By: Monteque Pope Le Beau
Edited By: Colleen Page
Images By: Vaikra Art Lab
The Art Monteque is always is in search of new artists. Sometimes it takes us looking around the globe to find those rare gems, but as always we find that it is worth it, so that we can introduce new artist to our audience. From Israel The Art Of Monteque would like to introduce you to the artists Of Vaikra Art Lab; Danil Gertman-the artist, Daniel Sinaisky- the composer, and Katya Vodopianov -the philosopher and director. The artist of Vaikra Art Lab are both prolific in their art as well as they are in their thoughts. We hope you will enjoy the insights of these great artists as much as we did.
Danil Gertman First of all, my apologize about the English, you’re going to deal with in this interview. It is not our native language, so some linguistic and grammar surprises may be expected.
That is quite alright. What is your definition of art and creativity?
DG: Creativity for me is just a technical term. If you have an idea, or something, that you want to share with others – you must cook it first. Most of interesting ideas aren’t coming ready for delivering. And here the creativity helps. As much you’re creative, your idea or invention looks more earnestly and interesting. It doesn’t have to be connected with art specially. If I would plan to rob the bank, creativity should help me, for example. I see it like that.
In your opinion what makes an artist?
DG: I think, that life makes an artist. I see the art as a reflection of life, and an artist as an intermediary between them. Nobody can give you an absolute objective definition for these two concepts: art and Life. With an artist – it’s much easier: just someone, who stays between them. That should be a special person, not everyone may dare and go through it full-out..
What was your childhood and family life like growing up and such turbulent times?
DG: My childhood can’t be described as anything out of the ordinary. From the age of five I lived in Sevastopol (former USSR)– a sunny, sea-side town, saturated with history. There were also people. Common soviet people: grown-ups and kids, with their odd habits and “hierarchies”, with their kvass and trolleybuses, good ones and bad ones (not that you understand the meaning of the concepts as clearly as a child)… I liked drawing. I even still have a few albums (from ages 4-5) containing drawings of people, boats, stories, spiders. My parents never took that seriously and never discussed the prospect of any future in it. My dad wanted me to practice sports and to be a healthy child and after – a programmer. At the age of seven I took on sailing and at the age of thirteen had achieved significant success, which gave me hope for a career of a sportsman in my youth and even later. I was barely interested in anything, but that. I didn’t like reading, my grades were low – as a result of later-discovered dyslexia, due to which I became known as an underdeveloped dumb jock.
At the age of fourteen I was diagnosed with teenage diabetes, any hopes for a future in sports were blown away. I refused to believe what was happening, but it “didn’t help”. In the period from 14 till 18 years old I can barely remember myself. I spent most of my time in hospitals and a school that felt more like a grave. There was no “teenage rebellion”; instead – a black hole. Having barely graduated, I started working at a factory where I was supposed to learn something. But instead of that I found out about vodka, “dirty money” and anti-semitism. The majority of my free time (I had plenty of that) I spent out on the streets. I got in touch with the wrong guys and if my family hadn’t immigrated to Israel a year later, things might’ve turned out for the worst.
Danil that is truly amazing what you went though to become who you are today. Can you tell us a bit about each of your backgrounds?
DG: Staring stupidly with opening my mouth about all the shit that surrounded me, was one of beloved things to do in my childhood. I was gaping on everything: people, trees, cars, buses, copulating cats, local drunks, funerals, weddings..what ever. My parents didn’t like it – sometimes it could get you in troubles. In former Soviet society people hardly liked to be an object for gaping. But it didn’t help. I stared at them stealthily.
Katya Vodopianov: I was born in Russia’s capital city Moscow in a warm and loving family. My father was a one of the first’s motocross-sportsmens of USSR and my mother is a philosopher and scientist. The childhood in USSR before Perestroika was cloudless. I grew up in 90s and it was one big challenge to all the senses. But you for sure know the sentence “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger” so it made me stronger, I suppose. In 94 our family moved to Israel. Here I married the best man in the world and here my brilliant genius daughter was born. Here I learned a lot, I still continue my philosophy studies.
How and when did the creative spark Capture you?
KV: From early childhood.
