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The art of Ari Dykier: vintage vignettes for the digital age

Polish video artist Ari Dykier takes us through his practice where he experiments with the source materials he uses in his visual art, along with the presentation of his craft.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jul 23, 2023

Polish artist Ari Dykier has a stunning digital art practice that combines a wide range of visual and sonic influences, in order to create moving image compositions that range in their coherence from narrative-forming to wildly disorienting, sometimes even within the same presentation. His work is extremely distinct and stands out even as the digital animation genre continues to grow around him. While there is a measure of variety to be found within the artist’s output, the initiated will likely associate predominantly monochrome compositions with Dykier; compositions that very often feature vintage illustrations or portions of photographs that have been cut out and added to the artist’s ever-shifting image movement.

Ari Dykier with Ewa Liebchen at Live Cinema Festival 2018 Video: Live Cinema Festival 2018, Courtesy of Ari Dykier

Dykier introduces himself, telling STIR, “I am a visual artist from Poland, currently living in Warsaw. Since my early childhood, I have been deeply enchanted by any form of animation I come across, and as a child, I greatly enjoyed visual art such as photography. Really, I was fascinated since my primary schooling by the history of painting and cinema. So eventually, as my professional career began, I became a filmmaker of sorts. Around 2013, I felt a strong impulse to create my own projects inspired by Android Jones and Peter Greenaway. I found it’s possible to create interesting live performances with the kind of visual art I like to pursue, and in that way, I turned to animation to prepare my own ideas and visual stories and perform them in real-time with the accompaniment of a soundtrack. You could say that I became a self-taught animator.” From the very start of his creative practice, the artist held a strong affinity for 14th century European illustration and also wanted to refer to the tradition of surrealism, along with steampunk aesthetics, such as those presented within visual representations of Jules Verne’s works. He found that the best solution to combining these was the direct approach. "I began to use the technique of collage-making and started out applying pieces of vintage illustrations that are available in the public domain, and with a few exceptions, it’s remained the way I create my animations. My primary inspiration when I was just starting out was the animated movie Labyrinth by Polish artist Jan Lenica," he explains. Apart from Lenica, Dykier is also heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam’s works, movies of the Brothers Quay, books by Bruno Schulz and Stanislaw Lem, along with many other names in art and technology as well. He also mentions that music has had an unquestionable impact on his imagination. The artist cites classical, jazz and electronic music as being particularly important for him.

Ari Dykier and Roman Poczapski at SP Digital Festival Sao Paulo Video: Laura Do Lago, Courtesy of Ari Dykier

Dykier explores the themes that underpin his practice, telling STIR, “From the very beginning, my idea was to build some kind of unique world of dreams, memories and symbols, and to share it with my audience during live performances. The very first such performance I did was back in 2015 at Live Performers Meeting in Rome, and then since 2017, I have been trying to perform regularly at various events like Live Performers Meeting again, Patchlab Digital Art Festival in Kraków and Live Cinema Festival in Rome with contemporary flautist Ewa Liebchen. I’ve also been at SP Urban Digital Festival in São Paulo, Circle of Light, Art Vision in Moscow, and Zsolnay Light Festival at Pecs, as well as in a series of concerts with the baroque orchestra Arte dei Suonatori.” Dykier’s work at Patchlab Festival was particularly exciting and featured a great deal of the striking, largely monotone visuals that have been captivating his audiences and garnering him great acclaim as a digital artist. The festival was a prestigious venue to present and perform at, and apart from the artist’s work, also featured a 360 degree installation and AR projects and animations for games. Dykier continues, saying “From time to time, I am occupied with creating large-scale projection mappings, such as the one I did for Light to Night Festival 2023 in Singapore or as what I put together as the finalist of 1 Minute Projection Mapping 2022 in Tokyo. Last year, I turned my animation to full-dome projection and presented my work at Fulldome Festival Jena, Fuldome UK Festival, Plymouth, and Dome Under Festival 2023 Melbourne, where I won the Best Art Film prize.”

Ari Dykier’s work in Singapore, 2023 | Ari Dykier | STIRworld
Ari Dykier’s work in Singapore, 2023 Image: Ari Dykier

Clearly, Dykier has been highly prolific; far more than many others within the broader ambit of digital art practices. However, what is especially impressive, is that as his star continues to rise, he keeps experimenting with the source materials he uses in his visual art, along with the presentation of his craft. Take his work for Light to Night Festival Singapore for example, the video artist blends in butterfly wings among the many new additions to his visual repertoire, creating a projection-mapped tapestry that feels simply sublime. Surely, work so captivating has made a great temporary addition to the visual landscape of Singapore, which itself has developed quite a reputation in recent years as a destination for fantastic projection mapping and video art.

Dykier’s work at Zsolnay Light Festival 2022 Video: Courtesy of Ari Dykier

The artist says that through his practice, he is trying to mine the depths of his subconsciousness and create a world out of the unknown parts of the greater human experience. "Dreams and intuition are my vehicles to build the kind of experiences I want to, for audiences to connect their outer and inner selves. Actually, it’s the process that I am going through every time I sit down to build animations, and ultimately that’s what I want to share with my viewers," says Dykier.

Portrait photograph of Ari Dykier | Ari Dykier | STIRworld
Portrait photograph of Ari Dykier Image: Courtesy of Ari Dykier

When asked where he wishes to see his work go in the future, he says that first and foremost, he would like to share it with as many people as possible, as this will enable him to find those with who his work resonates with on a personal level, who in turn will be inspired by Dykier’s practice, and shall hopefully take it even further ahead. “I want to stay true to my process of exploration and creation, with the hope that my work will be useful and helpful to people, even as a tiny spark of inspiration.”

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