INTERVIEW WITH EEWAN Eewan grew up on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia. He has avoided the all too common path of drugs and crime that befalls many of his fellow generation. He instead focuses his energy on illustrations full of sarcasm, irony and social criticism His style is already widely recognized not only through the social networks but has toured galleries in Europe. We discovered his work two years ago and since then Eewan is a fully fledged member of The Grifters artist collective. Together with the rest of the collective, Eewan took part in the iconic book ‘GRAFFITI WITHOUT GRAFFITI‘. Today, The Grifters Publishing is releasing Eewan’s first monograph; ‘DOUBLE FANTASY’. The book reveals the illustrators controversial musings on graffiti and its lifestyle The unique humoristic prism that Eewan uses in his work makes the stories interesting, not only for people of a graffiti background, but for those who are not. Eewan humbly warns us that you can either take him seriously, or think that all that he shows you is a joke. But by seeing through his thinly veiled irony with a sense of humor, a touch of sarcasm and a little bit of self-depreciation, his work may just have been created for you. We sat with Eewan in Berlin last month to talk about this project and how he sees himself in his microcosm. Buy DOUBLE FANTASY by EEWAN Please introduce yourself for the people who don’t know you and what you do. Hello, I am Eewan, member of The Grifters collective, an artist and illustrator from Russia, born and raised in suburbs of Moscow. I like to create and portray strange characters in strange situations and places. How did your career as an illustrator start? As far back as I can remember, I always drew. Everyone should be familiar with that student in the classroom who sat at the back of the room, always doodling – That was me! I do not know whether this affected the work I produce today, but I was always interested in painting. The real breakthrough for me was the transition of my drawing to the digital dimension. I liked the opportunity to let my art be a reflection of the people who see it. When I was 14 I could use this technique in graffiti, but then realized that I could make use of the access to a wider audience through the Internet. Sometimes I think that I do not like drawing itself, but the act of displaying the drawings and seeing your reflections in them. Is it true that you draw your illustrations naked on your iPad? Yes, it’s true, and it is the most interesting feature of my work. Usually, I only use Adobe Illustrator for illustrations in which there is a lot of text, such as posters, to align the letters which I have drawn on the iPad. But what I really hate are lines that are too straight. Drawing on the iPad was a great development for me, and no matter about the convenience and practicality, I just love how it looks, and it looks amazing! I think it’s a natural progression, I mean the transition from drawing on the personal computer to other devices, the use of different programs and ways to create digital graphics. Look, artists can use pencils, paint, pastels, spray, acrylic, gypsum, water color, a lot of different techniques and methods of application. But Digital Graphics are not a subgenre; they are an independent thing. While it still needs to be developed, I think we are on the verge of great changes. And I want to plunge into these. What do you like to draw and what inspires you? This question is difficult, because I take inspiration from everything: music, people, strange situations, boring situations, the print on your grandfather’s t-shirt or an article on my Facebook feed. I think the modern artist should be able to portray not only the inspiring situation, but also be able to manipulate the situation so that it appears unusual and interesting. The more difficult and complex side of this process is being able to retain meaning. This is what I call Double Fantasy. But more on that later. Are you an artist? I am an artist. But this is only a way to describe me and what I do. I do not like labels, the time will come, and maybe I’ll make sculptures or design websites, maybe I’ll get into making medicine or maybe I’ll get into making drugs. If the artist can be considered as such a broad term, then yes, I am an artist. In your drawings we see a lot of irony and sarcasm. Both concerning the problems of the broader society and the ones concerning members of the graffiti culture. Have you experienced the situations that you draw? In my opinion – irony and sarcasm are the only tools for awakening the active response to your art at the current time. Nowadays there are only two kinds of art, an art that is understandable only to the author and art that is clear to everyone, I want to stick my work into the middle. Sarcasm and irony help me in this. I can take inspiration from everywhere and I believe it doesn’t matter if someone has experienced the problems or situations to be able to depict them, but to have to have such a large interest in drawing them, I must have encountered a few. Graffiti culture was the first thing that gave and continues to give me inspiration for action. Now my method is vector graphics, and I keep my favorite aspects from graffiti writing with me as I carry on with my new direction. On some of your illustrations we can notice that you are dissociating yourself from the people of the same age around you. Why? In fact, I tend to make fun of the problems that people my age have with my illustrations. This does not mean that I do not make fun of myself. I love to laugh at me. Look at yourself and you will understand that you are always funnier than the people around you. Is there a moral, that you try to teach with your drawings? Art is not a teacher. My art is only a way to see yourself from the outside. To see yourself from the outside? Yes, people’s reactions to what I’m drawing reflects what they are inside, their thoughts. How do you occupy your free time? In my free time, I search for ways to turn it into a busy time. What