by Meisy Cheong
Exploring the surreal mind of Ted Vasin is no easy feat. Leaving behind his native Russia, the US-based artist’s latest works evoke a strange reaction – it’s like stepping into someone else’s dream: it’s not your world, but you’re invited to be a part of it. Vasin’s extraordinary technical skills are like no other. His paintings are stunning and beautiful, yet deeply disturbing. They are swathed in mystery, much like the man himself…
You left Moscow to further your career. Did you feel the art scene in Russia was too stagnant? Would you ever go back? How does the scene in Russia differ to that in the US?
Art scene in Russia? I do not know about that. I have no desire to go back. Everything is better in America.
Do you feel you’ve been embraced by the creative community in the US? You’ve had quite a few residencies and grants, which must have been a huge help to you and your career – does this sort of support put you under more pressure to succeed?
Yeah, I feel pressure… in my ears, like on an airplane or fast elevator. Or pressure of a gas pedal against my foot.
Your work circa 1998-2000 is quite different to your later work. Back then your focus was on machinery and industry. What was it about this subject that drew you to it at that time?
Back than, I was clearly a machine, an organic machine, making replicas of myself.
In 2001, there was a major shift in your technique – you started using brighter colours and more experimental lines. It was quite a dramatic change – what inspired this?
In 2001, I licked a frog. After that I flew through the tunnel and had all kinds of transformations. Upon landing I realized that it was over with machines and I had a bright future ahead.
You’re pretty open about your use of psychedelics and hallucinogens. How much of this, coupled with your dreamscapes, influences your work today? Is your work a true reflection of a mindstate or does it merely form the basis or beginnings of your pieces?
I record every experience I can - painting, drawing, Photoshop, audio, word, sometimes. I like to see it like seamless, all in one.
Are any of your works pulled straight out of a dream you’ve had?
I dream forward and in, instead of backwards.
How do you actually “paint” your dreams? Do you dream something then sketch it, or do you just start painting it from memory?
Best dream I have is when I see myself make the dream.
In the last few years, you’ve utilised different materials such as mica. You’re also using more graphite – there’s such a different feel to graphite and pencil rather than paint. Why did you feel you needed the change?
When you figured me out, I die to come back, new and different.
What’s your favourite medium to work with?
Minds of other people.
Are you still using sound recordings in your exhibitions? How important is the juxtaposition of sound and visuals? How do the two work together?
For me, it is very important to capture the idea, in whatever form it takes. In a way, sound or painting is an extension of the thought. It comes out of my head and deforms the flat, the pure and the silent.
Your work has been described as being disturbing, confronting, menacing but at the same time beautiful and “difficult to interpret”. What do you want people to take away from your work?
People get lost.