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Ray Ceasar

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Amsterdam Enjoy is lucky to be able to ask the master artist some questions. Here follows the complete version of the interview by Kamiel Proost:

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There is always something Scary, something Eerie in your Beautiful Worlds. I once heard a Japanese Artist say: 'Beauty is fear' How do you see this..??

Things are often more complex than they seem and this is true of life. We have all experienced those kinds of times or we will. There are many kinds of beauty and to indulge in it too much can be perilous. It would behoove us not to have a sensible amount of fear of beauty. My work has a story that unfolds and some parts of that story are disturbing. I try to be kind to the viewer and when I present this disturbing part of the story and I am trying to be kind to the disturbing memory itself ...as if it has a life of its own. I want to wrap it up in something beautiful like any mother does....this is a way of being kind and gentle and caring. It's also a trap for prey and above all things .... my girls are hunters.

You often speak of 'Nostalgic Hunger'. Longing for the Past.? Unsatisfied with Modern Fashion...?

My love of the past and my own sense of nostalgia take nothing away from the present or the future. I am excited to live in this time and love the energy of freedom in creativity that we are living through. I also am one of those rare people who see a great future for the human species and a great hope for things to come. I have a belief that the more we are aware of all the challenges and struggles that face us the more we will stand up to them and find interesting and creative solutions to overcome them or live with them. Its true I love the past and as an artist I have to honor what has been built in the past and what we now call "modern Fashion" has its deep roots in the building blocks of the worlds that came before us. When I look at modern fashion I see the past as I work at building my knowledge of what has come before.

Van Gogh was convinced that People could be Cured by looking at his Paintings. Would you be surprised if someone gets Sick from looking at your Work..?

Ray_1232503922There is a sickness in what I do, I will not deny it...I have witnessed so much of it that it's impossible for me to create without accepting that some level of tainted essence seeps deep in my soul. I worked for 17 years in a children's hospital and it could make many sick at what I saw ...but it was also a place of shining bright healing and Hope that could cure the worst in all of us.

By witnessing and enduring such things we overcome them...we stand up from them and wash ourselves in the kindness and beauty and love and hope that is also a part of life. I also think that kind of acceptance of what is in me can also cure ... I had a very difficult past as a child and might even say a horrific past and when I "suggest" a pain or hurt in my work I find many people respond to that truth in a way that lightens their own heaviness in this world. I try to show pain and hurt in such a way that it doesn't need to be hidden and yet doesn't need to be a burden either. I try to show it as something to wear ...like a ribbon of hope or disfigurement that is accepted as beauty simply because there is nothing ugly about such things at all if we see in the right way. I have received many responses from victims of abuse that recognize the subtle signals and healing in the images I create. In my world the occupants are calm and have no fear and are masters of the worlds I create for them. In my worlds Man and Nature can do no more harm and my heroines are free to hunt back all the things taken from them.

You talk about Hunting for an Image or a Feeling. Do you see making art as a Hunt, and is the Artwork, once finished, the Looth...?

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I see my family of "souls" as Hunters ...hunting back the innocence of what was denied them in life and in that way all my work is a kind of self portrait or therapy. We all have a right to hunt for what was taken from us in life and the hunt is a deep connection to what I do. My life is a hunt for light ..for salvation and I might even dare to say "happiness". I know images are elusive in their own way and in some ways they act like prey and they are not going to make it easy for me as I have to sift through my past and make sense of a kind of madness..I might even say it's like finding a pearl in a layer of filth. I work in a very intuitive way .. I make no decisions and feel my way in the dark for clues to a mystery and its only after finishing a piece that I am allowed to see a meaning ..and the meaning is always there and that astounds me as at times I can't quite understand where it came from. It's as if the piece always existed. Sometimes I have dreams of entire hospital wards of children waiting in line for me to tell their stories and make little beautiful worlds for their stories to live.

In India they recently experienced a mayor fall-out leaving 680 million People without Electricity. What would Ray Caesar be without electricity..?

