts as a warning. My own is a vast, dead space with no one but yourself. This is the loneliness of Lucifer, bound in darkness. I made the illustrations rather large, which makes them open up quite differently when seen as originals. Good for the artworks but for printing, a real challenge. The folk at Viides Askel did a really good job though.

The distinction between your underworld and Dante’s is interesting. Is the dilemma of Lucifer a primary source of inspiration to you in other work? (Perhaps you just relate to being stuck alone in a cold place! Hahaha)

Mythologies, symbols and esotericism found the stone upon which I build all of my work. I work with archetypes on a large scale, rather than with just one. Lucifer was an important figure in the Argarizim period, but there is always a kind of evolution to one’s work. I have periods of working with one core thought intensely, and then it begins to change and morph into something new. So you could perhaps say that the face of Lucifer has undergone a change. For example, I consider Venus as a representative of the same energetic ideal. This has lead me to consider colours differently, more closely related to the way they were thought of in the era that gave rise to the western high painting medium.

It is true that I am attracted to the myths wherein there is – in my opinion – a seeming misinterpretation, or figure of a scapegoat. There’s usually so many layers in these stories that contemplating them may be good for my creative work, but admittedly also on a personal level. Usually, a kind of impossibility persists in these; that there is no way of knowing for sure. I find this grey area, this mystery, to be very fascinating. To seek always that contact point between the known and the unknown, between our world and the next. That point then adopts a symbol via which I represent it. Sometimes these are existing concepts, other times, personal interpretations which come from contemplation, reading or dreams.

As the ideas in my work evolve, so too do my working methods. I used to work with drawing and painting, but for the past few years collage has become my main medium, even if I’m still mostly recognised for my drawing. I still hold true to the same ideals regardless of my medium; if I can not create an artwork by hand, I will not make it at all. Digital manipulation is just not my thing. Of course in our day, this puts quite a hard limit one oneself, so there’s difficult technical restrictions which could be quite easily overcome were I to use a computer in my work. But I don’t want that, it’s the challenge which forces one to think and solve. This leads to growth, evolution and understanding.

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Veera Kaamos Pitkänen & Noora Ylipieti: “Allegorie” 
June 5-23,2018 @Galerie Pleiku, Berlin, Germany.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12:00-18:00. 
Exhibition opening on 5th of June 18:00-21:00.
Welcome!
 
The artists will be present at the gallery for the duration of the exhibition.

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