makes you laugh? I laugh when I see how graffiti artists act when they are painting on trains. They arrive, check the spot, check inside the train, make an intelligent face and begin to draw on the panel. In the end, the cops get out of another train and arrest them. All the while the Police were waiting inside another train collecting evidence. It’s funny, because graffiti artists do not realize that their even with their caution, the police are always able to catch them when it suits them. We should not deceive ourselves. I laugh when my friend tells me how many girls he fucked while his girlfriend was away. I laugh even more when she then tells me how she had sex with a guy she just met, after 10 shots of vodka on vacation. This is absolutely surreal – we always talk about the purity of love, strength and the importance of family relationships. But we are real animals. I laugh when I see homophobia, sexism and gender/nationalist stereotypes. I remember talking to one girl at a party, she was in a Keith Haring t-shirt. After I told her he was gay, and the cause of his death was due to AIDS, I have not seen her wear this shirt again. It was if she thought to herself “How could someone draw all of these cute creatures if they were gay?” Stereotypes and prejudices, when we begin to laugh at them, they disappear. Sometimes I laugh at quite horrific things, maybe it is due to where I live. Russia is the home of black humor. This is important, as often black humor is much more truthful than the rest, sarcasm and irony included. What disturbs you about the world? When something bothers me I try to laugh about it. But there are things in which I can not laugh about, for example the politics and policies of my country. I get mad when I hear about the plans to shut off Russia from the global Internet, or when I know that I have to be fingerprinted for a visit to an exhibition in Germany. What is the future of an illustrator in Russia? There is no profession, “illustrator”. You can still be an illustrator but most likely you will earn money as a mechanic, an extortionist, a police officer or a drug dealer. But regardless, there are a lot of really good guys who draw a lot and make really good things, but for them it is only a hobby, not a profession. In a sense it is not only illustrators, it is also designers, architects, musicians, movie directors, the people that have a talent but haven’t the means to realize it. I’m not saying this about all people, but most. In my opinion, talent does not depend on the place where you were born. If talent does not depend on the place you live, then why doesn’t ‘Illustrator’ exist as a profession in Russia? The talent does not depend on the place you live, but its development does. For Russians, an illustrator is someone who makes boring things. I like that in Europe you can not only be an “illustrator,” but also an artist. I like European people and how they think about their work. People have the courage and passion and they dedicate a huge part of life to their work. They want to succeed. The Russian people are successful only to the point in where they are able to pay off the loan for their apartment and a car. Then they do not need success, only to buy food to feed their children, who will continue the same life. It is sad that this is considered success in Russia. I guess that’s life in an incubator. How do you see your future in Russia? How does being there shape your perspective? In the beginning I will go join the army. After that, I’ll buy a car and an apartment on credit that I will be paying off for the next thirty years. I’ll get a job, get married, bring up several children, become an alcoholic, then die. You told us earlier that your dream is to move to Europe. Why? For a start, it’s not a dream, it’s a goal, and it will be achieved. My decision to move is quite existential but I’m sure that is possible. It needs to happy, if only to prevent the future I see for myself in Russia. I’m 18, I’m full of energy, curiosity and interest in what I’m doing. Why am I still here? What are your ambitions and plans for the future? My most important point is the move to Europe. I also started working with animation as it really is something that fascinates me. Sometimes it is difficult because in Russia this field is not as developed, so I can’t take advice or ask someone for help. Perhaps in Europe it will be a little easier, but in any case I want to learn a lot, create projects, and develop my skills in the digital field. Why not to be the FIRST Russian illustrator? Don’t you want to change how illustrators are perceived in Russia? I do not want to change anything in a country where the government spends on the 50% of my taxes on the military industry. In comparison, they spend 1% of tax revenue on the development of art and only about 2% on healthcare. People are only born to be soldiers destined to live a life in an incubator. The state puts unrealistic conditions in place for small businesses, and in the rare case where a business becomes successful in Russia – the state takes it from you. If the Soviet people wanted to leave, they couldn’t. Now people have more freedom of movement, but do not travel because they appear to be brainwashed. Russian TV paints a picture of the world that everywhere lie enemies, European enemies, US enemies, we live in shit but still hope for a victory for over all of our “enemies.” I can not stand to hear it anymore. Tell us a bit about the project Double Fantasy? Double Fantasy is a magazine, the result of my illustrations dedicated to graffiti’s ecosystem. It is a compilation of works that depict various situations in where things are not as easy as they first appear. The feeling you get when you think that you have finally found the truth, however the truth is laughing at you from the other side of the room. While these illustrations are very controversial, there is both deep and superficial layers of humour. Even if you’re not interested in the topic of graffiti, I guarantee you will get pleasure from it. Stay tuned!