Daniel Sinaisky: Before I moved with my family to Israel (I was 14 years old) I lived in a “communal” apartment – a big house, with many small rooms and one common kitchen and bathroom. Before the Soviet revolution the house belonged to some rich aristocratic family. There were an antique piano there. I used to experiment, playing on it with knives and spoons while touching the strings inside it. My first composition was “The battle of the ice” based on Russian Heroic epic poetry.
Was your family supportive in your decision to become an artist?
DG: No, they didn’t support the decision, but they had nothing to do with it. It took time for my parents to accept this fact. But today I’m very glad to say , that they are proud of me and my choice. And I experience a very honest and kind support, that I don’t imagine myself without.
KV: All my life I felt the support of my family in all my endeavors and grateful for it.
When was the absolute point that you knew you want it to be an artist?
DG: I think It was during the first year after arriving to Israel. I don’t know the exact reason, but I think that immigration can impact the people in different ways. Somebody gets crazy, somebody may become a sudden businessman. I became an artist.
How has your culture and country influence you as an artist?
DG: I have two countries and cultures, that still influence me (along with “ the whole world” cultures but a bit less…). Two totally different mentalities that interact inside me, in a very strange way. Difficult to explain this.
Did you have any mentors or people who inspire you and encourage along artistic your path?
DG: Yes, I had a lot of people that helped me and inspired. I had wonderful teachers during all my life and was also supported by my friends and even maecenases. And of course by my family and my wife.
KV: My mom, Socrates, Plato, Anaxagoras and school physics teacher.
Along your journey how has your art form changed and how has it transformed you as an artist?
DG: Actually I see myself as a traditional painter, so the digital live painting isn’t the last destination, that I put to myself. My art probably changes, but I imagine it as an axis surrounded by different experiments and transfigurations. Axis hardly changes, but I’m able to speak different artistic languages.
Artists at their core are observers and truth tellers, keeping this in mind; how has what you have observed in your lifetime impacted who you are as an artist?
DG: I only dare to deal with those life issues which I am capable of processing through my own person, once I have received from them a certain emotional impulse, I try to evaluate, analyze and give my own adequate interpretation of what I have grasped. That’s it in a whole. Actually everything, that I had the luck to witness through my life is reflected in my art. Childhood, teenage, the first years of immigration, two “motherlands”, street, homeless life, love, people.. That’s senseless to seek any kind of order or consistent patterns in this. It just occurs.
What was your early years as an emerging artists like?
DG: I entered the world of art from the streets, an impudent uneducated hooligan. I was eager to ask questions that the “postmodern sophisticated” sort couldn’t give an answer to. By that time I had already heard about and experienced street protests. And whatever witty comments any of those modern galleries had to express, only made me despise them. To me this felt like tubby Israeli punks getting themselves mohawks at the nearest hairdresser’s. On top of that, those “flash protests” were handled by unskilled people. And so, everything I was taught in fine art faculty, then seemed like a lot of nonsense. For instance, I had absolutely no intention of staring at Duchamp’s urinal with all this blah-blah-blah, when I had the option of discovering Goya, Holbein, Van Gough and Delacroix. I felt like I needed to catch up on what knowledge I lacked in literature. Conceptual literature seemed impenetrable and boring to me when I had the chance of opening up a Russian classics, Böll, Rilke, Oscar Wild…On the whole I understood that I would have to educate myself, get inspired by themes chosen by myself and then express my feelings through my very own language. One that perhaps only I understand…
I really appreciate all this period. I had a lot of chances to learn how to make choices, and to make them right then.
We are glad we made those choice, but when did you know that this was what you were meant to do?
DG: At the age of 23. I was very close to quit, I started to work on postal delivery and then I had a very bad working/motorcycle accident. Some months I spent in bed and during the rehabilitation I understood, that I’m an artist. And no more compromises.
Do you believe that artist can use the arts as a tool for change if so if so how?
DG: Of course, Art is a very effective tool for any kind of changes. And that fact, that not all the bad people know about it, is very lucky for us. As for artists, it depends on what kind of change, if at all, they seek for. I think it can be illustrated as Light, Spirits and Demons. Art in the Master’s hand is a very effective tool.