What would any current filmmaker be without electricity? ...They would be a Story Teller! My pictures are stories of my life and as far as electricity goes or the lack of it I probably wouldn't even notice. I was born in 1958 and computers were not part of my life and electricity wasn't that big a part of my childhood either..I grew up in a old Victorian row house that still had gas lines and gas radiators and gas hot water tanks. I love working in any medium and to me my medium is not digital but "ink on paper" ..it has very little to do with the tool at all. The computer is one of many tools I use because the tool is there. My paint, ...my medium, is also my mind! and the places my mind takes me. I draw, I paint, I sculpt and most importantly I daydream...I daydream like the devil as I have something called dissociative identity disorder and I am often in dissociative fugues. I have a problem of getting lost in deep daydream to a point I have a hard time remember the time that has past. I have been going to therapy for this for many years and although it's a wonderful part of who I am it can also be a horrific part of who I am....I don't think many people would like to live in my daydreams but they are a place I can find what I need to make my work ..because my daydreams are who and what I am. They are part of me.

You worked for 17 years at a the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, what was your Job there, and how did that experience influence your Art..??

I worked in a photographic and art department that documented child abuse, surgical reconstruction and animal research. back in those days everything had to be documented and printed and archived. It is a massive hospital and almost like a small city and I would often do things like creating board games for researchers to use on brain damaged children. Animations for the cryogenic removal of tumors. Massive wall sized graphic flow diagrams of equipment that surrounded premature infants as a teaching guide for nurses of the ward. I often had to handle sensitive material for suspected abuse and even murder or wrongful death cases used in court situations. We photographically documented anything suspicious. Some of these things were horrific but the worst for me was creating graphics of tests done on research animals ... I would cry tears of shame of what our species does to animals in the war against disease. In many ways I hated that job but something kept me at that hospital for close to two decades and it was from that place my work began to unfold in my mind...It was a place I had to witness and it put my own difficult childhood into perspective. I coped by making pictures as I often couldn't get images of that place or my own past out of my mind. It was as if the memories of those images were too heavy so I put the images on paper and canvas and that gave my mind a rest so I could continue. This is what I did as a child ..I dissociated painful thought into a picture. Pictures still do that for me and I will be forever in their debt so I devote my life to making them.

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I see Girls, Girls, Girls and sometimes a Tortured Man. Please explain...?

They are not all girls under those pretty dresses...and the man being tortured is guilty of that particular punishment and he represents Man and Nature and even a dissociated part of myself...the crime I did by cutting myself into dissociated pieces. The man is also part of each one of us that make this world a hell rather than a heaven...the masculine Brute in us all whether we are male or female. All my figures are anatomically correct under their dresses and some are female and some are male and some are "ambiguous" or "hermaphrodite" ...like angels! My family of entities are feminine as that's the way I see the important part of the human soul...my figures are "souls, spirits ...Ghosts!" My "girls" are the archetypes of the divine gentle kind child in each and every one of us...this is the part of myself I hid and protected in my past as it was being eaten alive. The part of me I dissociated so it could live and survive. In my work I am interested in the feminine qualities of life ...the courage and kindness love and empathy that the female of the species brings to the human psyche which are the tools of nurturing needed for birth and care. I once saw a mother Moose protecting its young from an aggressive Bison ..it attacked the larger stronger animal and fought with only the reason to help its injured child ...it didn't fight for power or dominance or glory......IT fought for the survival of its young and I admire that. It's a motherly quality, a feminine quality. After it fought off the larger animal it stayed with the injured child and nurtured it. I look at men in this world and their immature need for war and power and anything that strokes their ego or satiates their deep fear! and I find I am not interested in that!...I am not interested in their childish delight in fulfilling their selfish desires. I have had my fill of that. I do not want to become the thing I had to endure.... a bigger monster than the monsters that preyed on me or the children in that hospital. I cannot help having this life ...so the best place for me to deal with it is in therapy and in the wonderful world of making Art. Art and creativity is my savior as it creates a story and sense out of the magic that is life.

RC_1276475260I feel Loneliness and Decadence..??

