We run an online magazine, so of course, we’re interested in what’s happening with art on the web. Every other Wednesday online gallerist, founder, and curator of Digital Sweat Gallery, Christian Petersen, selects a Web Artist of the Week.
The German collage artist Sylvia Sonique is not a typical web or digital artist. In fact, her work is almost defiantly analogue, obsessively created with real physical and emotional commitment from decidedly non-digital ephemera. But like many young artists, her artistic reach and status have expanded mainly though her interactions within digital space. Her work is represented wholly digitally and reflects an aesthetic whose natural home today is largely on the internet.
Indeed, Sonique is part of a scene of web artists. The online dissemination of her work has lead to numerous collaborations with more “traditional” digital creators including glitch artists. It could be argued that her work is a direct, visual reaction to the increasingly generic, predictable and streamlined world created by the digital age. Sonique’s warped, visceral creations feel like a genuine statement of rebellion against the modern reluctance to showing real, uncut emotion and passion. Or in her own words, “I wanted to tell stories... uncomfortable, raw, real ones… always striving for the chaotic and the insane.”
Christian Petersen: Were you a creative child?
Sylvia Sonique: I’ve been creative since I was able to think. I was a very active and wild child—dreams and fantasies formed kind of colored fairytales in my mind. I always used to make something special out of nothing. I used to create and paint even with simple materials. From that point on I started to search for old and ordinary stuff on purpose.
CP: How did where you grew up influence your art?
SS: I grew up in a little city in Germany, surrounded by a lot of friends, partying a lot. In the end I always did what I wanted and was easily bored. I was restless and always on the hunt to experience something new.
Different lifestyles and interesting people always attracted me, so I grew up with influences like punks, squatters, and people from the techno scene. I still love this rough way of living, so I express my experiences in my art. A big influence is old houses, forgotten places, industrial buildings and areas. Abandoned places I visited—ruined stuff like that impressed me. All this influenced my art. It's a part of it.
CP: You grew up in a “non digital environment.” What did you think about computers?
SS: I never thought of it. I always used to be happy without computers and even the internet. Sometimes I miss those times.
CP: Is Sylvia Sonique your real name?
SS: Sylvia is my real name. Sylvia Sonique is the French version of “sonic” and leads you to one of my favorite bands: Sonic Youth.
CP: When did you first realize you were interested in dark and uncomfortable things?
SS: About three years ago. I realized that I wasn't completely satisfied with realistic paintings. This state of art started to bore me and I was searching for something more dramatic and powerful. A message with something different in it. I had kind of a crisis at this point, so I started to put my inner-self into my artistic expression. It just happened. “Happy pictures” never touched me.
Collaboration with Heinz Schielmann
CP: Why do chaos and insanity interest you?
SS: Chaos is a way of life. Nothing is in order. I'm not about precision and accurate techniques in art. I adore the artists who are able to work in this way, but that's not me. I lose myself in a process, get lost in chaos, and end up doing something completely different to what I expected, following that insane impulse I feel at the moment.
CP: When did you first start to experiment with collage?
SS: In summer 2015 my first collage happened by accident. An easy one. I had some pictures and an idea, paper, and glue—simple materials but it was a new medium to express myself. I started to collect old flyers or wet, smelly prints from different walls in clubs or just on the street. Acrylic, tape, coffee, spray cans, book covers... everything I could find. This art form was exactly my thing, no registrations or limits. An authentic way to show who I am.
CP: Are there any collage artists that have influenced you?
SS: I try to avoid that. I mean, I like a lot of artists and search for established and upcoming ones, but I try to keep my style. I don't wanna get lost within influences. I like Francis Bacon, Eric Lacombe, Roger Ballen for example. But my favorite artist of all time is Robert Heinecken. He broke all the rules and wasn't accepted by the art scene. His work is pure recycling. He was a fighter for his own thoughts at that time. Very impressive.
CP: When did you first become aware of the internet and what were your early experiences with it?
SS: First I used it for educational purposes. Later I added social media to promote my art. I have mixed feelings about the internet, especially social networks. Some people can't divide between reality and their online existence. They pretend to be someone else, they lie to get attention. There is no authenticity. I try to be an authentic person in real life and online.
Collaboration with Heinz Schielmann
CP: What was your first experience of forming friends and relationships online?
SS: My first experiences were with my online friend Heinz Schielmann, a digital artist. I admired his glitch style and art. Heinz was the first artist who contacted me to start a collaboration and I was thrilled. We still work together and I love the mixed style. Over time other artists joined in and enriched me and my work in different ways.
At the same time I started an important relationship with a mutual friend based at the other end of the world who designed my website. In recent years we strengthened our bond and discussed plenty of things, talking about music, art, and life. This is what I adore in the internet: bonding with people all over the world, sharing art and feelings.
CP: How has the internet influenced your development as an artist?
SS: It might have changed my way of thinking a bit and my English skills got better but it doesn't influence my art that much. I think the internet is an awesome tool to gain more public attention.
CP: How would you describe your work now?
SS: I express my feelings through my work but it is up to the people to interpret it individually. That's what I love about art: people have their own associations to the image. There are no explanations. I am a self-critical person and I try to use my art as a kind of medium to express my inner thoughts.
CP: Can you talk a little bit about your process?
SS: I sit between of tons of newspapers, magazines, and photos, destroying them by cutting and ripping parts out, painting over them—it's a flash. I prefer to work at night and the main thing is that I need music. I get lost in details until I am satisfied with the final product that was born out of my personal chaos.
CP: Is making your work emotionally cathartic?
SS: Totally. It's like taking a break from life struggle. It's like a relief from trouble... taking a deep breath.... out of time.
What kind of stories do your images tell?
SS: Society, emptiness, isolation, love, poetry, sex, faith. But I like that people have different interpretations and opinions on my work. I want people to develop their own thoughts and feelings.
CP: Is your work political?
SS: Some of the collages are political or show my critical opinions. Society is mad and it needs revolutionaries to change the world.
CP: How does music influence your work?
SS: I can't live without music. I don't care about specific genres; I like industrial, techno, electro, witch house, punk, retro stuff, and some classics. There was a time when every collage had its own song. There are tracks that remind me of several periods of my life.
CP: Are you interested in horror movies?
SS: I like horror movies but they are too unrealistic, so they only make me laugh. I prefer social drama, arthouse films, sci-fi movies, and psycho thrillers. But sometimes I just watch romantic movies to relax.
CP: What kind of reactions have you had to your work?
SS: To be honest, the reactions are mostly positive, IRL and URL. Sometimes I ask myself why so many people like my scary, sometimes sick collages in particular, but I get a lot of compliments on them. There are some comments and messages that are insulting but that doesn't bother me—I even appreciate it.
Collaboration with Don Elektrq
CP: What impact have collaborations had on your work? How has glitch art influenced your work?
SS: I guess some of the collaborations bring it to another level. I have collaborated a lot lately, not only with digital artists, but also with labels and magazines. I like to see what others add and change in my collages. It's like looking from a different angle. Sending and comparing pictures and titles with other artists inspires me—it's always fun!
CP: How would you describe yourself?
SS: I am an adult child.