KV: Kciety – mission of Education
DS: Provocation created by an artist can expose reality which society is trying to hide, escape. Does it have a serious impact on masses? Well, unfortunately mass media has more tools and money then most of the artists do. So the influence of a mass media is more powerful then the influence of of the art!
You seem like progressive thinkers and artists, how and what influenced your philosophy behind your art?
DG: I suppose, that three of us has rather different philosophies concerning art. We have some common things of course, that makes us united, but I prefer to speak about my art as myself. Let’s look on the situation, briefly: You were growing up in a country, that no more exists, very powerful state, with very special kind of society, with it’s own special roots and judgements. Then, all this imperium started to collapse(1987-90) upon your eyes. All the “good guys”, “heroes” suddenly became “not so good guys”, and the words like “believe” and “trust” have got the “other” meanings, there is no more “truth”… all this happens during your teenage.
Then you landed in the other place. Totally different. Where all the previous life concepts had almost quite opposite meanings. And you feel alien. And you learn to be alien. Then you realize, that you have two lives, the first one was before, and the second, that you live at this very moment. You start to compare. And then you want to express things. Art is a wonderful chance to express things……………… Then YOUR art starts, and you start living together with it, beginning to realize, that all that is subject to constant change.
How did the three of you meet and what made you want to start collaborating together?
KV: Danil invited me to become a director of the duo, and then we came up Vaikra Art Lab
What inspired the three of you to form Vaikra Art Lab?
KV: The need to say something fresh in words, in art, positive and independent.
SD: Me an D.Gertman know each other for ages and we’ve been good friends, but somehow never worked as a team before. Maybe because I am not a great painter and he doesn’t play very well (ha ha ha) Well, if we talk seriously, once Gertman invited me to his place and said that now we can play together, his new instrument was his IPAD and he wanted to perform with it. That’s how we’ve got that idea of creating synchronized painting and music live.
DG: I’ve been interesting in live painting for more than 5 years, I’ve tried some softwares, but I found the most suitable application for this was (Tagtool), on the iPad, not such a long time ago. This application was invented by artist group from Austria ( http://omai.at), and I have to say, the guys did a wonderful job. I’ve bought an old video projector and started the first tryings. Due, to the working manner of this software(you’re working with all 10 fingers), my first association with it, was – cello. It behaved more like a music instrument for me, rather then just a painting software. Then I called my friend composer and musician Daniel Sinaisky, to take part in my experiments. He agreed, and we’ve started working together. Then our experiments expanded, and we decided to make an artist group. Taking in mind, that we need another member in group, somebody from the realm of writing, who can evaluate our artistic positions, represent us on paper and help with promotion. I called Katya Vodopianov, and then we invented Vaikra Art Lab.
What exactly is the purpose and meaning behind Vaikra Art Lab.
KV: For me is philosophical understanding of the ideology of positivism and anarchy as the responsibility of the individual to himself, his family, society and the world.
DG: Art and Science were developing very closely through centuries. We have an ideas, we’re making experiments, based on this ideas, we analyze the results, evaluate them, and feel ourselves as artists. In hopes, that somebody would be interested in it in the future or today. Someone that could use it.
I think were just one step before the big era of digital painting (and live painting also). Due to the fast developing of today technologies, and people’s new comprehension of the virtual reality, the digital art will get enough evaluation, to be compared objectively with traditional art. So, that we can understand the value, that each of them deserves. I think, that this is a very significant step in art history. We are glad to take part.
SD: Our goal is hypnosis. The hypnosis of the viewer and listener. We want our public to be emerged into the atmosphere of creation, a mutual creation of music and painting at the same point of time.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on now?
DG: Currently we are working on two concert installations, one is in Jerusalem in a very interesting and strange space, that served as leprosy hospital a century ago. And the second one in a totally different space, in Tel Aviv, actually it’s a 45meters corridor. A very interesting challenge. We are going to do both of them with our friend-musician from London, Igor(Gryundik) Kasyansky.
What is the artistic meaning and statement of your work?
In whole, I’m not an artist of statements, I think the WORK should define the artistic meanings, not the statement or any kind of explanation, of what are you doing. Concerning Vaikra, I can just tell you it is what we deal with from the point of artistic language.
We are looking for the perfect combination between visual issue and sound. Taking in mind, that there were plenty of such kind of experiments done before us. The most popular and successful were cinema and animation. We are inspired by none of them, but ..painting.
