Berlin-based artist Viktor Timofeev pays attention to detail. To the minutest detail. His complex drawings portray another universe, a labyrinthine macrocosm. We met up with Timofeev to discuss his detailed works of art.
You started to draw after a skateboarding accident several years ago – was it a sort of therapy for you?
Yeah, I started taking drawing after developing plantar fasciitis in both of my heels, from a combination of skate-related repetitive stress and having extremely high arches in my feet. Back then, I wanted to keep hanging out with my friends, all of whom skated, so I would just come to spots and just doodle anything, buildings, skatespots, my friends. Now I see that was a kind of denial; the condition in my feet was diagnosed as chronic so I was basically looking for ways to hold onto my world without acknowledging to myself the major changes that were about to happen. The real therapy came when I jumped into studying art an architecture in school – it gave me a new world to tap into, to research and explore. A new obsession.
How has your work developed since then?
It feels like my work has simply been moving forward in a linear fashion, coming in waves of construction and reduction. It went from observing the world to inventing a parallel one that points back to the former, generating meaning that way. I was initially really drawn to architecture as a physical manifestation of ideology and now find myself studying the same behavior in the architecture of the virtual. Putting these two things together you get my last body of work.
Your drawings are incredibly intricate – do you start with a clear idea in mind as to how you want the final result to look?
I make a lot of loose compositional doodles and then slowly begin to brainstorm the finer vocabulary. In a funny way its like an architect handing off a sketch to his assistants who figure out how to make the thing stand, except I play all of the parts. And this process usually repeats itself many times while working on a piece – I need to see what something will look like before making the decision of whether it has earned its right for existence.
Your first solo exhibition LOCAL_AREA_NETWORK(s) refers to our globalized, modern world. You included images of Ikea furniture – was it a critique of the dull monotony in our world? Or was it more observational?
The LAN world was very much a cacophony of various systems and things – objects that one would find on street or on the net, mathematical truths, time-tested archetypes, past and present visions of the future. I used Ikea catalogue drawings because I saw them as an idealized version of Ikea products, themselves already cheap simulations. So it was just one ingredient in the mix, and I wouldn’t say that the works are a critique of a dull modernity… more like reflections on what it is like to live in the early 21st century. We all buy Ikea products even if we hate them, because they are cheap and we can afford them. We hate wasting time on the internet but are quick to get smart phones. But the point is that we keep accrueing, learning and leaving the old behind. I see this perseverance as a positive thing and generally see my work as pretty optimistic.
Talk us through your new exhibition, MONSTROcity.
MONSTROcity goes further along the fictional narrative that I started in LOCAL_AREA_NETWORK[s]. The city exists in the thirteenth sub-network on the master LAN, its geography relative-only. It is populated with all kinds of monstrosities, in every definition of the word. I invented my own monsters that roam around mutated archetypes and skewed geometries.
My vocabulary expanded in MONTROcity and I started working with a bunch of new ‘devices‘. A lot of the LAN[s] world was constructed out of modules such as garbage skips and worker housing containers for example. In MONSTROcity I began generating forms and then working with the same form throughout the work, repeating it, inverting it, distorting it, but referring back only to itself. The GMUAU, or Green Multi Purpose Adaptor Unit, is a good example of this. Formally, it is a fifth of a geodesic sphere (a ring of 5 hexagons). But it began to be a placeholder for me for things such as satellite dishes and solar power panels, objects which usually augment buildings. I use and experiment with the GMUAU throughout MONSTROcity, changing the skins, permutating them at various scales, etc.
The lucid grey skies of LAN[s] gave way to diversly stacked-pixel blue skies. I started working again with three point perspective, emphasizing the flatness of certain objects such as the hovering mazes in INFINITY FARMS. I started thinking about narrative by anthropomorphising abstract things and forcing interaction, such as the conflict happening in STRIDER, HOME. I was also able to loosen up a bit with my execution a bit, relying less on the straight line as a default. Everything hovers – gravity is conquered, irrationality embraced. I also began to introduce the idea of nested worlds, something I am really looking forward to working with in the future.
Your art is very fantastical – do you read / watch a lot of sci-fi?
I am generally drawn to hard SF because I like entering a world that has been entirely thought out, down to the heptagonal screws on the hinge of a teleportal for example. It doesn’t necessary have to make structural sense, but that is the power of invention. Those kinds of details are things that I love discovering in all kinds of work and is how I approach making my own world as well – there are always subtleties to be mined between the grid-lines. And in many ways, sci-fi is our contemporary day-to-day reality.
Have you read any good books recently? Does the literature you read help with your dreamlike worlds?
I just finished William Gibson’s Bridge trilogy in backwards order. The middle book, Idoru, is still is so relevant though written 15 years ago, and it definitely resonates in MONSTROcity. Lo Rez’s desire to marry the holographic Idoru for the sake of “futurity“ for example, demonstrates our collective desire to consume new technology, even at the expense of the human race. Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction In Architecture has been really good for me to re-read recently as well. He writes “a building with no imperfect part can have no perfect part, because contrast supports meaning. An artful discord gives vitality…“. I think this manifesto is particularly interesting because it pushes for a certain amount of play within closed parameters, parameters which have been obliterated in the last 2 decades by computation. In a way, everything is possible now, and the unresolved disputes about establishing new parameters probably accounts for so much of contemporary haphazard formalism. I guess reading Venturi instills some sense of nostalgia for me, for simpler, closed systems.
You’ve stated that you enjoy Jorinde Voigt’s work – which other artists do you admire?
Anton Zolotov, Patrick McElnea, Bryce Hackford.
What’s next in the pipeline?
I’ll just keep building.
Viktor’s current exhibition, MONSTROcity is currently showing at former glue factory, now chic art space the Hannah Barry Gallery in Peckham, London.