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Distorted composites: a conversation with Ukrainian artist Demian Feriy

The Kyiv-based artist discusses his uncanny digital art practice with STIR, the one where he uses distortion and weirdness to create beauty with an element of mysticism and awe.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Mar 17, 2021

Ukrainian artist Demian Feriy creates vivid and distorted digital compositions that play with a sense of image recollection to create a loose object-associationship within his viewer’s minds. Many of his pieces possess a strange fluidity to them, seeming almost as though they may be scenes from a windswept alien world, perpetually roiling in on itself. This world that Feriy takes us to is quite literally the ‘uncanny valley’, as his art brims with the aesthetic effect, which, generally used to denote the degree of resemblance to humanlike features an object possesses, applies here to the natural and man-made realms as well. Considering himself a ‘multidisciplinary artist’, Feriy cites a wide spectrum of influences that have created a branching set of interests for him, and these have led to him pursuing various disciplines that play off one another. Primarily among his current inspirations however, stands a curiosity for visual art, both painting and of the digital medium as well. Feriy tells STIR, “All genres that I love and are inspired by are combined in my works. Some works are just as strange as glitch art generally is, but more like a painting made in oil on canvas. Then there are some that are similar to impressionism, only instead of dots and dashes it is a texture and shape created by a glitch effect. I am now engaged in realising my place in the modern context and formulating the meaning of my work”.  

Untitled by Demian Feriy | STIRworld
Untitled Image: Demian Feriy

Feriy is a 30-year-old, who lives and works in Kyiv, Ukraine. As he explains, he never formally studied art, but has always held an interest in it, which was fed by his upbringing in a creatively curious household. While his parents were not artists, they held warm friendships with many members of the international art community, and were avid collectors of art books, music and various other curiosities. As a child, Feriy would be fascinated by the family friends he would meet, and received great praise for his sketches and attempts at modelling with play-doh. Through the family VHS player, he found access to Disney movies, Soviet animations, American cartoons and a whole host of other television programmes that captivated his young mind. Along with this, the computer became another avenue to explore international media, and Feriy mentions one game in particular, Neverhood, which takes place in a strange, plasticine world, that was highly formative for him. However, it was the international music he heard that held his interest most firmly, and he tells STIR, “From the age of 14, I perceived myself as a musician, guitarist, and sound producer”.  

Untitled, as though depicting a world possessed with immense kinetic force | Demian Feriy | STIRworld
Untitled, as though depicting a world possessed with immense kinetic force Image: Courtesy of Demian Feriy

Despite his parents’ encouragement to become an architect, Feriy would find himself working as a sound engineer for a TV channel, and he spent six years in this line. In his free time, he would regularly engage with emergent artistic genres such as glitch art, Vaporwave and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), and as he was drawing inspiration from both, the sound and visuals associated with the aforementioned, he would create animations and video art, as well as some visual art on the side. It was only in 2020 that Feriy was gifted his first smartphone by a friend, and as a result, decided to pursue the creation of a visual language that is his, and yet, combines his wide swathe of influences, solely through the applications available on his phone.

Untitled by Demian Feriy | STIRworld
Untitled Image: Demian Feriy

Among the many visual artists who have gained popularity through the internet, Feriy’s work bears a most striking resemblance to some of the static imagery and video work of Weirdcore, who is a digital artist known for his highly distorted and unsettling pieces. While Feriy agrees that there are similarities, he sees his work separate in that he is not pursuing “weirdness for weirdness’ sake”. In fact, it is not his intention to create unsettling imagery at all. He explains, “Although I observe in my works a highly intense amount of distortion, and sometimes even elements of horror, in many ways I see more visual beauty, harmony, charm as in the works of the Impressionists or classical masters. I even see evocations of the stained-glass windows in Catholic churches or pieces created by artists such as Aleksander Kostetsky”. It is fascinating that it is a search for beauty that drives his artistic practice, especially as his work sits at the meeting point of genres that generally possess a preoccupation with the strange. “I use strong distortion and weirdness to create beauty with an element of mysticism and awe. I want to evoke feelings of novelty and magic. Off late, the very concept of ‘beauty’ has become something quite trivial and banal. Through the 20th century, beauty in art has come to be viewed with scepticism. Therefore, creating beauty by conventional methods does not work out anymore if one wishes to cause awe from mere contact with something beautiful. And personally, for myself, I find my works just beautiful and charming,” he elaborates further.

Untitled by Demian Feriy | STIRworld
Untitled Image: Demian Feriy

Speaking of the past year, Feriy tells STIR, “I think that it was precisely because of the quarantine that my new works appeared and I developed new techniques for working with a smartphone. It's absolutely normal for me to be alone for a long time, so it wasn’t a problem”. He does however feel as though the financial impact COVID-19 has had on his life has been difficult, yet cites a spirit of adventure as his guiding light in these difficult and uncertain times. “There is a lot of strange, surreal phenomena happening in my country right now. Therefore, I treat it more as an adventure, and in my own way, I try and romanticise it,” he says. With regards to his plans, Feriy expresses a desire to undertake an exhibition in the near future, yet is not entirely certain at this point when exactly it will be, and what sort of format it will function through. Regardless, he is undoubtedly an artist to look out for, and it will certainly be interesting to see how his captivating artwork evolves in time, as well as the kind of themes that emerge within his work.

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