People tried this combination before also, but mostly it was “action painting” or any kind of other entertaining stage performances, I hardly believe, that there was much of “painting” in it. Today’s technologies, for example digital painting software, coupled with simple video projector, let you create a light painting piece in the real time. Now, to be clear, I don’t mean the “drawing or painting with music”, where this two disciplines still stay divided.
The instrument, that I perform digital painting with ( is a simple iPad), becomes a relative of my companion musician’s instrument. You feel, that sound can be combined with and even expressed by image, created with light ray. It doesn’t matter what kind of image – figurative or abstract. So, painting in this context opens you up to the new opportunities. You’re no more just a painter – you are a light/painting musician. And of course.. not every kind of music or sound is suitable for such kind of performance, the main task still , to create the unified sound/visual canvas. I barely see that symphonic or any other canonic music, for example, would be a good combination with our digital painting…This kind of music has it’s own, completed state. It doesn’t seek for any visual supports. We work hard to find the most suitable sound yet, but this is the theme, where Daniel, my friend and companion is mostly in charge.
From this point I can take you, to our type of performance, that has a form of installation, very dependent on the exhibiting space, (with us, as a part of it), , that makes sounds and draws or paints itself from inside with light. And it’s live, only live, no audio or video recordings, except our presentation reels. Live light painting looks pretty miserable, when recorded.
The artistic meanings is a matter of critiques. But I, personally consider, that Vaikra Art Lab deals with the Neo Futurism of 21 century. I think, that the 20th century Futurists wanted us doing this, 100 years later. The unified, live light painted and live sound “canvas”.
SD: There are no common targets and goals for art. Each and every artist has his owns. It’s a very individual (personal) thing, in my opinion.
Is there a ongoing theme or premise in your work?
DG: I don’t think so, I’m getting impressed from plenty of life issues. That’s my fuel.
What has been the hardest thing you had to do pertaining to your work?
DG: Ignorance. I felt it during the early times and after I quit the mainstream artist career. I must notice, that of course my position was miles better then that of my colleagues from the former USSR for example. In those times you could’ve easily ended up in prison or a mental asylum for your independent art. In my case – I was just ignored. But I ignored them in return. It was fair and square.
KV: To explain to people not willing to accept the new art and that our project is the future of art.
What have been the obstacles you’ve had to overcome in association with creating your artistic expression and forming Vaikra Art Lab?
DG: The financial side of the “project”, that I’ve experienced through all my artistic lifetime (equipment costs, working space costs, earnings for living), was always problematic, but I wouldn’t call it the obstacles for creation, just a kind of inconvenience. I’m living from teaching art.
Do you have a website or links where people can find out more about you and support you?
DG: This is our site www.vaikralight.com people can find there are also links to our pages in Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Or you can look in Google “Danil Gertman” but for convenience here are our other links:
What are your thoughts on artist support and project funding in your country compared to The United States and in what ways has it helped and in what ways does it need to improve?
DG: We cannot compare the artist support and project funding in a reach, big and highly developed state, with the artist support in the small, young country, that most of it’s history was in wars. It’s not fair.
If we circle back to the monumental task of an artist to create change what impact do you want your work to half and why?
DG: I don’t think, that the monumental task of an artist is to create change. I think the change happens by itself. I see myself as someone , who depicts a kind of a living diary, that should be honest enough and interesting enough for others to deal with.
How do you see the role of the arts in today’s world and what do you think is needed to keep the arts thriving?
KV: As I say the main role of art in the contemporary world it is a Education mission. I guess it has always been and in modern days nothing has changed. I think all we needed to keep the arts thriving is more peace of mind from each of us.