Loneliness and decadence are wonderful ingredients but they are not the only ingredients in my work .. but they are two you have chosen to notice. Its often said art is like a mirror to the viewer and I often think a funny person sees the humor and a kind person sees the kindness. I use loneliness, decadence, humor, horror, kindness, calm, sweetness, erotism, tainted taboo, pain, pleasure and a few ingredients so strange I don't even have names for them. The ingredients of loneliness and decadence have a wonderful flavor and are essential to any good "Opera" or story of loss and passion...think Tosca .. E Lucevan Le Stelle or the music of Eric Satie. Feelings are like ingredients to me and the way those two ingredients are mixed can create melancholy and calm and a pathway to a kind of unusual peace or contemplative acceptance. I try to mix moods and feelings in a "hunt" for something rare as thats the nature of what I am trying to do. like perfume, some of the ingredients are quite horrific and our sense of smell only subconsciously picks out the excrement and decay that is a tiny ingredient in any good perfume. I cannot please everyone. All I can do is please myself...and in doing that I can only hope that others share in what pleases me.

You have been working with the 3D program Maya. How did that influence your vision of our Reality..? Does it sometimes make you think: God must have a 13D program, called Maya too, and is Creating us like that?

I am sure She does! I think we all create our own reality and we attract the things we focus on in life. Ha! I think Maya evolved because I needed a tool to tell what I was creating in my own mind and low and behold there was a virtual reality tool to let people like me tell stories in virtual rooms and hidden magic places. I have seen this law of attraction work over and over again in my life...it Exists. I do think life itself is a collective consciousness and that humanity is in some way a part of something much larger than individuals. The theory of morphic fields by Rupert Sheldrake moves towards this possibility of a collective super conscious and this is one of the hidden themes in my work. The fractal nature of patterns we see in blood vessels and trees and the macro universe itself is so similar to working in Maya ..also using fractal patterns and forms of dynamics. Even the theory that our very consciousness and brain and memory is thought to be somehow three dimensionally holographic in nature. Maya is a little universe in a bigger universe and they now tell us our universe may be a little universe in a much larger multi-universe and even existing among infinite parallel universes of infinite probability. If a God made all this then I am sure this is what "She" intended and I am sure She is laughing kindly at her very funny joke :-).

Is it true? Will you attend the opening in KochxBos Gallery on December 15th?

Nothing would please me more as I have such beautiful memories of Amsterdam. Unfortunately I have a small old wolf ..a coyote who is 14 years old and very very nervous and fragile and can hardly walk. Coyotes are not like dogs and seem to have a constant anxiety so its impossible for me to leave him with others right now ... if I do he has nosebleeds and spends the entire time hiding in a dark place shivering. I love him very much and care for him in his final years and this takes precedence over my work. I think Hans and Esther are setting up a Skype connection so that would be a first for me and makes sense for me to be there in a digital way as that's my home. ..It will be interesting to see how that works.

What is it that draws you back to Amsterdam..?

Hans and Esther are wonderful to work with. I am very particular on which galleries I develop and keep relationships with and they are truly full of good energy. I love showing in places that have a rich history of the kind of art that inspires me and when I look about my room I see rows of books on Dutch art.

About 20 years ago you visited Amsterdam, was that interesting or inspiring to you and what did you think of the cozy big village...?

I could live in Amsterdam very easily ...it is a livable city and dynamic and kind and full of positive energy and a underlying harmony. One can feel the empathy in Amsterdam in its freedoms and understanding. Its a modern place that sits well with the past and to me that's a very mature environment. I love the history and current excitement of creation that is prevalent in such a city and it's so important for me to show my work in a place that is steeped in artistic achievement that in many ways is the foundation of the kind of work I make. I hope to visit again very soon but for my old dogs sake I hope it is not too soon.

Interview by Kamiel Proost


The English born artist Ray Caesar has grown explosively into a phenomenon. The demand for his work, which is exhibited worldwide, is overwhelming. He can be seen as one of the front runners of Digital Art. His subtle colours and surreal scenes are a mix of Romanticism, 1950's Nostalgia and a future decadence. Flying Girls in ballroom dresses have light emerging from their octopus legs. Tattooed Babies smoke pipes on old fashioned beach boulevards. Princesses with three fingers kiss with cats, and bleeding poodles with glass feet pose in turquoise rooms.

www.raycaesar.com

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