MM3 Artists Interview : Viktor Hachmang
Viktor Hachmang illustrated a script by GHXYK2 to create a collaborative 6 page comic for Mould Map 3. Viktor has kindly shared a selection of his sketches for the comic below:
MM3: Am I correct in asking if this is the first time you’ve made a comic? How did you feel about being approached to make a comic based on a stranger’s writing?
VH: Yes, 'HotBox' is actually my comics debut since 9 years old, I think. Nothing really passed the bar for me since. So when the editors of Mould Map approached me to do a comic I was of course very enthusiastic about the idea, as comics have again become a very big inspiration for me in recent years. But naturally I was also a bit anxious. To make matters even more interesting was the fact that we were running with a corporate espionage script by GHXYK2 and albeit a very interesting and well written script, it was sort of the least likely story for me to put into image. But I thought that if I could translate this story, which had absolutely nothing to do with my work at first glance, I should be able to tackle almost everything. Now that it's completed, I think it does share a lot of common ground with my usual work and working on the comic has even influenced me, getting me interested again in the human form and traditional figuration.
MM3: How would you compare the work you make when responding to a brief in contrast to self-generated pieces? You seem to respond well to working within a confined space...
VH: My self-generated work comes from an urge I have to visualize things that pop up in my mind. The reason why is not that important to me, I get pleasure from materializing my thoughts. When working on a commission, I try to employ the same strategies, while keeping the brief in mind. If the brief isn't that interesting visually or the theme isn't that appealing, I sometimes try to trick myself and focus on tiny visual puns I want to incorporate into the design. What also helps me is to always aim for a strong singular image, within the context of, say, the news article or whatever, as well as without it.
MM3: You recently made a print inspired by the Sci Fi comic magazine Heavy Metal (Metal Hurlant). Do you read many comics? Would you say they have any influence your work?
VH: I do read a lot of comics, though I have to admit I am a child of the classic European 'Clear Line' tradition, having been brought up with Hergé and Edgar P. Jacobs comics, through to Joost Swarte and Ever Meulen. Their influence on my work is simply undeniable.
But what interests me about the Heavy Metal comics is mostly the visual aspect. I'm really interested in this typical 1970s aesthetic with lots of chrome textures, neon whip cracks and glam rock glitters, the combination of old Hollywood, art deco and noire elements. I consider this to be a first wave of nostalgia and postmodernism brought into the realm of comics and the graphics arts, which is quite strange considering the narrative of future visions, new technology and alien invasions.
MM3: Do you think it’s possible to create work that is truly futuristic? What would it take to do that? Would you consider yourself a futuristic person?
VH: For me the term 'futuristic' even is a reference to a certain time and place in history, I immediately associate it with Italian salon culture and the beginning of the previous century. So a paradox in itself.
But to make something truly new is a hard thing to aim for, certainly within the traditional artistic media, but it is a very relevant and pure thing to pursue. I don't consider myself a futurist at all. At the moment I'm really interested in a more modest and almost neo-traditionalist aesthetic, a sort of 'return to order' if you will. But this changes literally every month, every week, almost every day!
MM3: Are you making the kind of work you imagined you’d be doing in 2013?
VH: That's an interesting question, though a very hard one. I do feel like a big kid, as nothing has really changed since my early childhood: I feel as if I'm still drawing at the kid's table while the grown-ups are discussing grown-up problems, politics and financial questions. Even my interests have remained pretty much identical to when I was young: reading Tintin, copying Japanese prints and collecting things I think are beautiful or interesting. So I'd have to say yes.
MM3: Do you think you’ll still be the same by age 60? What work would you like to make by that point?
VH: I don't know. At the one hand I'm okay with my schizophrenic output so far – I have churned out a lot of work in the past two years, instinctively more than conceptually. But I hope I will slowly fade into a more stable aesthetic, theme and method. But momentarily there's no telling in what that will be exactly.
MM3: You reference very specific visuals and graphic motifs. How do you filter the imagery that you appropriate in your work?
VH: Well, like I mentioned before, I see a large part of my work as collecting and curating. The elements I choose to use in my work are very much linked to a certain subject I'm obsessed about at that very moment or reference a style I think is beautiful or relevant for the image. I also reference specific things to support a certain mood or message. This is different for every piece I do, as some commissioned images I make are supposed to communicate a strict idea (like editorial illustrations) and some images are personal and non-commissioned, which I consider to be more exercises in style and mood. These often do have a very personal subtext, something I'm thinking about or struggling with at that moment in time, but this usually becomes clear to me right after I've completed them.
MM3: Do you ever have ideas for images you’d like to steal that you aren’t able to take, for some reason? Why do you choose to work in Adobe Illustrator when grabbing these images?
VH: Well, the reason I work digitally is so that I can process these images, "flatten them out" so to speak. This way, if I'm working on a collage-like piece (which I haven't done in a very long time) all the elements I've taken from different sources will more or less blend into one another. So the image becomes a bit more uniform. Also, working in Adobe Illustrator allows me to scale or minimize certain elements, so I can keep shifting the entire composition constantly. I think the fact me coming from a graphic design background also has a lot to do with it.
MM3: You work with commercial clients, and somehow you’re still able to inject a creepy tension into your work. Do you think it’s important to access your personal darkness when working on a graphic project?
VH: I actually consider this a huge compliment, though I sporadically think my work reaches that quality, though. I actually think my personality is a lot darker than my artworks, which I think is generally seen as optimistic, bordering on the utopian. But what I something try to look for is to make a thing look so idiotically cheerful, it almost crosses the line and becomes deranged and creepy – though that is very hard and I very rarely succeed at this. Something I strive for is to transform a seemingly childish or cliche image into a dense layer cake of meanings and concepts (be it about something very personal and complex, or about the act of drawing and image making itself) so that the work will remain interesting and valid to me even in years to come, no matter if it's commissioned, non-commissioned, editorial or personal. That is my idea of a quality image.
MM3: Your work reflects specifically on moments in visual time, things from the past, old graphic design. Do you aim to place your work inside 2013? Do you consider how your work will look in a few years time when all the graphic designers will be making the same visual references as you? Do you believe in “I did it first” or “who wore it better"?
VH: I would be lying if I said visual "territoriality" was no factor at all. Especially now, with a lot of graphic designers/illustrators using Tumblr as a sort of common pool of ideas and working with the same magic box that is Illustrator/Photoshop. There is a risk there, but I think people will still be able to recognize my work, as I definitely have a signature style. I strongly believe that only I can make the things I make and (more importantly) with the same intent. For me, you see, it's not a career choice or anything, or simply a case of switching on a Xerox copy machine… I think my work comes from an instinctive urge to collect things I love, painstakingly trying to order them to my own liking.
I'm also aware of the fact that other people are following and copying my work and I don't have a huge problem with that – that's the consequence of my own way of working and this day in age isn't called "the age of plunder" for nothing. But I choose not to care so much for other people working currently and try to close myself off as much as possible. That might also be the reason why I focus on bygone eras of visual history.
(Interviewed by Leon Sadler, conducted by email in autumn 2013)