by Manu SharmaAug 18, 2021
Pronoun.m is the latest in a long line of VFX practitioners who are rapidly gaining popularity online. The artist, who mentions that his real name is Nikita, but seems to prefer using his creative title, is also another example in the curious case of leading digital creatives who have seemingly no formal training with regards to their craft, yet are possessed with great skill and expertise. He tells STIR, “I am from Kazakhstan which is a country near Russia and not very well-known. Currently, I live in Russia. I don’t have any formal creative education and never took any art classes either.” He explains that instead of the creative field, he was more interested in journalism in his youth, and ended up working with a television news channel. However, he did not find this particularly stimulating, and began to look elsewhere for motivation and inspiration. One day, while he was organising town parties, he approached a friend to perform as a DJ at an event. His friend told him that he could not DJ, but instead was a practicing VJ. Pronoun.m was new to this term and googled it, intending to better understand it and its distinction with DJing. He says, while researching DJing, “I discovered new media arts practices. This is precisely what I always wanted to do, but had never really known how to refer to it.”
The artist could be seen as something of a case study, for practitioners such as himself: being largely self-taught, and yet able to live off his work. Apart from his own work, Pronoun.m is also a part of the digital fashion house known as ‘The Fabricant’, however it his solo oeuvre that is of particular interest in understanding this phenomenon. It is undoubtedly a boon of the digital age that artists such as Pronoun.m may bypass institutional gatekeeping and simply strike out on their own, picking and choosing from relevant information in order to shape specific skillsets, often quite quickly and effectively. The artist remains quite humble though, telling STIR, “If I am to be honest, I don’t feel as though I have developed my own ‘style’ yet. I am still working on it though. But the consistency and quality of my aesthetic really comes from what I like. For example, when I see clay renders, they look much better to me than very realistic renders, which can feel boring. I think it’s because I enjoy the type of visual communication that is nuanced.” He continues, “Within my personal practice, I think another cool product of my aesthetic leanings is that they make things very minimalistic and also neutral; detached. There’s a feeling in there that I think I express quite often - being together but apart.”
Despite the artist’s lack of formal training, Pronoun.m’s creative journey has not been an entirely solo one. He mentions having found inspiration in the works of several new and old practitioners such as Refik Anadol, Neri Oxman and even creatives as far back as Klimt and Vermeer. However, his first and greatest influence remains the natural world. He explains, “I think the thing that has provided the most inspiration for me is nature. I would like to better represent the natural world, but in my own way.” Pronoun.m is not the first digital artist to voice his love for nature, and it has become something of a strange and observable trend in the artistic world to see practitioners that do not work with any natural materials, or in a strictly natural idiom per se, but still draw a great influence from the natural world. Perhaps there is something about aspects such as the symmetry and complexity of flora and fauna that captivates them much in the same way the algorithmic and mathematical underpinning of their own practice does. Unlike many of his peers, the artist seems to wear his naturalistic influences on his sleeve, and this makes one wonder, are his references perhaps a little too direct? The digital craft, by its very nature, tends to manifest a layer of abstraction between reference and product, but perhaps adding a second layer would advance Pronoun.m’s practice in unexpected and wonderful ways? Regardless, it is still an enriching oeuvre to engage with.
Within the natural realm, Pronoun.m possesses a particular preoccupation for liquid forms. This is palpable not only in his waterier imagery, but also, often enough, in his seemingly more tangible forms. The sense of flow in his work is distinct, and runs through the breadth of his oeuvre. Discussing this, he admits, “Yes, the materiality of liquid is certainly an important topic for me.” Humorously, he adds “I feel as though I am myself more of a liquid than a person made of rigid matter. I think that in general, people’s self-identity has become more fluid off late: we are not rigid anymore, and are instead becoming much more complex and intersected as is the case with liquids.” Curiously, one motif viewers will not find within his work is the human form. The artist mentions that he consciously tries to avoid human forms, and tells STIR, “I try to avoid human forms because it’s really hard to do them right. Also, works that put human motifs front and centre attract me as a human, and pretty often, such ideas come with a human face.”
Technique-wise, the artist explains that his work is built on proceduralism. More often than not, he is not attempting to create a piece at all, but rather an algorithm that will create the piece for him. This, as is the case with many of his peers, is comparable to a painter creating self-operating instruments instead of paintings per se. Pronoun.m tells STIR, “I am inspired a lot by organic stuff; as I have mentioned, that’s a very important topic in my work: the question of how to translate the language, or shall I say, algorithms of nature, into a digital state.” It will be exciting to see where his work goes, and if he will be able to perfect his process of translation, but for now, we have Pronoun.m’s expanding and maturing oeuvre to engage with and enjoy.