DG: Concerning this question, we probably need to take in consideration two possible attitudes, one, that is acceptable for the system /mainstream artist, the second is for an underground one. As for the mainstream artist, the whole reason of whatever is going on – is money and career. Mainstream artist serves the gallery system, the interaction is clear, you supply the “goods” – and earn your money. I’ve spent something like 5years in such kind of interaction, with one of the leading galleries in my country. Then I left, exactly for that reason, that I didn’t see much “art” in all this. It felt like I, as an artistic individual wasn’t able to determine my role and my potential regarding the audience without some kind of gallery’s permission… So if we take inconsideration the mainstream position – nothing should be improved… it worked fine until now, but it’s not art. And that’s just a reason of the current world gallery system collapse, I think, together with all that world economy stuff…
As an underground artist…In essence, any artist that doesn’t grovel and make up to the system, no matter what kind of a system: ideological (as it happened in the USSR) or mercantile (Western) is thought of as an underground artist… I think that art is forever and doesn’t tolerate primitive monopolizations. No matter how hard this or that group of schemers tries. It just exist, and it doesn’t matter what we think about it and how we try to use it. “You just gotta do what you gotta do” if you call yourself artist. That’s all.
What are your views about art education and what do you think of the state of the educational system in your country compared to theUnited States and how do you think it can be improved?
DG: I have never experienced the USA educational system, but when I saw some of the USA art colleges prospects, I’ve noticed to myself, that an average american art student, probably should possess a very significant knowledge in theory and crafts. That can be a great opportunity for further self education as an artist. I hadn’t this kind of opportunity, but I’ve met the right people, who could explain somethings to me, (not only during my University period). Also I was lucky to graduate from the university, that possessed a very good library and museum with a nice art collection.
I don’t think, it should be improved, I think it should be changed, but this is a very complicated theme, that takes it roots from the understanding of what’s going on in Israeli art scene today.
What are your thoughts about inequality and human rights?
KV: I deeply believe in changes on this question, but the change is not related to violence, war, weapons and other things of this kind.
DG: Pity, I have nothing to say about it. The right thing is probably to say, that I don’t accept inequality, but this is the same, today, as to say, that I don’t accept earthquakes or tsunami.
Everybody should start from his own – to make changes for better life on Earth.
If you were world leaders and you had the power to instantly change what is happening in the world and society today what would you change?
DG: Education. I would change it from kindergarten until universities. Involving much more competent and clever people as teachers. That’s it in whole. But there are a lot of details to do before.
KV: Ideology of consumerism.
What are you enthusiastic about?
DG: To do my art and to expose it worthy.
KV: Sunrise, pure music, good books, etc.
What are you passionate about?
KV: Philosophy, art, horse riding, extreme tourism, hiking…
SD: Records and synthesizers.
What upsets you?
KV: Human anger
SD: I still didn’t learn to cope with the loss of people who were close to me.
35. What turns you on?
DG: Curiosity and new opportunities to put it into practice.
KV: This can be anything from a leaf of the tree to the compositions of Dvorak and Shostakovich.
What is your favorite memory?
DG: The last one – Barcelona. Christmas vacation with my wife.
What is your least favorite memory?
DG: Winter sailing races in Sevastopol. 1986, when I lost.
What is your favorite destination to travel to?
KV: Desert in winter time, mountains, etc. I like to travel and to discover the new places
Who is your favorite poet and what is your favorite poem?
DG: I like Russian poetry. There are lot of poets from different periods, that I like.
KV: Letters to Roman Friend by Josef Brodsky
SD: My favorite poet is Jacob Biton, a young Israeli poet who dedicated one of his books to his grandmother. I’ve never read anything more touching and sincere then that book. I also like a Russian poet Daniil Harms a lot.
Who is your favorite artist?
DG: I don’t know. I think, that all the artists, that worked before me, have left me the tremendous treasure.
KV: Sandro Boticelli
Who are your favorite authors?
KV: Too many – Plato, Joys, Arthur Conan Doyle, Kipling, Exupery, Bulgakov, Strugatsky brothers…
DG: I have a lot.
SD: Maybe it’s sounds bizarre, but the man who most of all made me think about art and its goals is Antonin Artaud. Even though I am not sharing his life philosophy but he out of all influenced me the most. It’s hard for me to point on someone specific in the field of music. I have a huge collection of records but right now I am not really listening to anything much.
What moves you creatively, spiritually, and emotionally?
DG: Everything, that surrounds me. Memories and myself.
KV: Keeping the hope alive.
What is your philosophy about life?
DG: I like it. I accept it.
Where do you see yourself in five, ten or twenty years?
DG: I don’t know.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
DG: I think, they probably know what they are doing
Thank you for your time. [TAOMR]